Cereals are known for their high-fibre content and great nutrient contribution for babies aged 6 months to 2 years. You can subsequently add vegetables before fruits to allow your baby to get used to their taste.
Protein foods such as meats, cheeses, yogurts and egg yolks can be added later on. Keep in mind that milk, which is a more nourishing and complete food than cereal, remains the best food during the child’s first year. All the protein and calcium needed during that first year is found in milk. Babies can drink up to 1200ml (40 ounces) every day until they are 6 months old and until solid foods are introduced in their diet.
When introducing cow milk into your child’s diet, don’t give more than 900 ml (30 ounces) per day. This milk, rich in protein and fat, could predispose your child to infant obesity. Since cow milk isn’t ideal for babies, it is better to avoid incorporating it in your child’s diet before he is 9 months old.
Cereals will be your child’s first solid food, so go gently. Cereals are given with a spoon, not through a bottle. Use a small spoon with a rounded tip to avoid hurting the inside of your child’s mouth. Don’t add sugar!
When introducing a new food into your child’s diet, use this food exclusively for about four to five days. Given in small quantities (5ml or 1 teaspoon), the given food should have a smooth texture and become thicker as your baby learns to eat and swallow.
Most cereals for babies are enriched with iron. The iron concentration should be of 14 mg of iron per 28 grams, 140ml (½ cup). Iron-enriched foods should be favoured until your child is 2 years old. You may choose from a large variety of cereals available and add fruits later on.
When your baby is 6 months old, choose one-grain cereals, with no sugar, fruits or yogurt added. Feed your child this cereal exclusively for five to seven days before introducing a new variety. This will allow you to check your child’s digestive system and make sure there are no intolerances to certain foods.
Start with rice and barley. To reduce the risk of allergies, start with one grain cereal before giving oat, soya or other mixed cereals. You can try new mixes with fruits and yogurt after 12 months.
Start with 3ml to 5ml (½ to 1 teaspoon) after morning and night feedings, and make it a liquid texture. By using twice as much milk as cereal, you will make the consistency of the cereal thicker as time goes by. Never replace milk with water unless the cooking instructions indicate otherwise. Slowly increase from 5ml to 15ml (1 to 3 teaspoons) morning and night, until your child is satiated. By the time your child is 12 months old, he will eat about 175ml of dry cereal every day and will need an extra dose of about 7mg to 10mg of iron in his diet.
There are cereal based cookies sold in supermarkets. These are often given when children are teething. These cookies do not relieve the pain and can cause cavities because of the added sugar.
You can start introducing vegetables into your child’s diet about two to three weeks after you’ve introduced cereals. Veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals. They will add calories that are essential to your child. In fact, their high-fibre content will make your baby’s stools more solid and regular. This food group is very valuable to your child’s health.
Choosing the first vegetables is important, and quality is just as important. Slowly introduce vegetables one by one. Squashes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow and green beans and green peas are a good start. Serve one veggie exclusively for four to five days before introducing a new one. For your baby, this is an ideal time to get used to the vegetable, and it’s the best time for you to check for food reactions. Don’t forget to make the vegetables into liquid purees when starting out.
Just like with cereal, start with small quantities of about 3ml to 5ml (½ to 1 teaspoon) of one type of vegetable, served at lunch and dinner times with the cereals. Slowly increase from 5ml to 15ml (1 to 3 teaspoons) at every meal, until your child is satiated. Not mixing the veggies together allows your child to fully appreciate each one’s particular taste.
Beware of nitrates
Nitrates are found in the ground water where our vegetables grow. Consequently, we find them in our vegetables, and most specifically in carrots, beats, turnips and spinach. For babies under 6 months of age, nitrates can be harmful because they are hard to eliminate. You should wait until your baby is nine months old to give him beats, turnips and spinach because their nitrate concentration is high.
However, carrots can be given at 7 months as one of the first vegetables because they are most babies’ favourite veggie. When making homemade purees, boil carrots in a lot of water and don’t use the cooking water (which now contains nitrates) to make your purees. By introducing your baby to a large variety of vegetables, you will help him develop his taste buds and accept new foods, mixes and textures. You can start adding fruits to your baby’s diet about two to three weeks after introducing vegetables.
It’s normal for your child to be reluctant to try new foods. You must be persistent because your child must discover different flavours from the ones he already knows. Don’t forget that you are shaping your child’s attitude towards food, and this attitude will stick throughout his life. Don’t give up, you will win in the long run.
Like vegetables, fruits are full of vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fibre, which helps with the elimination of stools. If your baby suffers from constipation due to the formula and added iron, don’t be surprised if everything is resolved once you start adding fruits and vegetables to your baby’s diet. You must choose ripe fruits, serve them soft, cooked or as a puree.
The reason for serving fruits after vegetables is because their sweet taste makes them more popular amongst babies. By introducing fruits into their diet first, babies become picky to vegetables.
Just like with veggies, the fruit choices are important in the child’s diet. Quality is key if you want to get the most vitamins.
