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The Wholesome Baby Food GuideOver 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids
By Meade, Maggie
Grand Central Life & StyleCopyright © 2012 Meade, Maggie
All right reserved.
The Journey into Solid Foods
Of all the milestones a baby will reach in the first year, beginning solid foods is one of the most nerve-racking and confusing (not to mention messy). As a parent, you will likely be bombarded with “friendly” but maddeningly conflicting advice offered by well-intentioned friends and family. I can still recall all the confusing advice I received about feeding my own babies. (With my twins, a few people even suggested that I let one twin be the “taste tester” to determine what foods I should eventually feed them both. Looking back, I wonder if this might be the reason John always lets his brother try new foods first. Did the boys overhear this advice when they were still in their infant carriers and decide between the two of them who should go first?) Once you get past the myths and the folklore, starting your baby on solid foods does not have to be scary. Armed with the right information and a good sense of humor, you will find that introducing solids can be a fun adventure for you both.
A Discussion of Introducing Solid Foods at Each Stage
As you contemplate starting your baby on solid foods, it’s important to note what various medical organizations recommend. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with many other health agencies such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, states that breast milk and/or formula should provide all the nutrition your baby needs during the first six months of life. However, the AAP Committee on Nutrition also notes that introducing solid foods between four and six months is perfectly acceptable; introducing babies to solids prior to four months is not recommended. Regardless of whether you start at four, five, or six months, or even later, keep in mind that solid foods will not make up a large portion of your baby’s nutrition for quite a few weeks after you start. Remember that you are introducing your baby to solid foods, not suddenly changing your baby’s diet. At this point, the term complementary foods is often used instead of solid foods, and this term best describes the early role of solids. In the beginning, you are complementing breast milk and/or formula with solid foods, not replacing them. The first few weeks should be a time to take it slow, keep it simple, and stay relaxed. Explore and enjoy the experience of watching your baby touch and taste his or her way through the wonderful world of food!
How will I know when my baby is ready to eat solid foods?
When a baby hits three or four months of age, many parents start to feel that he or she may need “something more” than formula or breast milk. Your baby may suddenly be waking up more often at night or eating more often than has been typical. But it’s important to remember that while waking at night for a feeding could indicate that your baby is ready for solid food, there might be another reason: the growth spurt that typically occurs between three and four months of age. This growth spurt often accounts for your baby’s increased appetite but is not necessarily a sign that your baby needs solid foods. You see, babies have a tremendous ability to know just what they need and when they need it. These demands for increased feedings are your baby’s way of obtaining the crucial nutrition his or her body needs during this time of rapid growth. Remember, during these early months, formula and/or breast milk are your baby’s most important source of nutrition.
Studies show that babies are highly individual in developing a readiness for solid foods. One baby might seem to be ready at four months, while another shows no signs of readiness until around six or seven months. Since appetite alone is not a reliable indication, here are a few key signs to look for when trying to determine if your baby is ready to begin the journey into solid foods:
Has baby lost the tongue thrust reflex? In the first four months, the tongue thrust reflex prevents a baby from choking on foreign objects. When any unusual substance is placed on the tongue, it automatically protrudes outward rather than back. Between four and six months of age, this reflex gradually diminishes. Until the reflex is gone, solid foods won’t have a chance of making it into baby’s belly.
Has baby developed the ability to signal that she is full? Your baby will develop the ability to let you know that she is full from a “meal” with signs such as turning away from the bottle or breast and/or clamping her mouth shut. This signaling ability is critical for allowing her to regulate the amount of food she is eating and helps her avoid overeating.
Is baby able to sit up and hold his head up unassisted? This milestone is important because babies who must be reclined to be fed are at greater risk of choking. Also, the ability to sit up and have head control has long been associated with the physical maturity that might indicate baby is ready to eat solids. Most pediatricians are in agreement that this milestone is a clear indicator that a baby is ready to begin solid foods.
Has baby’s birth weight doubled? The doubling of birth weight is a rough rule of thumb that baby is ready for solid foods. It’s far from an exact rule, though, so you should consider the other signs as well.
Some infant developments that are traditionally viewed as a sign of readiness for solid foods are less reliable:
Interest in your food. This could signal a readiness for food but it may not be the best sign: when a baby reaches four to six months of age, he is interested in putting everything in his mouth!
