13 Mar

Rethinking First Foods for Babies: Safe Choices when Starting Solids with Infants

With increasing understanding of human nutritional requirements and the effects of various foods on the body, general dietary recommendations, including infant feeding recommendations, continue to change.

Safest Choices for Baby’s First Foods

Homemade baby food from fresh, organic fruits and vegetables provides the highest quality, most nutritious, and safest baby food. Soft fruits and vegetables can be mashed raw. Firmer fruits and vegetables can be gently steamed or blended with a small amount of water. Small batches can be prepared, poured into ice cube trays, frozen, and stored for later use. Organic canned baby foods provide a convenient alternative.

  • Fresh, raw, mashed fruits such as avocado, pear, melon, apple, banana
  • Gently steamed, mashed vegetables such as carrot, squash, broccoli

Foods to Avoid

Avoid common allergens, such as wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts, citrus, and tomato. This is especially prudent in a family with a history of allergies or asthma.

Avoid any foods that cannot be eaten raw. Grains, beans (legumes), and potatoes (tubers) are toxic when raw. Cooking neutralizes some, but not all, of the toxins (i.e., enzyme blockers, lectins).

Rice cereal, although often recommended as a low-risk first food, can trigger severe gut inflammation in infants. This reaction is known as food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) and is also associated with consumption of other grains, cow’s milk, soy, and meats [Rice Can Trigger Severe Gut Reaction in Infants. Archives of Disease in Childhood. New York: Reuters Health, 2008].

When to Begin Solid Food

Babies show the following signs of readiness for solid foods generally at around six months of age. Starting solids too soon increases the chance of allergic reactions. Breastfed babies should continue to breastfeed and formula-fed babies should continue to consume infant formula until the baby is consuming a significant diet of solid foods.

  • Sitting unsupported
  • Watching others eat
  • Reaching for food
  • Emergence of teeth

Set aside a significant amount of time for feeding. Expect a mess. Introduce one food at a time, at least three days apart. Watch closely for signs of sensitivity or allergy (i.e., congestion, rash, gas, diarrhea, or constipation). Any food that a baby reacts to negatively should be removed from the diet for a few months before reintroduction.

When a baby shows readiness signals for starting solid foods, choose fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and avoid common allergens as well as potentially toxic grains, beans, and potatoes. Simple food choices and simple feeding methods help keep babies safe and healthy.