What Can You Feed Your Baby?

If you’re feeding your baby out of expensive pouches — or grinding up food for her in the food processor — you may be wondering when you can start feeding her the same food everyone else is eating. Actually, babies don’t have to eat pureed food at all; you can give them big-people food from the start as long as you give them the right types of food and avoid the dangerous ones. Yes, some foods are dangerous for babies, for a variety of reasons.

When to start feeding baby solid food

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends waiting until your baby is between four to six months old before starting solids. Some signs that she may be ready for solids include reaching for your food or smacking her lips when she watches you eat.

If you start solid foods before four months, your baby may be more likely to develop food allergies because her intestines aren’t ready to handle solid foods. The allergies she develops won’t necessarily be to the foods you give her; early introduction of solids just increases the tendency toward food allergy.

Giving baby solids early to get her to sleep through the night — as in the oft-practiced putting-cereal-in-the-baby-bottle trick — doesn’t work, so don’t bother trying.

What to give your baby to eat

You can start with any solid food you like. Some people start with cereal because it’s bland. But wheat is actually one of the most common food allergies, so it may not be the best choice. Others start with fruit because it’s sweet, but that can make it harder to introduce less sweet foods, such as vegetables, down the line. Ultimately, you can make the choice on what to give. If your baby is old enough, you can mash well-cooked food — or throw it in the baby grinder, if it’s meat — and give her whatever you’re having.

Just introduce one new food at a time, though; starting with a stew that contains a dozen different vegetables or spices isn’t a good idea because if she has a reaction, you won’t know what caused it. Wait two to three days between offering her different types of food.

What food to avoid giving your baby

Compared to adults, babies have a small windpipe opening. They’re also more likely to choke because they haven’t got the whole chewing and swallowing thing down yet. Because of this, don’t offer your baby foods such as hot dogs or whole grapes. Cut them up into very small pieces — like four pieces to one grape — when you do offer them. Some pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is at least 2 before offering foods with a high choking potential.

Also, avoid giving cow’s milk and juice to babies under 12 months of age. Juice is a vehicle for sugar, which babies don’t need, and prior to year 1, babies need more-nutrient-dense milk than what cows provide.

Don’t give babies under 12 months honey, either. It can contain botulism spores that an infant’s digestive tract can’t neutralize yet.

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