One of the first milestones in a child's life is graduating to solid foods. But how do you know if your little one is ready for solid foods? And what foods should you be giving him or her? Here's what you need to know.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each child's readiness for solid foods depends on his or her rate of development. To determine if your baby is ready, ask yourself a few questions:
- Can your baby hold his head up with good control?
- Does he open his mouth when you bring food his way?
- Can he move food from a spoon into the back of his mouth to enable swallowing?
Most children are ready for solid foods when they can accomplish these tasks and have doubled their birth weight. This generally occurs by 6 months of age. But your pediatrician knows your child best and should be consulted if you have any questions or concerns.
Parents typically start by introducing soft and pureed foods, expanding their child’s diet gradually. The AAP recommends giving one new food at a time and waiting a couple of days before adding another. If any allergic reactions, such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting occur, stop the new food and talk with your pediatrician.
Within a few months of introducing solid and pureed foods, a baby’s diet should include a variety of foods, such as:
- Breast milk and/or formula
- Fruits and vegetables
Once your child can sit up and bring hands and objects to mouth, you can offer finger foods. Make sure food is cut into small pieces and easy to swallow. A great option is breakfast cereal, which can satisfy a large portion of a toddler’s daily whole grains requirement.
When buying finger foods, make sure you’re providing nutrients toddlers need. “I always focus on nutritional benefits when buying foods for my two little ones,” says Roshini Raj, MD, an attending physician at NYU Medical Center/Tisch Hospital in Manhattan. “Specifically, check for whole grains and fortification of nutrients like choline, iron, and zinc, which help with brain development.”
Good finger food options include:
- Banana, peach and avocado pieces
- Cooked and mashed sweet potato, squash and peas
- Breakfast cereal
- Scrambled eggs
- Cooked and finely chopped chicken or fish
No matter what stage of eating your child is in, be patient and offer plenty of nutritious options. Not only are you helping your little one grow now, you’re helping him develop good eating habits for the future.
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