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Your baby is reaching an important milestone at about 6 months:
she is ready for her first solids. Knowing what kind of food is best for your child is not always easy, though.
Whether you buy premade baby food or make your own, make sure that the food’s size, texture, and ingredients are appropriate for her age and level of development.
Choosing the First Soft Solids
Look for “Stage 1” foods. Some manufacturers use different levels for baby foods.
Stage 1 is for babies who are just beginning to try soft, solid food.
The possibilities are mainly soft cereals or single fruit and vegetable purees which have a lower chance of causing allergic reactions.
These foods are usually for babies around 6 or 7 months old.
Your options will include soft rice, barley, or oat cereals, pureed apples, beets, carrots, peas, and others
Buy single-ingredient foods
When your baby first starts on solids, you should give her single-ingredient meals at first while slowly introducing new foods.
These foods are easier to digest. Also, if she has an allergic reaction, you will have a better idea what caused it.
Start with one food and follow the “four-day wait rule.” In other words, wait about four days between the introduction of new foods.
Say, for example, that you introduced your baby to pureed carrots on Monday. Continue giving her carrots through Thursday and then, on Friday, add a new food like pureed apples.
Check jars for ingredients and freshness.
If you are buying ready-made food, examine the jars before you buy for sell-by dates and ingredients.
Make sure that you are sticking to single ingredients that are fresh.
Make sure that any and all seals are intact, that there is no evidence of tampering, and that the expiration date has not passed.
Avoid foods that have preservatives other than Vitamin C, especially salt or nitrates.
Make sure that the food also does not have other additives like sugar.
Choose your own Stage 1 foods
More and more parents are choosing to make their own baby foods these days.
This has advantages: cost saving, more control over the food, and fewer preservatives. Just be sure to know what to look for.
Making your own food can be a big cost-saver. Baby food jars cost about $1 each, and a child can eat about 600 jars in all.
Home-made food can cost a fraction of that.
Focus on single fruits and vegetables. Since Stage 1 foods are single-ingredient, you’ll only need to buy one kind of fruit or veggie for each dish. Easy!
Try things like bananas, pears, peas, pumpkin, and squash. Don’t forget grains, as well. You can feed your baby soft cooked rice, oat, and barley cereals.
Again, make sure the ingredients are fresh and avoid preservatives.
This means no canned fruit and veggies, as these usually have added salt and sugar.
Cook and puree the food thoroughly.
While baby food in jars is ready to serve, you’ll need to prepare your ingredients if you’re making your own.
Once you’ve purchased your choice of fruit and veggies, cook and puree them until they have a smooth consistency. Food that isn’t mashed enough can be a choking hazard.
You’ll need to simmer some fruits or veggies in boiling water for between 15 to 20 minutes. If you want, you can steam, bake, or microwave the foods until they are soft instead.
Some fruits (like apples) will need to be peeled, as well.
Place the softened ingredient in a food processor of your choice and puree it thoroughly. For a smoother consistency, add a bit of water, formula, or breast milk.
The same goes for grains. Boil them for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add extra water or breast milk to get a smoother consistency.
Fruits which can be easily mashed or cut up with a fork do not need to be cooked. Bananas and peaches do not need to be cooked.
You can also set aside some of the food to freeze in small containers.
Let the baby decide how much to eat.
How often and how much should you give your child to begin? At this stage, try to introduce solid food once per day.
She might be wary at first, but should soon learn to like the texture and taste.
Try a spoonful or two of cereal one day and of sweet potato puree the next.
By about 8 to 9 months, your child should be eating about three meals of solid food per day, for a total of 3 to 9 tablespoons per day. This will increase in coming months.
Let her decide when and how much to eat. A hungry baby will let you know by reaching at food, pointing, or showing excitement.
On the other hand, a full baby will close her mouth, push food away, or start playing with food.
Moving into Soft Foods
Look for “Stage 2” foods.
Stage 2 foods are thicker purees than those in Stage 1.
They also introduce more flavors, mixed together in food combinations. This group can even contain early proteins and “finger foods,” like small pieces of soft vegetables or pasta.
