Introducing Baby to Solids

To Keep in Mind ...

Choking Hazards

Kids younger than age 4 can choke on these foods. (Some 2-year-olds may be ready for them, but ask your pediatrician first.)

  • Raw veggies and hard fruits (unless cut)
  • Grapes (unless cut)
  • Hot dogs (unless cut into pieces with the skin removed)
  • Popcorn
  • Raisins, peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds
  • Spoonfuls of peanut butter

Decoding Infant Nutrition

No doubt you've heard about the two nutrients docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA). They are long chain omega-3 and -6 fatty acids that support brain and eye development. Once only available in human breast milk, most infant formulas on the market today now contain them. But will they make your child the next Einstein or give her x-ray vision? In comparing breast milk and formula, there is no question that breast milk is still superior, a fact that even the formula companies won't dispute. Aside from offering higher levels of DHA and ARA, which leads to cognitive and visual benefits, breastfeeding provides valuable immune protection, and no amount of formula can match that. When comparing formulas, some scientific studies show that there probably is some modest and short-term benefit -- including better visual acuity and slightly higher cognitive scores on IQ testing -- to feeding your baby DHA- and ARA-containing formulas compared with traditional formulas. What should you make of it all? Breastfeeding is best, but if use formula, reach for the DHA- and ARA-containing versions.

Wondering About Food Allergies?

While the traditional recommendation has been to delay certain foods beyond a year of age (e.g., peanut butter, eggs, shellfish) due to their potential to cause food allergies, more current insight reveals that this approach might be unfounded. Specifically, if you have a strong family history of food allergies, asthma, or eczema, your child is at increased risk for having some of the same problems, and therefore delaying introduction of these "allergenic" foods as long as possible is probably wise. However, if you don't have a strong family history of any of these conditions, it appears that delaying these foods beyond 4 to 6 months is probably unnecessary. In other words, whether you give your child peanut butter at 7 months or 14 months, it's probably not going to make a difference in terms of whether or not he becomes allergic. Discuss this issue with your doctor. She can help you sort out the unique characteristics of your child, and together you can determine the best approach to introducing solids.

It's still necessary to hold off on giving your child whole milk before 1 year. Before this age, most children don't digest it well, and this can lead to intestinal bleeding and severe anemia. (Yogurt and cheese are easily digestible, and baby can begin to eat them at 6 months.) Last, avoid giving your child honey before a year of age because it can cause infant botulism.

Sara DuMond, MD, is a pediatrician in Mooresville, North Carolina, and the mother of two young children.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, January 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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