www.moms.com

21 Things Pediatricians Don’t Tell Moms About Starter Foods

One of the most fun new stages for the baby is when he or she is ready to try solids. Moms love to see their little one's reaction to tasting new foods for the first time. And even though it can be messy, it's the cutest mess moms and dads have ever seen.

Doctors give moms and dad lots of tips on the appropriate time to try some solids, but they usually don't get into the food choices much, so we have some information that might be helpful for moms with nutrition on their minds.

First, we want to make sure to repeat the doctor's words on timing. Most babies are ready to try their first purees at around six months old, although some might be ready around the four month mark. The biggest sign is that the baby is interested in eating and watches when mom or dad tries food. The baby needs to be able to hold his head upright and sit with support.

At first, the baby might not really know what to do with his tongue and may push the food right back out. But he or she will get it eventually, and the entire family can have fun while they figure it out.

Here are 21 things pediatricians don't tell moms about starter foods.

21 Rice Cereal Isn't Necessary

We're not sure when rice cereal became the No. 1 starter food, but it's usually the first thing that moms choose to feed their kids. While it might be an easy food, it's not necessary. In fact, it's basically just carbs. The baby isn't getting any extra nutrition or even taste, so some doctors think that moms should skip it, although most choose just to not comment on it.

The only thing that rice cereal really serves as is a thickener. Some moms are told that if they add it to the baby's bottle, then the baby will sleep longer through the night. But those are empty cals, and it might even be tied to the beginnings of childhood obesity. So it might be a better idea to skip the rice cereal and go for something with more nutritional value.

20 Babies Don't Have To Start Early

Many moms get really excited about feeding their baby starter foods, as if it is a milestone that they should compete with other babies on. Babies are getting foods other than formula or breastmilk even earlier these days, but while some babies might be OK with having them by four months, moms don't have to start feeding baby food that early.

Doctors say that moms can offer food when the baby seems interested and can sit up supported, but that doesn't mean that there is a rush. In fact, breastmilk or formula should be the main source of nutrition for newborns until their first birthday. There is a mantra that "food before 1 is just for fun," so moms shouldn't feel the need to rush to start.

19 Start With Vegetables

It's understandable that moms want to start their baby off with food that seems to be yummy. But that isn't the best idea. In fact, if moms start with sweets, it's possible that the baby will become a picky eater and reject things like vegetables. That's not something many doctors go into, but it's good to think about the first foods as an introduction.

It's a good idea to start with the vegetables first, so the baby is interested in those wholesome, nutritious foods. There are some veggies that are slightly sweet like winter squash that might set the best start with nutrition and taste in mind.

18 Baby's Colorful Meals

At the beginning, parents don't need to worry about a balanced meal, since most of the little one's nutrition comes from their breastmilk or formula. But the start of thinking about balancing nutrients is to make sure that the foods are colorful.

Moms should consider letting the baby eat through the rainbow, maybe starting out with yellow or orange vegetables before turning to green. Those varying colors represent different nutrients and that means that the baby will end up healthier and appreciating a more diverse palate.

17 Baby Can Skip Purees

Baby food is traditional, but some moms worry that those little jars can contain things that aren't the most healthy for the baby and they don't have time to puree foods themselves. Also, it seems a little weird to give baby a food that they won't recognize. It's OK to skip the purees and just give the baby starter foods that are small cut-up bits of food.

The practice is called baby-led weaning, and it's growing in popularity with some natural moms. To start, moms definitely need to wait longer than the four to six months they would for purees. Start with soft foods and be sure to cook any vegetables well. Moms need to be on the look out for choking, but otherwise, it can be a fun way to introduce food.

16 Wait A Week Before Introducing A New Food

One issue that moms need to be well aware of when introducing starter foods is the possibility of allergies. There aren't that many kids who are sensitive to peas and carrots, but it can happen. So it's important to leave some time between introducing a new food so that moms are better able to tell the doctor what caused a reaction.

What doctors don't often talk about is that the first bite of something might not cause a reaction. The problem may come the second or third time around. So waiting several days or a week before introducing something new allows the body time to show its reaction and the mom and doctor to figure out the problem foods.

