Your cooing, curious, incredibly cute baby is now six months old and you’ve got the go-ahead from your paediatrician to start solid foods. You both are excited to begin this new adventure, but when you head to the store you are suddenly confused by a sea of options. Which foods are safe for your new little eater? Which offer the most nutrition? How do you know what is the best for your baby? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. In research conducted by ORC International and Stonyfield, at least one-third of parents admit to feeding confusion during baby’s first months, and just over half (53 per cent) feel overwhelmed by the varying opinions of early childhood nutrition.
Paediatrician Dr Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP and mother of three, sees many parents who are unsure about best first foods for infants. To help guide parents and caregivers, she offers five important pieces of advice.
• Seek safe dairy options for babies under 12 months
You might think it’s safer to avoid dairy products until infants are at least 12 months old. However, dairy is packed with essential nutrients (such as calcium and vitamin D) for growing bodies, and can be an important part of baby’s diet. The good news is babies as young as six months can begin eating yoghurt, even if they’re breastfeeding. Not only is it a healthy option for their little bodies, you’ll find infants love yoghurt.
• Expose baby to healthy foods early
Introducing baby’s first solids is a stressful time for parents. To keep it simple, reference a list of trusted foundation foods to ensure your baby is receiving the proper nutrients. Remember to check with your paediatrician before feeding your baby any new food groups and modify as needed to accommodate any food allergies. Some great foundation foods are eggs, prunes, avocados, fish, yoghurt, cheese, nuts, butter, chicken, beans, lentils, berries, citrus fruits, green vegetables, whole grains, and water. Mix and match these foods as your baby becomes more comfortable with solids.
• Protect baby’s gut health
Did you know gut health is the foundation for overall good health? To help protect your baby’s gut health, you want to ensure they’re getting enough probiotics. While naturally found in breast milk, probiotics are also found in yoghurt.
• Understand natural sugar vs added sugar
Sugar is receiving a lot of attention in the news recently and many parents are looking more closely at labels when grocery shopping. In doing so, it’s important to understand the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Wholesome foods like milk, yoghurt and fruit have naturally occurring sugars that are part of a healthy diet. Many yoghurts come in both plain and flavoured varieties, and if you’re looking to control the amount of sweetness, you can purchase unsweetened yoghurt to which you can add your own mashed fruits.
• Get adventurous with finger foods
Don’t be afraid to put down the spoon and let your little one try feeding themselves with some nutritious finger foods. Not only will baby explore new flavours and textures, but it’s an excellent way to practice fine-motor skills. A simple and nutrient-packed first finger food is berries cut into small pieces. The soft berries are easy for babies to pick up and they feel gentle against their gums. Introducing first foods to your baby doesn’t have to be a confusing process. By working with your paediatrician and keeping this information close at hand, you’ll be ready to expose baby to a whole new world of flavours.