Our Scoop on Starting Solids blog series kicks off today with three questions from readers about when to introduce common food allergens and why baby rice cereal isn’t the best starter food, contrary to mainstream thinking.
A reminder to all readers – submit your baby food-related questions by posting a comment on our Great Baby Food Giveaway blog, and if we feature your question, you win a free pack of baby food from Little City Kitchen Co.!
Question from Amanda P: Do I have to keep feeding baby that bland rice cereal?
Dr. Getzelman: I joke with my patients that the rice cereal box probably has more nutrients than the contents! The iron in rice cereal and other fortified products is very poorly absorbed and often constipating. Meat and eggs and dark greens and legumes/beans are far superior sources of iron!
Question from Karra S: My question is regarding when to introduce potential allergens such as strawberries, blueberries, and tomatoes. Due to some food sensitivities my older kids two had to eggs and cow’s milk, our pediatrician said to hold off on peanuts, eggs, and shellfish until 1 year. I hate to withhold these delicious foods unnecessarily….what is your recommendation?
Dr. Getzelman: The most recent research supports introducing any and all foods as soon as infants begin to eat solids. We have discovered we may actually be encouraging the development of food allergies by coaching parents to hold off on giving certain foods until after a year of life. In my practice, I encourage parents to prepare a wide variety of tasty and whole foods for their babies from the get-go.
No processed rice cereal or bland foods are necessary for infants. My advice includes having parents look to the baby for cues about when to begin to give solids (baby gets to decide when he/she is ready!) and to start with savory things like veggies, meats and eggs, including stews and flavorful recipes. Fruit can be part of the mix but giving too much fruit may encourage a preference for sweet things.
The main goal is to have fun with this process. Most babies love to try new things, enjoy a diversity of food colors and flavors, and given opportunities to try a wide variety of things become fantastic eaters!
Question from Christine T: For food introduction, I’ve read that solid foods should be offered to the baby after milk has already been consumed, as the milk offers more essential nutrients than that one serving of solid food. I can do that, but how will I know and when will I know the priority to change?
Dr. Getzelman: I think this is only true for breast milk and until 6-7 months of age. By 9 months a baby may be getting half of their calories from solid foods and if they are eating whole organic foods, not processed white/grey ones, they will be taking in lots of important antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in addition to calories. Be sure to make meals using good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, or some butter so that what baby is consuming is not too lean. Babies need lots of fat to stay healthy and grow well.
Julia Getzelman is the founder of GetzWell Pediatrics, and is the only board certified, primary care, integrative pediatrician based in San Francisco. For more information on GetzWell Pediatrics, check out their website here.