Frequently waking in the middle of the night when a consistent sleeping pattern had been established. As noted earlier, although frequent waking could be a sign of readiness for solids, it’s not a reliable sign. Baby may be waking (and nursing/feeding) for any number of reasons: illness, teething, or even a growth spurt. Unfortunately, as you will learn over the coming months and years, sleeping patterns are often disrupted for all sorts of reasons even long after your child is on a solid food diet.
Watch Your Baby, Not the Calendar
As you know, all babies are different individuals. Don’t worry if your baby does not take to solid foods “on schedule,” and don’t let others try to convince you that your three-month-old looks hungry and needs to eat some cereal. Pay attention to your baby’s signals and cues, and “watch your baby, not the calendar” when thinking about starting solids. Most important, don’t let others make you feel guilty or second-guess your decisions. You know your baby best! Don’t be pushed into starting solids early, and don’t ever feel you are a “bad” parent if you believe your baby is or is not ready for solids before he or she is six months old.
Discuss the pros and cons of introducing solid foods with your pediatrician—and don’t be afraid to voice your own views and concerns. If your pediatrician insists that you start your four-month-old infant on solids and you don’t feel your baby is ready, voice your concerns and ask the pediatrician to explain his or her recommendation. The ensuing discussion might surprise you and help you make a decision.
My Parent/Grandma/Sister et al. Insist That My Two-or Three-Month-Old Baby Needs “Real Food”
Some parents may be tempted to give in to relatives, grandmothers, friends, and sometimes even their own mothers, who may say things like “Give that baby some real food, she’s starving” or “Nursing that baby isn’t enough, he needs some real food.” Remember that breast milk and/or formula is “real food.” These contain all the important nutrients an infant needs to develop properly. In fact, introducing solids too early may displace the important nutrition your baby needs to receive from breast milk and/or formula. Your baby needs formula/breast milk first; solid foods will not offer the proper balance or amount of nutrients to sustain healthy growth.
Is it ever too late to introduce solid foods to a baby?
There are two reasons babies can indeed be introduced to solids “too late” (the term late here means later than six months of age):
Allergies. Since 2007, several clinical studies have pointed to the possibility that the late introduction of solid foods might increase the risk of allergies both to foods and to airborne substances such as pollen. While research in this area is not yet conclusive, risking an allergy to certain foods is one reason not to wait longer than approximately six months of age to introduce solids.
Iron Requirements. Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies. Around six (and some say up to eight) months of age, these iron stores will become gradually depleted and leave your baby at risk for iron-deficient anemia. While your baby’s iron will not disappear completely, her levels may fall significantly. So waiting too long to introduce solid foods may put her at risk for anemia.
You may have heard that there is a “window of opportunity” for a baby to learn how to chew and eat solid foods. This is more myth than fact. There is no evidence that babies who are started relatively late on solids have any trouble learning to chew and swallow. When your baby is ready, he will eat! If a baby has reached the age of seven to eight months and continues to have no interest in eating solid foods, you should consult with your pediatrician, as there may be developmental or other issues going on.
My baby is ready to eat solid foods; how should I start and what should I feed?
There are a few things to keep in mind as you begin the transition to solid foods. Two of the most important are to (1) take it slow; and (2) keep it simple. Choosing which food to start your baby on is one of the fun aspects of beginning solid foods. Here are a few great choices for nutritious and tasty starter foods for your baby.
Isn’t rice cereal always the first food?
As you can see, there are many nutritious food options for your baby’s first food besides rice cereal. While rice cereal has been the traditional first food, there is no reason that you absolutely must start solid foods with rice. Many pediatric resources are starting to acknowledge that avocado, banana, and sweet potato make great first foods for babies. The AAP now states, “For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. However, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby.” Rice cereal can be a good starter food because it is low on the allergen list, is relatively easy to digest, and provides additional iron. However, skipping the cereal and starting with a tastier fruit or vegetable might be perfect for your baby. In a 2009 interview with Pediatric News, Dr. Frank Greer, of the Committee on Nutrition at the American Academy of Pediatrics, indicated that solid foods for babies should be introduced based on their nutritional makeup and not on simple tradition. In fact, offering rice cereal as a first food does not make a lot of sense because it is low in protein and high in carbohydrates.
Is there a risk of iron-deficiency anemia if fortified rice cereal is skipped?
