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Feeding Your Baby

Starting baby on solid foods can be scary— Let’s talk choking hazards and allergic reactions

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Bobbie® is proud to partner with the International Food Information Council (IFIC) to bring you this article. IFIC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit education and consumer research organization with a mission to effectively communicate science-based information about health, nutrition, food safety and agriculture

The first two years of your child’s life is critical for proper growth and development (I’m sure you already know that!). Within this timeframe, you’ll begin incorporating solid foods into your baby’s diet, and this transition often comes with a lot of stress.

Causes for concern when starting solids; choking and allergies

According to IFIC’s Consumer Survey for Birth to 24 Months, parents’ top concerns when first introducing their child to baby and solid foods are around choking hazards (55% say a major concern) and the potential for allergic reaction (38%). Following safety, concerns focus on how to figure out what foods to introduce to their child (21%) and when (24%). 1

Today, we’re discussing these top concerns. Before we dive in, let’s review a few basics about infant feeding.2

Infant feeding starts with breast milk or formula

For about the first four to six months of life, it’s recommended that infants be exclusively fed human milk, breast milk. When breastfeeding is unavailable, iron-fortified infant formula should be given. Infant formulas are designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants for the first year of life and are not recommended beyond age 12 months.

What is complementary feeding?

Whether you are breastfeeding or utilizing infant formula, pediatric experts and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended introducing solid foods around four to six months of age.3 This is called complementary feeding.

Signs your baby is ready for solid foods:

Since four to six months is a range, your infant may be ready to begin solids when he or she: 

  • Is able to control their head and neck 
  • Is able to hold their head up by themselves 
  • Does not push food out of their mouth with their tongue 
  • Sits up alone or with support 
  • Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food 
  • Swallows food rather than push it back out onto the chin

Best first foods for baby 4-6 months:

Around four to six months, solid (complementary) foods are necessary to ensure adequate nutrition and exposure to flavors, textures and different types of foods. Iron rich foods, such as iron-fortified baby cereal or pureed meats, and zinc rich foods, such as meats, beans and zinc-fortified infant cereals, are good first foods to introduce to infants four to six months of age. Dairy in the form of whole milk plain yogurt can be introduced around six months of age. 

Best first foods for baby 8-10 months:

Around eight to ten months, infants are ready to eat more textured foods such as mashed or diced foods and finger foods. 

Best first foods for baby 10-12 months:

By ten to 12 months of age, your infant is becoming more independent and may be able to hold a spoon. Cow’s milk as a beverage should wait to be introduced at 12 months old or later. Plain, fluoridated drinking water intake can slowly be increased after age one to meet hydration and fluoride needs. Encourage your child to consume a variety of foods from all food groups, except for foods and beverages with added sugars and caffeine; foods and beverages higher in sodium should also be limited. 

What baby foods to avoid? 

It’s very important to avoid giving your baby any foods that could be a potential choking hazard, such as uncooked vegetables or fruits (except bananas and avocados), chunks of cheese, whole grapes, peanuts, popcorn, and hot dog pieces should not be given. Poorly chewed food can block the airway and infants cannot cough or clear their throats well enough to remove the food.

Can babies eat honey?

 Honey should not be consumed by infants less than one year old. 

Can babies eat sugar?

Additionally, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) do not recommend the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners or added sugars by children younger than 2 years of age. 

Can babies drink water?

For healthy infants with adequate intake of human milk or infant formula, supplemental water is typically not needed in the first six months. Small amounts of plain, fluoridated drinking water can be given to infants who are at least 6 months old as they learn to drink from a cup. 

When to introduce potentially allergenic foods? 

IFIC’s 2019 Food and Health Survey found that a little more than one-third of parents with children under 9 years of age mistakenly believe potentially allergenic foods should be introduced when children turn one year old.4 Another IFIC survey found that 38% of parents are concerned about the potential for allergic reactions when introducing new foods. It seems many parents are confused or concerned about when and how to introduce these foods.1

It may surprise you to learn that the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology5 and the American Academy of Pediatrics6 recommend introducing common food allergens at around six months of age when other complementary foods are introduced, and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans agrees with this recommendation. Introducing peanuts, for example, at or around 6 months of age can help reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy. Infants who are at increased risk for a peanut allergy – those with egg allergies, severe eczema, or both, should receive their first peanut-containing foods even earlier, between four and six months.  

Stress about starting solid foods:

Feeling stressed about introducing solid foods to your baby is normal but we hope these guidelines can ease some of your concerns. Utilize these expert recommendations as you navigate these milestones but remember your baby is unique. These are general guidelines— always talk with your individual healthcare provider or your child’s pediatrician if you have additional questions.

Sources:

  1. Parents Uncertain About Times of Children’s Dietary Transitions | Food Insight
  2. Infant and Toddler Feeding | Food Insight
  3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  4. 2019 Food and Health Survey | Food Insight
  5. Prevention of Allergies and Asthma in Children | AAAA
  6. The Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions | National Library of Medicine
The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.
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The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

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Meet the Expert

Alyssa Pike

Alyssa Pike, RD is the Senior Manager of Nutrition Communications at the International Food Information Council where she monitors nutrition headlines, translates nutrition research and serves as a sound resource to the media.