Is my baby ready… Food & Drink

You asked us: Is my baby ready…

…to stop breastfeeding?
…to drink water?
…to drink cow’s milk and eat dairy foods?
…to drink juice?
…to eat wheat or rice baby cereal?
…to eat solid foods?
…to eat fish or sushi?
…to eat honey?
…to eat strawberries?
…to eat peanuts and other nuts?

Experts: Daina Kalnins is a registered dietitian and academic and clinical specialist working at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She is the author of Better Breastfeeding (Robert Rose) and YUM due out April 2008 (Lobster Press). Joanne Saab is a registered dietitian practicing in paediatrics at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont. Together Daina and Joanne have co-authored Better Baby Food, Better Food for Kids and Better Food for Pregnancy (Robert Rose).

…to stop breastfeeding?
The World Health Organization, as well as the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada, recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for at least six months and continue until at least one year of age while solid foods are being introduced.

…to drink water?
For the first six months, babies need only breastmilk or formula, after which, solids are introduced. Water can be encouraged along with expressed breastmilk or formula at nine to 10 months of age. Limit water to two to four ounces.

…to drink cow’s milk and eat dairy foods?
Cow’s milk does not contain an adequate amount of iron, so it is not recommended as the milk of choice until after one year, when other foods containing iron are a part of the diet. Dairy products, such as grated cheese, plain yogurt and cottage cheese, are a terrific source of energy, calcium and protein and can be introduced around the age of six months.

…to drink juice?
Juice is not recommended as a beverage for infants. Save the juice for when your child is at least four or five years of age, or offer diluted juice occasionally (not daily). Keep in mind that too much juice can decrease appetite for solid foods and increase risk of dental caries.

…to eat wheat or rice baby cereal?
Cereals can be introduced after six months in combination with breastmilk or formula. Introducing commercial varieties of cereal, in conjunction with breastmilk, will help ensure your child is getting the necessary amount of iron in his diet.

…to eat solid foods?
Solids can be introduced at six months. Meat or infant cereals are recommended as first choices as they are high in iron, compared to fruit and vegetables. Recent evidence indicates that there is no need to delay solid foods in order to prevent allergies as this can just postpone the emergence of the allergy. If there is allergy in the family, however, discuss introduction of the more allergenic foods (fish, eggs, milk etc.) with your physician.

…to eat fish or sushi?
Raw fish is not recommended for babies or young children. It may contain bacteria that their digestive system may not be able to handle. Cooked fish, however is a great source of protein and essential fatty acids and can be introduced after the age of six months. Boneless fish is often a great option for infants because its soft and flaky texture makes it very easy to chew.

…to eat honey?
Honey should not be offered to infants until after one year of age because it may contain the spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. These spores may be harmful to a baby, who is not yet able to handle this pathogen.

…to eat strawberries?
Strawberries and other berries can be introduced at the same time as other fruits and vegetables, around six months of age. As with all new foods it is recommended that only one new food be introduced every two to three days so that if an allergic reaction were to occur, it would be easy to identify which food was the source of the reaction.

…to eat peanuts and other nuts?
Nut butters, like peanut butter, or foods containing nuts, can be introduced before 12 months, but butters should be thinly spread on bread or a cracker to prevent an infant from gagging. Whole nuts, however, should not be given to young children (under the age of five years) because they are a choking hazard. The small, hard, round shape of nuts is the perfect size to block a young child’s airway. In some cases doctors recommend delaying the introduction of peanuts or nut products if there is a history of allergies within the family. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for your family.

*Please note that the information provided should be used a guideline. If you’re concerned about a something specific always consult your family doctor or paediatrician.

Originally published in Todaysparent.com, March 2008

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