As solid foods are introduced, parents often worry that their baby is not getting enough iron. Rest assured, the vast majority of babies will not become iron-deficient if they do not eat a fortified baby rice cereal, nor will they become iron-deficient if they do not receive supplements. Even if the iron content of a mother’s breast milk is lower than that in formula, a baby who is exclusively breast-fed is seldom at risk for iron-deficiency anemia because the iron in breast milk is absorbed at a higher rate. And babies who are formula-fed are also seldom at risk for iron deficiencies because most formulas are iron-fortified. The best thing you can do is consult with your pediatrician about your baby’s need for additional iron. Your pediatrician is likely to test baby’s iron levels as part of his or her regular checkups at six and/or nine months.
Introducing solids too early may interfere with iron absorption and may lower a baby’s iron levels; most often this is related to breast-fed babies.
It is true that iron-deficiency anemia is the number one nutritional concern in infants, but the babies most at risk fall into the following categories:
Babies who were born prematurely (iron stores build in the last few months of pregnancy)
Babies who had a low birth weight even though they were born “full term”
Infants whose mothers had iron-deficiency anemia, were of poor nutritional status during pregnancy, or had diabetes
The importance of consulting with your baby’s pediatrician about the need for iron-fortified cereal and/or iron supplements cannot be stressed enough. All babies are different, and generalities may not apply to your baby.
The Four-Day-Wait Rule
Whether you choose to make baby food or purchase commercial baby food, it is best to abide by the “four-day-wait” rule: introduce your baby to one food at a time and wait approximately four days to introduce the next food. That way, if your baby has a negative reaction to a food, you’ll be able to quickly pick out the offending food and eliminate it from baby’s diet. Once you have introduced several new foods without a reaction, you can begin to mix them together.
When your baby is around eight to ten months old, you will have introduced many new foods and will have a good idea which foods may be allergenic or cause your little one digestive upsets. At this stage you can be less strict about applying the four-day-wait rule. However, it is still important to pay attention to the new foods you offer your little one, especially those that pose an allergy risk.
Allergic reactions typically will occur within the first twenty-four hours after you introduce a new food. Digestive issues with new foods may take longer to appear.
A few pediatricians have suggested that there is no need to wait between introducing one food and another and that it is fine to introduce baby to several foods at a time. On balance, though, there is no downside to following the rule, especially during the first few weeks of beginning solids. You should decide whether you want to follow, or not follow, the rule based on your baby’s family history of food allergies and your baby’s overall digestive behaviors. In particular, babies who have a family history of or a particular risk of food allergies will benefit most from the four-day-wait rule.
Introducing Solid Foods: Food Stages and Developmental Stages
As your baby matures, she will continue to develop and reach many wonderful milestones. Feeding stages are part of this process, of course, and the variety of reactions you will encounter at each stage will often delight you even as they prove challenging. For example, two of the most popular are the “I want to feed myself!” stage and the “refusal to eat” stage. Just remember that you are fostering and building healthy eating habits for your little one. This knowledge should help keep you moving happily forward, even if your baby refuses to eat her favorite food and you are cleaning up the fourth spilled bowl of yogurt and fruit in one day.
Keep in mind that the ages listed for each stage are ranges, and there is a fair amount of overlap for the different phases. It is impossible to pinpoint the specifics for all infants because, as noted, infants begin solid foods at different ages, so their progression through the various solid food stages may differ greatly. Part II of this book provides plenty of easy and delicious recipes for you to try in each of these stages.
Four to Six Months—Let’s Start Eating!
You have already read a bit about good first food choices and foods to avoid; now let’s talk a little about feeding. When baby is first starting solids, the food you offer should be relatively thin and a bit runny. Start out slowly and prepare one or two tablespoon-sized portions of whatever food you have chosen to start with. To take the edge off baby’s hunger, nurse or bottle-feed before offering your little one solids. Milk continues to be more important than any solid foods at this age. Some parents begin offering their babies solid foods by using their (clean and washed) finger as a spoon. They say that this helps their babies enjoy and take to solid foods more easily. They feel that introducing the “new” spoon and the “new” food all at once can confuse or overwhelm their baby.
Baby cereal and soft-cooked, thinly pureed fruits and veggies should be baby’s first solid food experiences. Offer your baby single ingredients only, and offer each new food four days apart (remember the four-day-wait rule). You may skip the cereal and begin with a fruit like avocado or with a veggie like butternut squash or sweet potato. Try the avocado recipe on page 107 or sweet potatoes on page 111.
