The second six months of a baby’s life are a wonderful time for both infant and parents. Baby is beginning to take an interest in his surroundings and is starting to obviously process new experiences, even making some personal choices. This is very evident as you begin to introduce solid food.
Whether or not you have introduced cereal at 4 or 5 months, your baby’s most important nutrition continues to be breast milk or formula. Months 6 through 10 are “learning” months, when your child will master feeding techniques such as keeping food in his mouth, chewing, feeding himself and drinking from a cup. Although you will have to feed him at the beginning, by 10 months he should be able to transfer food to his mouth using his hands. Be prepared for messes, as older babies discover and learn more when they are able to do it themselves. They are also more inclined to try new foods if they feed themselves.
6-10 months: Infant cereals are always the first solid food and are used to provide iron to your infant and teach him how to take food from a spoon. Cereal does not offer a significant number of calories, so don’t decrease the number of breast or bottle feeds yet. You may find that almost as much cereal comes out of the baby’s mouth as you put in! Up until now, your baby has been taking liquids that roll down his tongue and into his throat; he will have to learn to change the way he uses his tongue to get solid foods to the back of his mouth to swallow. He might even gag a few times in the beginning. That’s normal, but watch for choking until he learns better control.
If you are breastfeeding, nurse the baby before offering food so that your milk supply won’t be affected. Start with 1 to 2 teaspoons of thin rice cereal mixed with breast milk, formula or water once a day, slowly progressing to 4 to 5 teaspoons three times per day by week three. Throughout this period, watch for rashes on your baby’s cheeks or a sudden change in his disposition, which may indicate food sensitivity.
Cereal progression is rice, barley, oatmeal and finally wheat. Avoid mixed cereals until you are sure your baby can tolerate wheat. Use boxed infant cereal instead of jarred cereal. Dry cereal is much cheaper and the iron is more absorbable.
When starting fruits and vegetables, begin with pureed, single foods—no combination foods. It’s recommended that you give vegetables before fruit. While the vitamin content is similar, babies can taste “sweet” and may refuse vegetables if you have conditioned their taste buds to sugar. It’s kind of like having to choose between candy and a potato!
It doesn’t matter if you start orange or green vegetables first, but try to mix them up. Orange veggies have lots of beta carotene and too many meals of carrots and sweet potatoes might cause your baby’s nose to turn orange. Don’t be alarmed. It’s not jaundice, and it will go away by itself. In the meantime, little Susie may look like a jack-o-lantern! This is why alternating vegetable colors is a good idea. As with cereals and any other new food, wait a few days before adding a new food to your baby’s menu and watch for rashes, runny noses or anything different. If you think your baby may be sensitive to a certain food, stop using it and see if the symptoms go away. After a week, you can try the food again. If the same thing occurs, you should eliminate that particular food from your baby’s diet for a while.
Fruit introduction is the same as vegetables: begin with single strained foods. Juices can be started, by cup only, but they should be diluted when you introduce them. Full-strength juice is often too strong for baby’s delicate intestines, meaning gas and diarrhea can be a problem. Dilute one part water to one part juice when you begin a new flavor and gradually increase the strength as the baby develops tolerance. Begin with apple, white grape or pear juice. Orange juice is too acidic before 10 months. Desserts are not appropriate at this age.
Once your baby has mastered strained vegetables and fruits, you can move onto mashed, chunkier forms of these foods. This will get your baby ready for strained meats. Now, baby meats don’t go anywhere when you put them on your child’s tongue. Your baby really has to make a concerted effort to get the food from the front of the mouth to the back, and may even make an odd expression. If so, he’s probably reacting to the texture of strained meats, not the flavor. Once he can accomplish eating strained meats, he will be able to take a variety of other textures without difficulty. Other textured foods you can try:
Oat ring cereals. Put on baby’s tray and watch him try to pick them up and eat them. Children quickly learn that the Os stick to wet fingers, making them easier to eat! This develops eye-hand coordination, the cereal dissolves easily in the mouth and baby feels a sense of accomplishment.
Banana, in slices one-eighth inch thick.
Mashed (canned) fruits and vegetables
Start solid foods by feeding your baby, but as he progresses to more solid foods, allow him to self-feed as well. While spoon-feeding, you may find your baby turns his head to the side when the spoon approaches or refuses to open his mouth. This is his signal that he has had enough. Trying to push the spoon into his mouth is considered forced feeding.
Cow’s milk is still inappropriate at this point. Remember, breast milk and formula are still the main source of nutrition for baby at 10 months. It is also unnecessary to add sugar, syrup or any other flavoring to an infant’s food. Babies’ taste buds are still maturing. Even though something tastes bland to you, your baby doesn’t know anything else. Adding spices to an infant’s food can cause an allergic reaction and is never recommended.
By the way, if you haven’t started dental care for your baby yet, this is a good time to start. Brush any teeth that have erupted, using a very soft infant brush and wipe the gums with a damp cloth. This will help protect his teeth from the very beginning and will also protect those starting to grow under the gum line.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.