You have a unique opportunity when you choose what to feed your baby.
Your decisions can help provide the healthiest start possible to your baby's life!
Breast milk is the perfect first food, as nature makes it especially for babies and enriches it with abundant health benefits. Breastfed babies do require a Vitamin D supplement; talk to your doctor or public health nurse about this. If you choose not to breastfeed the next best choice is iron fortified infant formula. Breast milk or formula is all your baby needs for the first 4 - 6 months of life. Introducing solid foods earlier has no advantage and does have potentially harmful effects such as higher risk of allergy. And research shows that giving babies solids before 4 months does not help them sleep through the night!
After 4 months but by 6 months your baby should be introduced to fortified single grain infant cereal. This cereal has added iron in a form easily absorbed by your baby. And at this age the iron stores babies are born with start to run low. Infant rice cereal is a good first choice because of its low potential to cause allergy and can be easily mixed with breast milk, formula or water. When your baby is used to the rice cereal you may gradually try other infant single grain cereals (oat, barley). Once your baby has tried all the grains individually you can introduce the mixed cereals.
Smooth pureed vegetables and fruits are the next foods recommended and can be given in almost any order as long as they are given individually first before the mixed varieties. Some people recommend vegetables before fruits so baby learns to like those before having the sweeter fruits.
Once your baby is enjoying a variety of vegetables and fruits, introduce pureed meats and alternatives, around 7 months. Try beef, pork, chicken, fish, liver, tofu, legumes and cooked egg yolk (avoid the egg white until one year of age). Dairy products such as plain yogurt and cheese can be introduced by 8-9 months. Avoid cow's milk until at least 9-12 months of age.
If your baby seems to dislike some foods simply offer it again several days later - sometimes it takes a few tries! And never force your baby to eat foods they don't want!
Laurie Bailey is a Registered Dietitian Perinatal Education Program Calgary Health Region.For more information on infant feeding contact your local Community Health Centre (Public Health Nurse) or call the Calgary Health Region's Nutrition Help Line at 943-8127 to talk to a Registered Dietitian. You can also log on to the Calgary Health Region's web site at calgaryhealthregion.ca and follow the links to Healthy Eating under Health and Wellness Topics.
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