Important Note for Parents of Premature Babies
If your baby was born prematurely, it is a good idea to double-check with your pediatrician about the best age to introduce solid foods.
When determining the appropriate age and stage that a “preemie” should begin eating solid foods, using a baby’s “corrected age” or “adjusted age” is commonly recommended. The corrected age is determined by taking baby’s current age and subtracting the number of weeks/months that the baby was born early. For example, a six-month-old baby who was born eight weeks premature will have a corrected age of around four months.
Six to Eight Months—We’re Moving On!
If your six-to-eight-month-old baby is just starting solids, the food you offer should still be relatively thin and a bit runny. Again, start slowly and prepare one or two tablespoon-sized portions of whatever food you have chosen to start with. Your baby might be crawling and trying to pull herself up as she nears eight months old. If she has been eating like a champ and now suddenly refuses to eat, you may wonder if you’re raising a picky eater. Don’t worry: at this stage baby is simply too busy exploring her world to stop for anything else. In fact, she may get quite miffed when you put her in her high chair to have a meal.
With her independence growing, she may also begin to show preferences for certain foods and may start refusing to be spoon-fed. Why not give her the spoon and let her start to practice? Take heart—this stage of baby feeding, while challenging, will soon pass. Let your baby be your guide and try not to get frustrated. It’s important for her to feel that she has some say in which foods she eats, so offer a healthy variety and rest assured she will get everything she needs.
This age/stage also ushers in the dawn of spices (see page 128), textures, and adventure. Start cooking with some spices and slowly add mashed or chopped bits of fruits, vegetables, and meats. Remember, baby will not have molars until sometime around twelve months of age. Foods should be easily squished between the gums. If you haven’t done so yet, try offering raw fruits (pureed or mashed and carefully peeled, pitted, and seeded as needed) at this stage. (Try Mango Madness, page 137.) While you may have already introduced yogurt, cheese makes a great addition to baby’s diet. See, for example, my recipe for Cottage Peaches on page 165. This is also a great time to try pasta and myriad grains such as quinoa and kamut that are super-tasty and nutritious. Pasta, veggies, and fruit should all be soft-cooked and possibly mashed with a fork or masher. Meats and proteins such as egg yolk should be cooked and pureed or chopped into small, soft bits. If offering tofu, you need not cook it first.
Eight Months and Up—We’re Almost Toddlers Now and We Want Grown-up Foods!
By this age/stage, your baby is on the brink of, or may already be, eating “table foods.” He may love self-feeding and enjoy a variety of tasty spices and textures in his cuisine. Check out the popular Apple Turkey Loaf or Sticks recipe on page 275 for a great combination of protein, vegetables, fruits, and spices. Now is a great time to encourage a healthy exploration of new foods, tastes, and textures as well as eating utensils. At this time, your baby has likely found a few favorite foods. He may also have developed a preference for feeding himself and a distaste for thin, runny purees. Like the six-to-eight-month-old baby, he may suddenly refuse to eat, but it is rarely a cause for concern. He’s simply too busy playing and exploring to stop and eat. Trust your baby’s hunger instincts and watch his cues; babies will never starve themselves, so don’t worry too much about this refusal to eat.
With his independence growing, baby may begin to show a strong preference for certain foods and may even start refusing anything but his favorite foods. Continue to expand his palate by offering new foods and flavors, and don’t get stressed about how much is being eaten. Experiment with new spices and new flavorful combinations, like the Dirty Rice recipe on page 243 and others in stage three. Offer your budding foodie a yummy chicken curry or tasty fish, for example! (An all-time favorite, Simple, Fantastic Fish, is on page 222.)
In the appendix of this book, you will find charts of the foods that are appropriate for the different stages and ages. And the recipes in part II have been presented in three sections corresponding to each of the stages (with their appropriate age ranges).
Now that you have read all about introducing solids, the various first food choices, and the stages of progression, it’s time to actually feed your baby. Just remember: Take it slow, keep it simple, and have fun! Your baby will make all kinds of faces that you may not have seen before, and you will probably go through the motions of scraping the food off her chin and back into her mouth quite a few times (not to mention off the high chair, the floor, your clothes…). Keep your cool and your sense of humor—it can come in very handy. Many parents like to capture these moments in photos, so have your camera ready as well. Lights, camera, action!
Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods—Let the Fun Begin!
