Healthy Children - June 2015

Baby's First Foods

What a baby eats in his first year of life may predict his eating habits as he get older. Babies who breastfeed for longer periods of time as an infant are healthier eaters at age 6. Babies fed healthful food between 6 and 12 months of age will also show a tendency to eat healthier at age 6.

Scientists call this pattern of influence of early eating metabolic programming. The first foods a child eats have long-lasting effects on growth and development. Parents make the food decisions for their baby. Healthy food choices and feeding patterns help develop lifelong patterns that lead to good health.

Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months. At around 4 to 6 months of age, babies are generally ready to start eating solid foods. Parents should introduce nonallergenic foods first. These include foods like rice cereal, oatmeal, and pureed fruits and vegetables.

In addition to solids, babies will continue breastfeeding. If a mother stops breastfeeding, the child will need formula. Milk fat develops healthy brains. It also helps strengthen bones and teeth.

When starting solid foods, offer only 1 food at a time. Introduce a new food every 3–5 days. This allows parents to notice allergic reactions.

Babies can have mild to severe allergic reactions to new foods. They include rashes, hives, eczema and vomiting. Babies may also experience wheezing and a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

Doctors have issued new guidelines concerning allergenic foods like milk, eggs fish and nuts. A baby who tolerates non-allergenic foods may begin taking allergenic foods before age 1. As with non-allergenic foods, parents will offer one food at a time, every 3 – 5 days. A parent should give small amounts of the food at home and observe their baby for an allergic reaction.

Parents should tell the baby’s doctor about any family history of food allergies. Ask the doctor about healthy infant eating practices. Following these guidelines, parents can give their baby a great start to a healthy lifestyle.

Many health conscious parents ban sugar, salt and fat from their child's diet. However, doctors at the American Academy of Pediatrics tell parents and schools to concentrate more on the child's whole diet and less on individual ingredients. Small amounts of sugar, salt and oil can make healthy food taste better to children. A child's daily diet should:

  • Include fruits, vegetables, grains, low fat dairy and quality protein.
  • Avoid highly processed foods.
  • Include food portions suited to the child's age.
  • Present a wide variety of food experiences.