I participated in a MommyBites online class on infant nutrition, a few weeks ago and wanted to share some of the highlights. If you're new to MommyBites, I'd recommend checking them out, they have several online parenting classes that are free ranging in topics relevant to infants and toddlers. Danielle from Healthy Mamas for Happy Families was the featured speaker on this particular call, and here's what she had to say on infant nutrition.
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods:
1. They're close to 6 months of age. (This was cause for a lot of discussion on the call, some mom's mentioned that their pediatricians gave them the go ahead at 4 months. We personally waited till 5months as our baby was showing all the other signs. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting till 6 months to allow baby's immature intestines a chance to develop.)
2. Your baby reaches for food, and starts to show interest in food.
3. Your baby imitates eating actions.
4. Your baby can sit unassisted in a highchair (reduces the risk of choking).
5. Your baby doesn't reject food that's offered, and they've grown out of the extrusion reflex
Danielle also suggested skipping rice cereal all together. There has been no medical evidence that suggests processed cereal is beneficial, and because it is so processed, it's nutritionally not the greatest. However, because it has been so processed it's easier for a baby's immature digestive system to handle. Danielle suggests feeding your baby low allergenic foods as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Your baby gets adequate macronutrients (proteins, carbs, & fats) from breast milk or formula. Low allergenic examples of first foods include: bananas, avocado, squash, and sweet potato. When possible Danielle also suggest purchasing organic produce, as babies have immature livers; it's difficult for them to process pesticides. If you are wondering which foods you should buy organic, the Dirty Dozen Plus lists fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide content (in case you were wondering, apples top the list). So if possible purchase the organic equivalent of those listed.
The Eating Process: There are 2 main schools of though on this. The first is the steam & puree process, the second is Baby Led Weaning. The first option requires you to steam and puree your baby's food turning it into mush, and then spoon feeding your child. This option focus on teaching your child how to swallow. The second option, which is quickly gaining in popularity and has been used throughout Europe for quite some time now, focus on your baby feeding him or herself. This option focus on teaching your child how to chew. If you are wondering, you don't cook special food for your child, they simply eat larger (so they wont choke), well cooked (no raw or undercooked meats), versions of your food. We personally are using both processes. We use our Beaba Babycook Pro (you can read about my love affair with it here) to make mashed sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and pears (the little Man's favorite). And we also give him large pieces of veggies and fruits for him to chomp on. As you can guess the self-feeding method is his favorite, he likes chewing on the food, holding it himself, and just generally exploring.
Food sensitivities: Clearly a big concern for most parents as they start feeding their babies solid foods. Here are some signs of a mild food sensitivity: rash around the mouth, on the body, or on baby's bottom; increased fussiness; increased amount of spit up; loose stool. If you child has a mild reaction to a food, stop that food immediately and wait 3 to 4 weeks before trying to reintroduce it. If your child has a more sever food sensitivity they could display any of the following signs: hives; vomiting; not breathing. As these are all symptoms of a sever allergy and possibly anaphylaxis you should seek medical attention. Foods with a higher risk of sensitivities: peanuts (wait till your child is 2 years old to introduce), honey (wait till your child is at least 1 as Botulism is a risk), strawberries (wait till your child is a year old), and chocolate or rather the caffeine in chocolate (wait till your child is a year old). In general, introducing potentially sensitive foods to children should be held off till they can communicate if there's a problem. The longer a baby's digestive system has to mature the better able they are in fighting off food sensitivities. If you have a family history it's best to wait to introduce a food that your could develop a sensitivity to.
That's the quick and dirty on the intro to infant nutrition online class from MommyBites. Are there other helpful things you've learned about infant nutrition, if so please share!