Grab the dog, a plastic suit, a dropcloth, a mop, and plenty of napkins: here is where the fun and the folly of feeding your baby begins! Actually, you probably won’t need the aforementioned accessories until a few weeks after baby has been eating solid foods. In the very beginning stage of introducing solid foods, he will not be eating a lot of food, nor will he be making a huge mess, as you will be in control of the spoon. Things change when your little one moves on to “table foods” and begins to show interest in feeding himself. At that point, you can say good-bye to calm and controlled mealtimes and bid a fond farewell to neatness and clean floors, too. When your baby is self-feeding, all bets are off and you’ll be running to find solace and friendship in those cloths and the mop. These will become steadfast allies, as it is likely that more food will be in baby’s hair, on his clothes, on the chair, and on the floor than will be in his tummy!
Now that you’re ready for that exciting first feeding, it’s time to decide what solid food you are going to start with and when you are going to start. In chapter one, several different options for baby’s first food were outlined. Beginning with a vegetable like sweet potato is a great choice because it is easily digested and most babies find the taste pleasant; if your baby doesn’t like it at first, you can eat it for dinner. Of course, the choice of food is yours to make, and you should talk it over with your baby’s pediatrician as well.
There are a few important things you should know before you begin this adventure into solid foods. For instance, watch out for adverse reactions like food allergies, constipation, diarrhea, and other tummy troubles. Learning ahead of time about these curveballs will help keep you from worrying unnecessarily about some issues that may take place.
Rashes and Splotches and Hives, Oh My!
When your baby starts to eat solid foods, you may encounter new rashes, fussiness or splotches, and even the occasional odd-looking poop. Your first thought will probably be, “Oh no, my baby is allergic to [xyz food]?” Don’t let yourself become overly concerned that your little one is doomed to live a life hampered by food allergies just yet. Unfortunately, food allergies and preventing them are two of the biggest concerns that parents have when it’s time for their babies to start eating solid foods. It is likely that any reactions will not be related to true food allergies. The truth is that just 2 to 6 percent of all children in the United States actually have true food allergies, and many of these allergies may be outgrown. You may have heard that delaying the introduction of certain allergenic foods like eggs and wheat will help prevent food allergies. While this used to be the standard recommendation, recent studies have shown that delaying the introduction of many allergenic foods might not make a difference in the later development of atopic diseases (like eczema, hay fever, and asthma), although it is important to note that these studies do not take into consideration anaphylactic reactions. What this means is that waiting to offer your baby eggs until she is twelve months old might not prevent an allergy to eggs. Prior to the release of these studies in 2008, most pediatricians advised parents to wait to feed their baby any potentially allergenic foods until after he turned twelve months old. At the time of publication of this book, the American Academy of Pediatrics and pediatricians are rethinking the “old school” recommendations when it comes to allergenic foods. The “new school” of thought is that it might be more beneficial to offer your baby a greater variety of foods earlier, including nutrient-rich allergenic foods such as eggs, than it is to exclude these foods for a twelve-month period of time.
A reaction to a new food might just be a temporary intolerance and not necessarily an allergy to the food.
Following are the top eight foods that most commonly cause allergic reactions of one sort or another, for babies and adults alike:
Tree nuts (walnut, cashew, etc.)
But there’s good news: Many children outgrow allergies to eggs and milk and even to other foods. On the following table, you will see a list of what I like to call “forbidden foods.” These are foods that you might want to wait to introduce to your baby either because they are allergenic or because they may pose other health risks such as botulism or rashes due to high acidity. The table also outlines the age recommendations for introducing these foods to your baby. The “forbidden foods” table notes where current recommendations have changed according to new AAP research and guidelines and also keeps the older recommendations should you decide to take a more conservative approach to introducing the foods listed.
