Exploring real-food options
At six months most babies have the physical skills needed to start eating solid foods. You may have noticed that your baby is interested in what’s on your plate, and he already may have tried a first food — like rice cereal or bananas. You may also be wondering what comes next. With all the options at the grocery store, choosing your baby’s first foods can seem overwhelming!
The good news: Gone is the time when you had to introduce new foods in a particular order. Any food with a purée consistency will do — fruits, vegetables or meats, store-bought or homemade. Just be sure to wait two to three days before each new selection, to help identify possible allergies or intolerances.
As your baby gets older, he will be able to handle foods that have a more solid consistency. Have him try tasty bites of mashed banana or sweet potato. When he is able to pick up small objects between his thumb and forefinger, move on to finger foods. Cut-up pasta, cooked peas and Cheerios are good choices. Be sure to cut finger foods into pieces no larger than a pea.
Pay attention to choking risks, and never leave your baby’s side while he is eating. A few of the most dangerous choking hazards include whole grapes, carrots and hot dogs. Avoid nuts, popcorn, gum and candy. When given by the spoonful, even spreads like peanut butter can be unsafe.
Some parents may worry that exposing their babies to certain types of food will increase the chance of allergies. It turns out that babies who eat a variety of foods early on may actually decrease their chances of developing allergies to them.
Although it can be messy, feeding time is fun and helps your little foodie establish good eating habits that last a lifetime.
Pediatrician Elizabeth Shashaty, MD, is on staff at Children’s National Medical Center and Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, both in Washington, DC.