Transitioning your baby from formula or breast milk to solid baby foods can be so much fun for both parents and baby. Watching their reaction and expression as you introduce them to new flavors and textures is always good for a chuckle. And, as they babble with appreciation it is rewarding to find a food that quickly becomes baby’s favorite.
It can, however, be a scary situation for some parents as the worry about food allergies is always on the horizon. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics assures us that it is okay to introduce solid foods to our wee ones between 4 and 6 months of age, it’s hard on a parent to decide when and if the baby is really ready. This is especially true if parents or siblings happen to have food allergies.
A Waiting Game
It is best to start slow and use a “one food at a time” method. Look for Stage One purees at the store and read ingredients to ensure you are choosing a food that has only one or two ingredients (typically the main food and water). Or, you can make food at home starting with simple grains and foods that have been determined to be the “least allergenic” by pediatricians.
Good starter solids include:
- A whole grain cereal such as rice or oatmeal (save wheat based cereals for later!)
- Sweet Potato
Cereals are easy first introductions because they can simply be mixed with warm breast milk or formula and fed to the baby. Avocados and bananas don’t have to be cooked first, making them an affordable and easy make-at-home option. Simply mash or blend with a little breast milk or formula until you achieve a thin consistency. (Thin consistency is important to consider when baby if first learning how to use his tongue to appropriately swallow solid foods). Sweet potatoes can be peeled and then boiled until soft. Simply mashing them or blending them with baby’s formula will make them a palatable consistency for baby, their sweetness often makes them an instant favorite.
Following the “One Week” rule, you can start to mix and match baby’s food. After each new food introduction, wait at least 5 days before introducing another new food. You will be able to determine not only which food baby likes best, but you will more easily be able to determine if any particular food is causing baby discomfort, rash or other unpleasant reactions. (If baby experiences difficulty breathing or swallowing after an introduction to a new food call an ambulance immediately! Otherwise, you can bring up concerns with your pediatrician).
Mixing in cinnamon or applesauce into oatmeal can be a happy surprise for a baby. But only once you have determined that each ingredient does not cause baby any possible allergenic side effects.
What to Avoid
There are certainly some foods that you should choose to avoid for the first year of baby’s life. According to Parents.com, there are specific foods that are more likely to spur an allergic reaction than others. In fact, eight foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies: milk, wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood and fish.
Ask your pediatrician for specific recommendations for introducing each of these types of foods to your child. Be careful when serving these foods to your older children that you avoid exposing your baby to them as well.
Remember that meal time is supposed to be a fun family bonding experience. If you have any concerns at all write them down to discuss with your doctor at your next visit. If you find yourself apprehensive about introducing a potential allergen, most pediatrician’s offices have a “Food Challenge” appointment. This is where you can introduce a possible allergy culprit in the safety of the doctor’s office.
Take things slow, and enjoy discovering baby’s favorite foods!