B: What are the best foods to start when feeding an infant solids…and why?
L.J., RD: There are no hard rules when it comes to weaning, which many parents find frustrating as they want clear information (and are worried about getting it wrong). But the truth is that there are lots of foods that make great first foods. Some people prefer finger foods like plain non-salt breadsticks or well cooked carrots, others prefer purees like smooth fruits such as bananas, cooked apples, or vegetables like sweet potatoes offered from a spoon. The key is to offer a variety of foods and start with just a little so you don’t overwhelm your baby. Choose a good time of day (quiet, not rushed and not too tired) and continue to offer a variety of foods over weeks and months (even if refused as it takes time to grow to like foods). Remember, don’t get stressed at meal times as this can make little ones less likely to eat.
B: Which nutrients should parents focus on giving their infants?
L.J., RD: Breast milk -provides all of the energy, nutrients and fluids that your baby needs for healthy growth and development during the first 6 months of life. It is important that the introduction of foods is not delayed beyond 6 months. This is because stores of essential nutrients, such as iron, need to be replenished. Your baby’s increased requirements of these nutrients cannot be provided by milk alone. Therefore, it is important to introduce protein and iron rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, and beans in addition to fruit and vegetables. The best way to meet your baby’s nutritional needs is to offer a variety of foods from each food group.
B: What if parents don’t think their baby is getting an optimal amount of nutrients?
L.J., RD: Many parents worry about their baby not eating enough, but remember, until your baby is 1, breast feeding continues to be a significant source of nutrition, meeting many of their needs. The main goal of introducing solid foods is to establish good eating habits – you do this by offering food regularly, without stress or fuss and allowing children to become established with eating in their own time. No force feeding! Try to think of food intake over a week rather than on an individual day as young children tend to eat more on some days than others, which is normal.
B: What should parents ask their pediatrician about their infant’s nutrition?
L.J., RD: Pediatricians can help you to understand how diet might be influencing some common infant ailments like eczema, constipation or allergies. You should always check with your pediatrician if you have any concerns. They can also refer you to a specialist for more support if fussy eating becomes extreme or long lasting (bear in mind fussy eating is entirely normal between the ages of 1 and 3, and most children move out of this phase without any help).