While many people believe that it’s better to introduce vegetables before fruits, feeding foods in a particular order is not supported by research. However, it is recommended that each new single-ingredient food be introduced one at a time to watch for allergic reactions or food intolerances. Wait 3-5 days between each new food exposure.
You may initially start with a small amount of food (1-2 tablespoons) once per day, and advance the amount and frequency to about three times per day. Don’t forget that breast milk and formula should still be continued. Check out WIC Works Resource System for typical daily portion sizes of breast milk or formula and complementary foods.
In general, infants are capable of regulating their intake of food to consume the amount of calories they need. Thus, parents and caregivers are advised to watch their infant’s hunger and satiety cues in making decisions about when and how much to feed their infants.” —USDA, Infant Nutrition and Feeding
Did you know?
Babies’ growing brains require DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential to cognitive development.
There are many iron-fortified infant cereals available, such as rice, oat, barley and wheat. A good place to start is with any single grained iron-fortified infant cereal. Due to concerns with arsenic levels in rice, the Food and Drug Administration recommends providing a variety of fortified infant cereals, not just rice. Here are some benefits with this first food choice:
- Digests easily
- Least likely to cause a hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction
- Contains important nutrients
- Can be altered in texture to meet an infant’s developmental needs.
The infant’s first cereal feeding should be soupy in texture. If using dry infant cereal, mix with breast milk, infant formula or water to the appropriate consistency.
As feeding skills develop, allow the texture to become thicker and lumpier.
Avoid using adult cereals, which are often higher in sugar and sodium and lower in iron.
Vegetables and Fruits
Whether you introduce fruits or vegetables first is up to you. The important thing is that your baby is introduced to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables over time. Like other foods, it is best to introduce one new single-ingredient food at a time. Fruits and vegetables will provide your child with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Early exposure to a wide variety of foods and flavors may improve intake later on. To increase vegetable acceptance, expose your baby to vegetables with a range of colors, tastes and textures while introducing new foods.
Home prepared or store-bought fruits and vegetables can be used. If store-bought is preferred, make sure to check the label for added sugars or corn syrup. Plain vegetables and fruits generally offer more nutritional “bang for your buck” than fruit desserts and infant food mixtures.
Meat, poultry, boneless finfish, eggs, sliced or grated cheese, yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese and legumes (beans and peas) are excellent sources of protein that your baby may enjoy. In fact, meats, such as poultry and beef, should be among the first complementary foods your baby eats, especially for those babies who are breastfed. These foods are generally introduced between 6 and 8 months of age. If your baby only receives breast milk he/she may need other sources of iron and zinc around 4-6 months, which can be met with these protein-rich foods or iron-fortified infant cereal. Check with your health care provider for specific iron and zinc needs and whether or not supplements are needed.
Protein-rich foods should be introduced one at a time while waiting 3-5 days between exposing each new food. Watch your baby closely for signs of allergy.
You may find that your baby will enjoy meat that is mixed with plain vegetables or fruits. If purchasing store-bought infant food meats, opt for plain meats rather than mixed dishes. The plain varieties will contain more protein and iron than mixed. You can always mix them yourself!
If using beans and peas, mash or puree to your desired consistency. Legumes are good plant-based sources of protein.
Breast milk or infant formula are the only beverages that should be offered to infants less than 6 months of age. At 6 months, sterilized water may be added in small amounts (~4-8 ounces/day) when complementary foods (foods other than breast milk or formula) are introduced. Check with your health care provider for specific recommendations on your child’s water needs.
Infants that consume too much fruit juice may develop cavities, diarrhea and may be missing out on other nutritious foods or beverages like breast milk and infant formula. Wait to introduce only pasteurized 100% fruit juices until your baby is 1 year or older, but still encourage fruit more often than fruit juice.
A sippy cup is a tool to help infants transition from a bottle to a cup. It should not be used for a long period of time. Sippy cups can encourage the infant to carry the cup and drink more often, which when the cup is filled with juice, milk, sweetened beverages or formula, frequent sips may lead to cavities. Begin introducing your baby to a plastic open cup around 6 months of age or when he/she is able to sit up without support and can curve their lips around the rim. Hold the cup for your baby and tilt it back slowly.