So you’re thinking about introducing solid foods to baby but you’re not sure where to start. There is so much information out there and many moms are confused as to which is the optimal complementary food. The list of contenders for first foods include banana, sweet potato, rice cereal, avocado, and even meat. Yes, I said meat.
A large number of pediatricians, including ours, recommend starting with rice cereal diluted with breastmilk (or infant formula if you don’t breastfeed) to a soupy consistency. The reason that rice cereal is preferred by many as a first starting food is because it is one of the least allergenic foods, and also because it is a good starting point to help baby learn to eat from a spoon. According to this USDA chart here, babies younger than six months old should only be given breastmilk (or formula) and iron-fortified infant cereal by spoon. Some sources suggest that baby cereals are not necessary and that babies can go straight to regular, whole-grain oatmeal.
According to La Leche League, babies 6 months or older should start with ripe banans, avocado, or sweet potato. After those foods are introduced, then meats and whole-grain breads & cereals may be added to baby’s diet. Fresh fruits (no citrus until baby is 12 months old), vegetables, and dairy products (no cow’s milk until baby is 12 months old) are usually then introduced.
Many nutrition experts are now recommending meat as a first food for breastfed babies older than 6 or 7 months. By introducing meat, baby will consume easily accessible forms of iron (as heme-iron), zinc, and protein. Typically, meat in the form of chicken or turkey is introduced first and boiling or roasting the meat is preferred over frying.
As with all health matters, discuss with your pediatrician the optimal order of baby’s first foods for your particular circumstances and remember to enjoy this special time with your baby. It passes so quickly!