Don’t forget that during the colder seasons, fruits are mostly imported. To get most of the fruit’s benefits, put the fruit in a brown paper bag and let it ripen in a dark room in the house.
Cooked apples and pears, peaches, apricots and very ripe crushed bananas are the first fruits to introduce into your child’s diet. Don’t add sugar to your purees. The fruits’ natural sugars are sweet enough.
Once these fruits are integrated into your child’s diet, you can introduce all the other fruits, berries, strawberries, blueberries, mangos, etc. To reduce the risk of food allergies, avoid introducing kiwis before your child is 12 months old. Give one fruit at a time (during four to five days) before introducing a new variety. Observe your child’s reaction to each fruit and give him enough time to get used to the new food. In the beginning, cook and crush the fruit into a very smooth puree.
Just like with veggies, start with small quantities of about 3ml to 5ml (½ to 1 teaspoon) of one type of fruit. Serve them at lunch and dinner times, and even in the morning with cereal.
Slowly increase from 5ml to 15ml (1 to 3 teaspoons) at every meal, until your child is satiated. Have fruits separately before mixing them together.
As for fruit juices, you can introduce them in your child’s diet as soon as he can drink from a cup. Don’t give more than 60ml to 125ml (2 to 4 oz) of juice per day. Too much juice can interfere with your child’s food intake and it is known to cause cavities. Choose 100% pure sugar free juices.
Meat and poultry
Meat is your child’s main source of protein. It contains vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc. Until your child is 2 years old, he only needs a small quantity of meat. With that in mind, don’t forget to feed your child meat or skimp on quality. Commercially sold meats in little jars are loved by children because of their soft texture. However, as your child gets older, the texture will start to bother him. Homemade meat purees are loved because of their texture and taste.
Meat and poultry quantities
Meat is given in small quantities of about 3ml to 5ml (½ to 1 teaspoon) at lunch and dinner times with the fruits and vegetables. Slowly increase from 5ml to 15ml (1 to 3 teaspoons) at every meal, until your child is full. Serve one meat exclusively for four to five days. By the time your child is 12 months old, he should eat 50ml to 100ml of meat every day, which is ½ to 1 little jar (3 to 7 tablespoons).
As soon as your child starts eating crushed foods, give him homemade meats. Don’t give spiced or salted meats such as sausage, ham, salami, etc. These meats contain too much salt, spices, nitrates and many more harmful ingredients. Wild meats can be given to your child once in a while, but make sure these meats have been handled properly and that they respect the hygiene regulations in relation to where they were hunted. Don’t use giblets because the contamination risks are high.
Fish is also a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals for your child. If you have access to good quality fish, you can give it to your child as often as meats, once or twice a week. The quality and freshness of these products is essential.
Fish such as haddock, flounder, halibut and cod are perfect for babies. Buy them fresh or frozen. Avoid giving canned fish to your baby since it contains too much salt.
Fish is not sold in little jars, so you will have to make it yourself. Nothing is easier! Rinse the fish thoroughly and make sure there are no more fish bones. Cook it in broth or in milk without adding any salt. Once cooked, reduce it into a puree or shred it with a fork.
If there are allergies or intolerances to fish or seafood in your family, be cautious and wait until your child is two or even four years old before giving it to him. For foods such as salmon, pollock, shrimp, lobster and shellfish, risks of allergies are very high with young children.
Egg yolks are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals and omega 3. The egg yolk must be cooked. To make your job easier, cook hard boiled eggs to make sure that there are no traces of egg white in the yolk. With egg whites being highly allergenic, the entire egg cannot be given to your child until he is 12 months old. In addition to being a reactogenic food, risks of infection with salmonella are high.
You can try feeding your child egg yolks about two weeks after introducing meats. Start with 5ml (1 teaspoon) of egg yolk that you can mix in with the morning cereals. Slowly increase to a half egg yolk per day. Be careful! Don’t feed your child more than three egg yolks per week.
Yogurt can be added to your child’s diet once every above-mentioned food has been introduced. It is high in calcium and vitamin D.
Choose a natural yogurt with 2 % or 3.5 % of fat. Serve it with fruit purees or little pieces of chopped fresh fruits. Avoid light, low fat or sweet yogurts.
One portion is about 80 ml or ⅓ cup.
Beware of honey and corn syrup
To be on the safe side, avoid giving honey or corn syrup to your child until he is 12 months old, even in small quantities or in recipes. Even if honey and corn syrup have been pasteurized, they may contain botulism spores. Once inside the intestine, the infant botulism is a very dangerous and even deadly disease.
Just because your child had cereal for dinner, don’t think this will help him sleep through the night. It has nothing to do with it.
Don’t overfeed your little baby. Eating is not always the answer to your baby’s cries or short nights. Respect your child’s appetite and don’t force him to eat more. If your baby shuts his mouth or turns his head after taking a bite, he is trying to tell you that he has eaten enough.