Infant Solids Nutrition – Introducing Solid Foods Into The Diet
Infant solids nutrition is introduced at about age 4-6 months when the infant has reached a stage of physical and physiological development signaling that the child is now ready for solid foods as part of the diet. The infant has now depleted their iron stores and must now take in iron and the infant now has the ability to sit up. If the infant has been fed either breast milk or iron fortified infant formula, then the infant will not really need solid foods before the age of six months, so infant solids nutrition can be delayed until then.
The foods that the infant should be feed are still largely liquefied and include pureed foods such as liquefied cereals, fruits and vegetables.
What makes the infant finally ready for solid foods? Various physiological changes have occurred that signal the child’s readiness to add more variety to the child’s diet. Such changes include an increased level of digestive enzymes making it possible to digest other nourishment, and the infant can now maintain an adequate level of hydration, allowing for solids to be added in addition to the continuation of milk.
Other developments include the ability for the infant’s tongue to now transfer food to the back of the mouth where it can now be swallowed at age 4-6 months instead of pushing it back out with the tongue, which is what occurs if attempts at feeding the child solid foods, is attempted prior to 4-6 months. The baby is also now able to move its hand to its mouth which is necessary for self-feeding and to control its head and neck movements while sitting up.
By the end of the baby’s first year when they are generally standing by themselves and have begun to walk the diet can be expanded further with small pieces of bite-size pieces of table foods and more different textures of foods.
Introduction of solid foods should also be done gradually in order to determine how well the baby tolerates this introduction to something new and to determine whether allergies are developing for a particular food. Foods should have a soft texture to prevent choking. Many infants can develop food allergies to cow’s milk, egg whites and wheat, thus these foods should not be introduced before the baby reaches the age of one year. If there is a strong family history of allergies to eggs these should not be introduced to the baby before age 2 and foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish should not be introduced before age 3. By delaying potentially allergy producing foods until the child is older this gives the child more time to develop their fledgling immune systems.
By introducing solid foods gradually the child can have the best opportunity to experience a variety of foods and expand their diet safely. In addition, feeding the baby the appropriate types of foods as the child gets older will prevent unwanted problems later on with early childhood dental carries, iron deficiency anemia, diarrhea and failure to thrive, which can result in delays in cognitive skills, motor skills and language skills.
Failure to thrive can result from many situations such as giving the baby excessive amounts of inappropriate foods such as fruit juice, low fat or skim milk, improper formula preparation, inappropriate food selection, and poverty and food shortage. Most of these however, can be prevented by following proper guidelines for infant solids nutrition.
For a great video series on introducing solid foods to infants click on the link to webmd.com
For more information about infant solids nutrition click on the link to medical.gerber.com
For other information on nutrition including infant solids nutrition some great references are:
• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein
Nutrition and Pregnancy
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Nutrition After Pregnancy
Alcohol and Diet
Nutrition Eating Disorders
Exercise and Vitamins
Nutrition and Exercise
Cooking and Nutrition
Nutrients In Food
Energy From Food
Water and Nutrition
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