Stage 2 food is usually for babies aged 8 to 10 months.
Since they contain more than one ingredient, the flavors and options for Stage 2 are wider.
Choose a mixture of favorites and new foods.
At this stage, your baby should still have purees and soft foods.
But she can start to eat foods mixed together, with more flavors and textures. Try to mix it up.
For example, you might buy mashed pears and bananas, apples and blueberries, or apples and carrots.
It’s OK to buy fine meat protein, as well, like in pureed apples and chicken or pureed rice and chicken.
Too much of a favorite food might make your child a picky eater, but you should let her enjoy trusted foods reasonably often.
At this stage, you can also start to introduce dairy products. While children shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk before about one year, feel free to incorporate yoghurt and cheese starting at 8 months and older. Be sure to use the regular or full-fat kinds.
Buy for your own Stage 2 meals.
Do-it-yourself Stage 2 foods will be like Stage 1 meals, but with some small changes.
You can now mix ingredients and also add some spices, proteins, and dairy. You can also leave the food a bit more “chunky.”
Buy foods as before, like apples, carrots, mangos, papaya, melon, and others. But, consider adding ingredients that are a little more fibrous and/or acidic, like blueberries and lentils.
Pastas, veggies, and most fruits should still be cooked and mashed at this stage.
You should also cook and puree or finely chop protein like egg yolk and meat
Try small dashes of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, or dried herbs. Continue to avoid salt and sugar, however.
Mix and match.
During this stage your child will be getting used to a much wider array of foods, and lots of different mixtures.
Plan and create some simple but yummy combinations for your baby. Usually, meals with two or maybe three ingredients are fine.
Combos of fruit are a great idea: try mashed apples and bananas, blueberry, apple, and pear sauce, or avocado, peaches, and sour cream (if your baby is ready for dairy).
Soft carbohydrates are also still fine. For instance, you might boil some pastina hot cereal in water and then mix in mashed banana. Or, you can prepare oatmeal with added mashed blueberries.
Babies that are 7 to 11 months old start to grab at food.
It is usually OK to indulge them, so long as the food is healthy, nutritious, soft, and small enough.
You can do this with diced pasta, small pieces of well-cooked fruit and veggies, and pea-sized bits of soft meats.
Buying for More Experienced Eaters
Move to “Stage 3” foods.
Stage 3 food is for babies who are about 11 to 12 months old and not completely ready to switch to table foods.
They contain larger chunks of food to help older babies learn to chew and become familiar with varying textures, easing the transition to full solids.
By 8 or 9 months, most babies have developed enough coordination, finger dexterity, and swallowing skills to move to finger foods.
Babies in this age group are also learning to mash and chew their food with gums or first teeth.
Look for added textures, flavors, and ingredients.
Babies who have reached this point can eat chunkier textures, larger portions, and more foods overall.
This includes foods that have “bits” in it, like softened muesli.
Try pre-prepared foods that mix several ingredients, like Beech-Nut Organic’s mango, pineapple, and granola or sweet potato and barley.
Earth’s Best has soups, chunky vegetable combos, and also “chunky blends” like peach apricot muesli and spaghetti with cheese.
Do it yourself or use table food.
As always, you can also prepare the food on your own for your baby.
You’ll still usually need to cook the fruit and vegetables, but you can mix in finger foods as well as chunky purees. Finger foods should be cut into small pieces.
Table food – also cut into small pieces – is OK, too.
For instance, for breakfast you might make your baby a quarter to half cup of mashed eggs and cereal with some diced fruit.
Lunch could be diced meat or chunky cottage cheese, with a quarter to half cup of diced meat and fruit and veggies for dinner.
Eating the same food as your baby is a easy way to save, as well. Your grocery bill will be smaller if you aren’t cooking two separate meals – yours and the child’s.
Continue to avoid non-nutritious foods
Keep it healthy. Added sugars or empty calories won’t help your baby grow the way she needs to. Make sure that foods don’t have added sweeteners or salt.
Go for lean meats like chicken.
Limit sweets such as cookies, candy, or sweetened fruit drinks like punch. These should be saved for special occasions only.