Spotting an Allergic Reaction
There are several signs and symptoms to watch out for that may indicate your baby has a potential allergy or intolerance to a food. Many may also occur because of environmental factors such as laundry soap, illness, or even teething. The odd appearance of a rash might be due simply to the acidity of foods like kiwi, oranges, or even tomatoes; sensitivity to the acidity of fruits is common in babies younger than ten to twelve months of age. Gassiness is another symptom that is often due to temporary food intolerance and not to an actual food allergy. Your baby may become gassy because his immature digestive system is reacting to and trying to process a newly introduced food. Digestive upsets tend to be nothing more than temporary tummy troubles rather than an actual food allergy or food intolerance; think of the way broccoli makes many adults gassy. Here are the signs that your baby may have an allergy to a food:
Sudden loose stools or diarrhea
Sudden rashes or red splotches on the skin and bottom
Irritability and/or gassiness after a new food or meal
Breathing or other respiratory troubles after a new food/meal
Swelling of the face, lips, and/or tongue
Closure or tightening of the throat
Of all the above signs, the closure or tightening of the throat is the most difficult to determine in babies. If your baby’s face begins to swell, then it is possible that his throat is beginning to tighten and close also; seek immediate attention if swelling occurs. Watch for these symptoms, note the food that you have fed your little one, and continue to keep a close watch on your baby to see if the symptoms progress or subside. Breathing or other respiratory difficulties as well as swelling should be reported immediately.
Always contact your baby’s pediatrician if you are feeling unsettled about a possible reaction, and be sure to discuss any symptoms that do not clear up within a twenty-four-hour period.
The Scoop on Poop
It’s a delicate topic and one that we’re often reluctant to discuss. But when a new baby is welcomed into the family, we suddenly lose all inhibition when it comes to discussing poop. Much to our surprise, we find ourselves in deep conversations with complete strangers about the current color and texture of our baby’s poop. It is an important topic for all new parents because you can learn a lot about your baby’s digestive health just from looking at and smelling her poop. Up until the time your baby starts eating solid foods, her poops will be fairly regular (even if she poops only a few times a week) and uniform in appearance, texture, and smell. Breast-fed babies often have poop that is naturally a bit runny or grainy, with a smell that some say is sweet. You may have heard that the breast-fed baby has poop that resembles a runny egg or looks like runny cottage cheese and is often a slight greenish or pale yellow color. Formula-fed babies typically have stronger-smelling, thicker poop that may be gray to tan in color. Whether you are breast-feeding or formula-feeding, your baby’s poop will go through some dramatic changes once solid foods are introduced. Breast-fed babies seem to have the biggest changes, with smell being the most notable, while formula-fed babies may have more subtle changes.
The Color of Poop
Baby’s poop not only changes in composition and fragrance, it often changes in color as well. The vast majority of these color changes are benign and due to the new solid foods that baby is being fed. Here’s a small rundown of the possible changes in color and the foods that may contribute to them:
Gray Poop: Blueberries—poop may turn a grayish color and may have small “flecks.” These flecks are most likely from blueberry skins.
“Worms” in Tan Poop: Bananas—poop may turn a dark tannish color and also have flecks in it. Some parents describe these flecks as “worms.” These little scary-looking things in baby’s poop are really harmless. Have a good look at a banana the next time you peel and mash it; do you see the little flecks of black/brown? Those are the long fibrous seed strings of the bananas.
Orange Bits or “Swirls”: Carrots—may not effect a total color change; they may pass just as they went in! This can happen if you have made carrots a bit more chunky and/or thick, but there is no cause for alarm. The next time you make carrots for your baby, try mashing or pureeing them to a smoother texture.
Green Poop: Veggies—sometimes babies can have greenish poop that is a result of eating green veggies. Iron supplements may also cause poop to turn a bit dark green. If food is passing through the intestines too quickly, green poop can result. Bile is what causes poop to be brown, but if the food is going straight through, then bile never gets a chance to work its color magic. This is usually benign, but if it’s a common occurrence, you should consult your pediatrician. Greenish poop could also be a sign of trouble; dairy intolerance, an intestinal virus, or Crohn’s disease could be the cause.
Red/Pink Poop: Beets—it is possible that some red foods could cause baby’s poop to turn a rosy reddish color. However, if you see streaks of red, this could be blood and you should call your doctor immediately! (See below for more information regarding red streaks.)
Some color changes in poop are not benign, and you should contact baby’s pediatrician right away if you see them:
White Poop: White poop is not caused from foods, so contact your pediatrician if your baby begins to have white poop.
Black Poop: I have never heard of nor do I know of any foods that turn poop black. Iron, however, may turn poop a dark green, almost black color. Black poop that is tarry may be a sign of intestinal issues, so it is important to have a poop talk with your pediatrician.
Red Blood–Streaked Poop: If baby has reddish or rust-colored streaks in his poops, this could be a sign of a possible medical problem with either the bowels or the intestines. Blood on, but not throughout, poop could be caused from a tear in the anus. A tear may occur if your baby has had a particularly hard or large bowel movement. If you ever see streaks of red, there might be blood in baby’s poop and you should call your doctor immediately! Streaks of red blood will be unmistakable: you will see lines of red blood in the poop.
