Introducing foods to your baby after a fully liquid diet can be an exciting but a daunting task!
Current recommendations from the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that babies are exclusively breastfed until the age of 6 months.
After about 6 months, babies begin to display the developmental signs that they are ready to eat some complimentary foods.
Signs can include:
- holding their head up unsupported
- putting textured toys in their mouths
- showing interest in food that you’re eating.
Additionally, with increased mobility and brain/body development at the age of 6 months, breastmilk and formula no longer contain all of the nutrients that babies need, particularly iron.
To keep it simple and easy for you and your baby, baby’s first tastes of solid food should be a single ingredient. According to the AAP, it’s best to offer only one new fruit or vegetable at a time and wait two to three days before introducing a new food in order to observe if your baby has any sensitivities to that specific food.
After they’ve gotten comfortable with single ingredient meals, you can work your way up to offering them a deconstructed version of whatever you are having for dinner. Having lasagna or steak for dinner? No problem! Just make a low sodium version for your baby and make sure to give them pieces that they can’t choke on.
But before baby gets to that point, here are 9 excellent, vitamin-rich foods that they can practice their newly found eating skills on.
Iron-fortified Rice, Oat or Grain Cereal
Likely the most common first food for baby is an iron-fortified baby cereal.
You can find these in the baby aisle of almost any grocery store and they are a super easy way to introduce baby to solid foods while getting them some of the extra iron that they need.
Baby cereals are also made to be easily processed by your babe’s still-developing digestive system, and the smooth texture isn’t too much of a shock for them as a first food after their first 6 months of a completely liquid diet.
You can also easily mix in breastmilk, formula or other fruit/veggie purees for additional nutrients.
There are tons of different kinds but I chose Baby Gourmet for my daughter since they use whole organic, wholegrain ingredients and their products don’t have any sugar or salt.
I also opted for the Oatmeal and Ancient Grains versions since too much rice can give baby constipation (but let’s face it, at this early stage of the game, many things will since their digestion is still developing).
Ripe Raw Avocado
Avocado is one of nature’s perfect foods for a growing babe!
They have lots of essential fats and nutrients while having a smooth and creamy texture and are easily digestible.
Avocados are chocked full of vitamins and minerals like A, C, Niacin, Folate, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and the healthy fats in them keep help your baby’s brain develop.
When choosing an avocado for use that day or the next, look for one with bumpy extra and dark green color with bumpy texture that yields but doesn’t collapse when you gently squeeze it.
Avocados are super simple to serve to your baby as well since there’s no need to cook them!
After cutting it in half and scooping out the creamy flesh, just mash with a fork and serve it up.
If you want to a slightly thinner texture, you can add breastmilk or formula and then blend before serving. To thicken or to add some more iron, mix in some baby cereal too!
Like avocado, banana is smooth, creamy and very easily digestible by babies.
Bananas are all packed with tons of good stuff like vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and potassium.
Once your little once has had banana on its own a few times, this is a great ingredient to add as a natural sweetener and thickener to other purees.
When your babe is ready for finger foods, banana is super easy to cut up and serve (and fun for baby to squish and learn about different textures too!)
Sweet Potato and Yams
If you haven’t gotten the gist of it yet, the best first foods for baby are ones that can be made smooth and mushy, have tons of vitamins, and are easy for mom to serve!
Sweet potatoes and yams are no exception. They have vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). and are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B1, B2, B6, potassium, dietary finer and niacin.
Just pop them in the oven at 400 degrees until they are easily pierced with a fork and then mash them on up.
Make sure to fully cool them and check the temperature before feeding to your little one. Sweet potatoes and yams also make great finger foods when your baby is ready to start feeding themselves.
Similar to sweet potatoes and yams, butternut squash are also incredibly easy to prepare and have tons of healthy vitamins and minerals.
They are an excellent source of vitamin A, C and E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese and have even more potassium than a banana!
To prepare, cut the squash in half and place it flesh side in an oven safe glass baking dish. Add a bit off water to the dish to help soften and cook evenly.
Bake at 375 degrees until super soft and then follow the same steps as the sweet potatoes and yams! The skins (especially on organic butternut squash) are edible, but I would skip them when serving to baby since them might be too tough for little mouths.
Applesauce is another great food to introduce to baby when there still learning how to eat solids.
You can make your own by cutting up, boiling and then pureeing apples, but the good news is that there are all sorts of organic pre-made options that are already prepared at the grocery store too!
In either case, make sure that the only ingredients in the applesauce are apples and water (ascorbic acid on the label is okay, it’s another name for Vitamin C which is naturally occurring in apples).
Whether buying off the shelf or making your own, make sure to skip added sugar or salt.
At 6 months of age, the amount of iron in breastmilk is not sufficient for growing babes.
Adding meat to your baby’s diet is a fantastic way to make sure they are getting the extra iron they need. Easy meats to start with are beef or pork. Just make sure they are thoroughly cooked and cooled.
You can puree them the first couple of times if you’re nervous about giving larger pieces to your baby, but you may also just choose to cut finger-sized portions and let baby suck and gnaw on them.
They’ll still be getting nutrients from the juices in the meat, and they’ll get to practice their newly-found grip strength as well as hand-eye coordination.
If you want to offer your baby animal protein but aren’t quite ready to give beef or pork just yet, eggs are another option. Scramble them and then break in to small pea-sized pieces.
Full-Fat Cheese and Yogurt
Fat is another important thing for babies to get enough of in order to grown big and strong!
When offering dairy, opt for full-fat cheese and yogurt. Wait on giving homogenized milk until baby is at least 9 months old, or given the green light by their doctor.
Cut cheese like cheddar in to small cubes before offering. Full-fat yogurt should be plain to avoid unnecessary sugar often added to flavored yogurts. If you’d like to add some flavor, you can easily add other pureed fruits for some fun combinations!
A favourite at our house is 11% fat plain greek yogurt mixed with a bit of mango puree and sometimes even a little cottage cheese for added protein.
Enjoy introducing new foods to your baby. The faces that they make when they decide what they like and dislike are priceless! Before you know it, your baby will be eating like a pro.