15 Avocados Are A Great Finger Food

One of the most popular foods these days is avocado, but while mom is enjoying her avocado toast, she might want to consider introducing that as a starter food to the baby. It's an incredibly healthy and tasty food, and it's a great thing for babies without teeth to try since it's soft but holds its shape.

Avocados are full of healthy fats that can help with brain development. They are very healthy for moms to eat during pregnancy, and it's a great idea to make them a starter food as well. Just serve up a few slices and let the baby get a taste.

14 Citrus Can Be Tough On The Tummy

When the baby is born, his or her digestive system is immature. That leads many babies to struggle with reflux that is way beyond the normal issues with spit up. While things get better in the baby's first few months, that doesn't mean that the baby is ready for all foods by the time he starts eating baby food. Citrus can be a problem, so moms shouldn't try it until 9 months at the earliest.

Citrus foods like oranges and grapefruits are very acidic, and they can cause heartburn or worse. While the foods may have strong, aromatic tastes, the baby might be turned off if it means that he feels sick. Wait a while on the citrus until the baby can really enjoy it.

13 If Baby Doesn't Like It, Try Again Another Time

Taste is a new, interesting sensation for the baby as he tries foods for the first time. He was getting some taste through breastmilk, but that wasn't really true if the baby was on formula, and things are a lot stronger when they come through regular foods. So moms can expect a few sour looks at some things. The baby may even try to stop the spoon, but that shouldn't mean that baby never eats his or her green beans.

Moms shouldn't let the baby's first reaction to a food dictate whether she gives it again. Sometimes the little one likes the food another time. It's possible that a baby that makes a face the first time she tries something will eventually find that prunes are her favorite food.

12 Baby Should Be A Part Of Family Meal Time

Feeding the baby and feeding yourself isn't an easy task. But part of enjoying starter foods is making it meal time for the entire family. We know that some moms choose to give pureed foods before they serve the rest of the family, and that is OK. That way she can eat uninterrupted as well, but we have a suggestion that might make it better.

Even if the baby has already has his veggies, pull him up to the table with a few snacks. Mealtime is a social time, and while you can't expect to teach the baby manners, it's the beginning of learning about family time.

11 Eggs Are Big Allergens

One of the biggest problems when feeding the baby is figuring out protein. That's why eggs are one of our favorites. Scrambling them makes them an easy, soft chewable treat and a wonderful source of protein. But moms need to know one thing — eggs can be an allergen.

It's really important to watch out for how the baby reacts to eggs. Other than dairy, it's one of the top things that babies can get an allergy to, and since egg whites are used in vaccines, it might have a big impact on the baby's health. A reaction can start with a rash and go on to hives or even worse, so alert the doctor right away.

10 Expect Colorful Diapers

Sometimes doctors remember to warn parents about what can happen when they introduce foods to the baby, but if they forgot it can be pretty unnerving when you change the baby's diaper. After consuming only breastmilk or formula for months, the baby's waste can be pretty consistent in color and timing, but introducing new foods can change all of that.

When mom finds orange in the diaper, it can be really concerning. But if the baby has been eating carrots then it makes sense that it matches. The baby also might have bowel movements more frequently or less frequently. If it doesn't happen often enough and the baby seems to be in distress, then check with the doctor right away. But otherwise, it's normal for there to be changes in the diaper area when starting solids.

9 Be Careful With Fish

Fish is another great starter food for the baby, as it provides a lot of healthy proteins and nutrients. Plus, many times it's easy to chew and swallow. But moms have to be extra careful when feeding the baby fish to make sure that the baby stays healthy.

First, it's always best to check for bones. A lot of time tiny bones can be left in fish, and that is OK for an adult, but a baby doesn't have the ability to understand to stop chewing when a tiny bone comes up. Also, be careful to avoid mercury poisoning. To do so, stick to low-mercury fish like salmon and whitefish. Don't forget that shellfish can be a big allergen that can have severe results, so watch closely when introducing shrimp or other shellfish.

