Introducing solids to your baby can be an intimidating time. Parents fear that their child is not ready, or that they may choke or have an allergic reaction. But it’s also an exciting time. Your baby is learning and it is a chance to help your child develop a life long foundation of healthy eating habits.
We guide a lot of parents through starting solids around 6 months of age and often hear statements that we don’t think are necessarily true!
Myth #1: “I have to start with rice cereal.”
Many parents start with store-bought baby cereal because it’s thought to be hypoallergenic and easily digested, it can be mixed with breastmilk or formula, and is nutritionally fortified. Healthcare providers suggest it because it is a source of iron. Generally, between 6 to 9 months, your baby’s iron stores will be depleted and he or she will need to have a source of iron in the diet (breastmilk does not provide a good source at this age). That said, there are many other foods that are rich in iron such as beef, chicken, egg yolks, soy products like tofu, cooked lentils and chick peas which are appropriate to start with. You can also consider fortified oatmeal, barley or brown rice cereal if you want to start with a grain.
Myth #2: “I have to introduce foods in a certain order.”
There is no magic! Vegetables do not have to be given before fruit. Meat does not have to be delayed. You don’t need to try green vegetables before orange and red ones. I think families should introduce foods that the rest of the family eats to make things are convenient and culturally appropriate as possible.
However, it should be noted that some foods should be delayed or avoided for safety reasons
- Honey, even if pasteurized, should be avoided until at least 1 year of age
- Unpasteurized foods
- Foods that are choking risks: all nuts, sticky foods like nut butters, fish with bones, hard candy, ice cubes, seeds, marshmallows, popcorn
Lastly, there is some evidence that introducing whole milk too early contributes to iron deficiency anemia. Most of us recommend waiting until at least 9 months until whole milk is introduced but dairy products like yogurt and cheese can be started at any time.
Myth #3: “I can’t give ‘allergenic’ foods like eggs, nuts, shellfish, soy until my child is older”
The evidence around food allergies continues to grow and change our practices. Current evidence suggests that with respect to allergies, there is no benefit to delaying the introducing of certain food beyond 6 months of age. There is some evidence that suggest that once you introduce a food, regular ingestion of said food several times a week helps maintain your child’s tolerance to it.
Myth #4: “My baby is a picky eater. He tried some ______ and has refused it since.”
Repeated exposures to the same flavours promote a willingness to eat a variety of foods, so don’t give up! I would try at least 15 times before moving on. If your baby doesn’t like it today, try again in a few days. Focus on the willingness of your baby to eat the food rather than their expression, which may be interpreted as a dislike. When children become toddlers (and neophobic), it becomes much more difficult to introduce new foods so it’s important to develop a habit of eating a variety of foods early on.
Myth #5: “I want to start solids earlier because my baby is no longer sleeping through the night.”
Baby’s sleep patterns are variable and at 6 months, they are still waking up at night, 1-7 times a week. There is been no proven link between early introduction of solids and an improved ability of the child to sleep through the night. On on the contrary, there are studies showing that early introduction of solids is a risk factor for shorter sleep duration. So, eating is not a way to “make the baby less hungry” so he or she will sleep more!
Enjoy the process!