Gassiness, Constipation, and Diarrhea
Introducing solid foods can sometimes upset baby’s tummy a bit even if you are introducing foods slowly and waiting until baby is six months of age. Your little one may experience gassiness and/or constipation and diarrhea when he begins to eat solid foods. Constipation and diarrhea are two of the more common upsets that may occur as your baby’s digestive system learns to process solid food. While many pediatricians are now suggesting that any and all foods are appropriate to offer baby when starting on solids, you may want to wait a bit to introduce foods that are known to cause digestive upsets. Broccoli, for example, might not be a great first food; it is known to cause gassiness in many adults. Waiting to offer this vegetable until baby is around eight months old might be beneficial, as her intestines will be more mature and might be better able to digest broccoli. Rice and bananas are great starter foods for baby, but too many servings of them may cause your little one to become constipated. Likewise, serving your baby an abundance of foods that are known to loosen stools (peaches, plums, apricots, pears, and fruit juices) might provoke an uncomfortable episode of diarrhea.
Remember the BRAT diet—bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. BRAT is used to relieve diarrhea, so cutting out these foods will help relieve constipation.
Diarrhea has many causes, the most common being bacteria, viruses, parasites, medications, functional bowel disorders, and food sensitivities. As diarrhea may be a sign of food sensitivity, pay close attention to what baby is eating as you are introducing solid foods. You may have heard of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which is used to help alleviate diarrhea. Try rice cereal, applesauce, bananas, and even potatoes if diarrhea occurs. Some doctors say the BRAT diet isn’t needed, but they will generally recommend smaller meals whether you use it or not. This will allow his digestive system to work slowly: his tiny intestines and fragile digestive system will take a bit of time (three to four days) to get back on track and healed properly. Always notify and consult with your pediatrician when your baby has diarrhea. Babies who have prolonged bouts of diarrhea will dehydrate easily, and diarrhea in conjunction with a fever lasting longer than seventy-two hours could be a symptom of an illness that needs medical treatment.
True constipation is often more difficult to detect than diarrhea. Infrequent pooping is not necessarily a symptom of constipation, as for some babies pooping only twice a week can be normal. Babies who are truly constipated will poop very infrequently and off of their “regular” schedule. Their stools will be very hard and might also have a tarlike texture. If a baby is truly constipated, then she will have a lot of discomfort and difficulty when she is struggling to pass these stools. She may grunt, groan, and even show signs of pain. Just remember that infrequent poops are not necessarily a sign of constipation, but very hard and painful stools most likely indicate that your baby is indeed constipated. Here are a few simple remedies that you might try to get things moving again. Believe it or not, simple exercises may help to relieve baby’s current bout of constipation. These exercises are appropriate for babies of all ages:
Tummy Massage: Gently massage and rub baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction. Place your hands at baby’s navel and massage in a circular motion, moving your hand(s) out and away from the center of baby’s belly.
Warm Bath: Some medical professionals suggest that giving your constipated baby a warm bath might be extremely helpful. The thought is that this may help relax baby and her bowels. Why not also give her a tummy massage as you are drying her?
Bicycle Legs: Place your baby on her back and lightly hold her legs in a half-bent position. Begin gently to move your baby’s legs as if she is riding a bicycle. Alternate the bicycle legs with tummy massage. Bicycle legs also may help to relieve a baby who is gassy.
Relieving Constipation in Babies Younger Than Four Months
You can try giving your baby one to two ounces of diluted fruit juice daily until her bowels get back to normal. Fruit juices such as pear, apple, or prune offered twice daily should have baby’s bowels back to regular in a day or two. When using juice to help alleviate constipation, be sure not to overdo; you want to ensure that baby still has plenty of room to fill her tummy with breast milk and/or formula. You should also continue to practice some of the exercises previously mentioned, as the combination of juice and exercise tends to work well. And always consult your pediatrician about the appropriateness of any new foods and juices that you may use to help ease your baby’s constipation.
