Learn everything you need to know about your 16 week old baby. Track important developments and milestones such as talking, walking, growth, memory & more.
Break out the bibs -- things are about to get messy! The American Academy of Pediatricians recommend starting babies on solids between 4 and 6 months. The typical first food: an iron-fortified rice cereal, which you make by mixing a small amount of powdered cereal with formula or breast milk to form a thin paste. When it's feeding time, buckle your baby into a high chair or booster seat, scoop up a bit of cereal with a rubber-coated baby spoon, and dab a little on his lips. Once he gets a tiny taste, try scooping some into his mouth. Young babies have a natural tongue-thrust response that will push most of what they're eating back out, but keep trying -- he'll get the hang of it soon enough.
Some babies are naturally adventurous eaters, in which case all you'll have to do is keep their spoons well-supplied while they slurp up dinner. Others are more reluctant, so go slowly, and don't expect them to eat more than a half-teaspoon or so the first few times. While even picky eaters usually adapt to new tastes after multiple exposures, take heart if your baby's a staunch rice-cereal foe. Within a few weeks you can ease into other baby foods, such as mashed bananas, sweet potatoes, and pureed peas and carrots. You might want to introduce veggies first, before your little one decides that everything edible should be deliciously sweet. And keep a splat mat or a plastic tablecloth on the floor beneath the high chair, in case a new food doesn't meet Baby's approval.
As your baby starts munching on new solids, keep a lookout for allergic reactions. If food allergies or eczema run in your family, your baby might be predisposed to develop them. Symptoms vary, but some common allergic reactions include itching, redness, or GI problems such as vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. In severe cases, which are thankfully rare, a reaction can cause anaphylaxis, or severe swelling that can restrict breathing; if you see your baby gasping, wheezing, or swelling, call 911.
To reduce your baby's risk of an allergic reaction, your doctor will have you hold off on introducing certain foods, such as egg whites, cow's milk, and peanut butter until his digestive and immune systems are more developed. (An immature immune system is more likely to recognize certain proteins in foods as foreign substances and attack them, triggering an allergic reaction.) It's also smart to introduce solids one at a time, giving baby a few days to adjust to each new food. If you do notice an allergic reaction, you'll know which food caused it.
One food-related condition whose symptoms might not be immediately apparent is celiac disease. It's a reaction to gluten, a protein found in many grains and cereals -- one reason why most pediatricians suggest that babies start solids with a gluten-free, rice-based cereal. Babies who can't digest gluten might experience symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, vomiting, and overall fussiness. While fewer than one in 100 people have celiac disease, the chances that your baby will be diagnosed with it jump to one in 22 if an immediate family member has it, so watch your baby for symptoms after introducing oatmeal or other grains, and let your doctor know if the condition runs in your family.
Just as you start thinking more about what you're feeding your baby, you should think about what you're feeding yourself. Luckily, that doesn't mean it's time to diet. In fact, nursing moms should bump up their prepregnancy caloric intake by 500 calories (or 200 calories a day more than what you were eating during pregnancy). Your body needs the extra nutrients and calories to make enough milk; start dieting now and you could drop your milk production.
Of course, 500 calories of hot fudge brownie sundae might not be the best bet for your body or your baby. You actually need some serious vitamins and minerals right now, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, calcium, copper, and zinc, because breast milk production strips them from you. So take that 500-calorie bonus and down a cup of low-fat yogurt and a handful of almonds, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, or an egg-white omelet stuffed with veggies. Your doc might also recommend that you keep popping your prenatal vitamin as added insurance.
Don't get us wrong: You should definitely enjoy the occasional brownie sundae while you have the calorie-burn to work it right off. But take some junk-food-free care with what you eat, since you're still feeding your baby, too.
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