8 Overcooking Isn't A Bad Idea

Many moms pride themselves on making delicious meals. But for babies, the taste and texture isn't as important. While adults might prefer that their pasta and vegetables are served al dente, the mom should cook her baby's food even longer.

Overcooking makes vegetables and pasta softer, which means that it's easier for the baby to chew and swallow. And there is no need to add salt and butter to the baby's food. Allow them to enjoy the natural taste.

7 Wait For Cow's Milk But Cheese Is OK

Most moms know that it's not OK to give the baby cow's milk until after the first birthday. Formula or breastmilk are much more nutritious, but baby's immature digestive system can't break down the proteins in cow's milk as well. But with that warning, one of the best starter foods that moms might not think about is cheese.

Babies who have lactose issues might not do well with cheese, but others can digest it quite fine. Make sure that it's a commercially processed hard cheese so that there is no risk of getting sick, but otherwise it's a great starter food. Yogurt can be good as well, but nutritionists recommend making sure it's a plain, unsweetened yogurt.

6 Homemade Muffins Are A Good Idea

Baking for baby can be a fun and healthy way to introduce new foods. Nutritionists don't recommend the muffins made at a store or bakery because they are usually packed with sugar, but a homemade special muffin can be yummy and nutritious.

There are some great recipes that incorporate veggies such as zucchini that can be a tasty treat for the baby. It's a finger food that doesn't have much risk of choking (although moms should always supervise), so muffins can be a great snack.

5 Adding Some Breastmilk Can Be Smart

When moms start with purees, one of the biggest things to think about is thickness. But it's not just about the setting on the blender. Moms can change the thickness by adding liquid. Instead of putting water in, nutritionists recommend adding breastmilk or formula.

Adding breastmilk means that the baby still gets the nutrients from the most important food source while thinning out the food so that it can go down easier. Sometimes a little thicker can be better too, so try to strike a balance that is best for the baby.

4 Try Different Ways To Serve

There are lots of ways to serve baby food, and part of exploring food is trying different textures. That's why we recommend serving foods in various ways so that the baby can enjoy the variation. For example, bananas can be pureed but they can also be mashed. And they are soft enough for the baby to try a few bites as well.

For veggies, a puree might be the way that moms start serving them, but most can be cooked to the point of being soft enough to eat as finger foods. Mixing them into muffin recipes can put it in another form as well. Remember that variety is the spice of life, so have fun and let the baby try starter foods in every form.

3 Let Them Eat Off Your Plate (If You're Careful)

One of the biggest signs of readiness for solids is if the baby shows interest in food while others are eating. That means he might be trying to grab food off of mom's plate, and the doctor won't tell you but it's OK if you let him, as long as you are careful.

Obviously, a lot depends on what is already on mom's plate, and things such as fish with bones, hard vegetables and things made with a lot of butter, salt or sugar might be avoided. But there is nothing wrong with letting the baby try a piece of bread or a cube of sweet potato or some well-cooked veggies. Also, be careful not to transfer germs. With precautions it's fun to let the baby start with the things that draw interest on mom's plate.

2 A Balanced Meal Happens Later

Moms should definitely think about nutrients when they are planning how to start solids with the baby. But there is no reason to worry about planning a balanced meal, especially since most infant seat just one or two items at a time. There are some baby foods that contain a number of foods in them for the older ones, but moms don't have to worry about that, since the balance of nutrition before the first birthday comes from breastmilk or formula.

Balanced meals are important, and that is why moms need to start a strong base with making sure the baby enjoys his vegetables from the beginning. Adding on a food group at a time is great, so in the end, the baby is eating right and forming healthy habits.

1 Starter Foods Can Help With Other Milestones

Starting solids is a fun milestone in a baby's life (although it's not a developmental milestone, so don't feel like you have to rush it). But one of the good things about starter foods is that they can also help the baby reach other milestones.

That's mostly true of snacks and other finger foods. When the baby is feeding himself, he has to work on his pincer grasp to pick up the little pieces. It's good practice, and the baby has a lot of motivation. So it's good to think about more than just nutrition when giving the baby starter foods.

References: Mayo Clinic, The Bump, Wholesome Baby Food

More in Parenting