Relieving Constipation in Babies Four to Twelve Months
Offering your baby strained foods that are high in fiber will help put her bowels back on track. Feeding fruits and veggies such as apricots, prunes, peaches, plums, pears, peas, and even spinach will add some fiber to baby’s diet, which is important to help maintain bowel regularity. Barley or oatmeal cereals and most vegetables are preferred foods when a baby is constipated. Juices can also be particularly helpful in easing constipation in older babies, but please be sure to use them in moderation. Juice is not as nutritious for babies as formula or breast milk, and you don’t want to fill baby’s tummy with so much juice that he won’t have room to meet his daily milk requirements. If your baby has just begun to eat solids, you may want to avoid foods such as rice cereal, applesauce, and bananas, as these are known to cause and/or further aggravate constipation.
Baby’s First Solid Food Meal—When is a good time to start?
Once you have decided which food you are going to start with, the next step is to decide when to actually take the plunge. Pick a quiet time and place to feed your little one. Think about making baby’s first introduction to solid food during the midmorning or early afternoon. Many parents choose to feed their little ones at dinnertime or even right before they go to sleep for the night, but choosing the evening to feed baby her first few meals might not be the best time. Adults have difficulty digesting a late meal, and babies might have even more difficulty. Remember, baby’s tummy is not used to digesting solids, and bellyaches might make her uncomfortable and/or keep her up all night long. As your grandmother told you, “Never go to bed on a full stomach.” Your little one may also be tired from a full day and not appreciate being put into a high chair to have a new and foreign substance put into her mouth.
There’s one more benefit to introducing new foods during the midmorning or early afternoon. Should there be an adverse reaction, it will cause the least amount of disruption in your baby’s fragile routine. You will be able to watch what’s going on and deal with any adverse reaction(s) when your pediatrician’s office is open. If, for example, your baby suddenly develops a strange rash or begins to vomit a short time after eating a new food, you will monitor the situation at home. If need be, you should be able to get an immediate appointment at your doctor’s office, and skipping a trip to the emergency room in the evening would be a big relief!
Preparing Food for Baby’s First Feeding
Here are a few points about preparing the food you will be giving your budding foodie:
If you have made boxed cereal your first food choice, mix a small serving according to the directions on the package and warm as needed.
If you have chosen to start with jarred food, spoon out a small portion into a separate bowl and heat as desired. Don’t feed your baby directly from the jar, as saliva will contaminate the food and you will have to throw away any leftovers.
For those who are feeding baby homemade food and using the “food cube” method (see page 70), place one cube into a small bowl and thaw or heat as needed.
If you have chosen to begin with banana or avocado, simply peel and pit as needed, then grab a bowl, place the food into the bowl, and mash it with a fork. Banana and avocado do not need to be cooked, nor do they need to be heated.
Whether you are using homemade or jarred baby foods, you’ll want to make sure that the texture and temperature will be pleasing to your baby. The texture should be thin and a bit runny. A good food temperature is one that is either lukewarm or just at room temperature. Another important item to note when introducing solid foods is to give your baby the breast or bottle before the solids. At this stage, formula and/or breast milk will be more important than solids foods, and taking the edge off baby’s hunger may just allow him to be more accepting of the new food. Remember, these first feedings will be entirely new experiences for a baby who is accustomed to drinking liquids only.
When you do start to feed your baby solid foods, never leave him unattended when he is eating (you knew this already, but I wanted to remind you anyway). Why not feed baby with the whole family instead of all by himself in his high chair? Place the high chair or feeding seat at the family table and allow him to sit with everyone even if he is not going to be eating. This will help him become accustomed to mealtime routines. Your baby will enjoy being part of the action at the table.
Use a Comfy Utensil or Your Finger When Feeding Your Baby
Always use a soft and comfy spoon. Remember that baby’s gums may be tender from teething, and a hard metal spoon may aggravate them. If he refuses the spoon or if the spoon seems to make him uncomfortable, use your finger. Many parents begin offering their babies solid foods by using their (clean and washed) finger as a spoon.
Don’t make a fuss over the food. Talk about the food you are offering and make some “yum yum” sounds, but don’t overwhelm your baby with this chatter. This may detract his attention from the food and overstimulate him. Follow your baby’s cues and allow him to explore the dish, the utensils, and the food itself. I always gave my babies their own spoon and a little bowl of food as I fed them. And yes, there was lots of food in places other than the babies’ mouths! This is one of the downsides to allowing baby a positive exploration of foods, but it is also one of the most important things you can do to help encourage a healthy love of food.
Excerpted from The Wholesome Baby Food Guide by Meade, Maggie Copyright © 2012 by Meade, Maggie. Excerpted by permission.
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