We know that babies are born with an ingrained preference for sweet and salty. However, the start of complementary feeding is a very sensitive and malleable period in an infant’s development. With the right exposure and experiences to a wide variety of healthy foods, he can and will develop lifelong healthy food preferences. Unfortunately, this also means that if an infant’s first exposures are limited to sugary processed foods, these can also enhance a lifelong preference to these foods. It is therefore important for caregivers to capitalize on this window of opportunity to introduce a wide variety of healthy nutritious foods and build healthy preferences. [4, 11, 14, 42, 50, 86] A spoonful is all that is required as this is about exposure to different tastes, not nutrition or to satisfy hunger (that is the role of milk in this early phase). [5, 13] The focus is very much on taste experiences and building the foundations for healthy preferences.
It is also a huge advantage that by the time that solids do play an important role for nutritional requirements  (somewhere between 6 and 7 months), he has a good grasp and preference for these foods. If all he has been exposed to up until this point is sweet fruit and infant cereal you are more likely going to struggle to transition to healthier, more nutrient-dense alternatives.
Some babies go through a growth spurt at around 12 weeks and may want more feeds. This is normal and does not signal the need to start solid foods. It is tempting to think that by giving some solids it may satisfy him for longer and therefore sleep for longer. Giving solids too early rarely helps these problems and may lead to other difficulties. These include:
So if he is going through a hungrier spell, instead of reaching for the solids, provide extra milk feeds.
By 6 to 7 months, his nutritional needs can no longer be filled by milk alone and the inclusion of nutrient-dense foods  are a must. It becomes hugely apparent that capitalizing on the window between 5 and 6 months  to prime his palate with a wide variety of healthy savoury flavors pays dividends. To be able to hit the ground running at 6 to 7 months with him already accepting these nutritious foods will ensure his nutrient needs to optimize growth and development are met. Adequate nutrition to optimize growth and development will not come from apple puree and infant cereal ! Although milk remains an important component of his diet, so do nutrient-rich foods, high in iron  and zinc, and balanced in good sources of fats , proteins , and carbohydrates .
Breast milk or infant formula remains the most important nutrient source for the first year of life, and complementary foods must not be given in amounts that will dramatically reduce milk intake. This can be achieved by giving a milk feed before giving solid foods, which are then used as a ‘top-up’ at the end of the meal. At around 8 to 9 months of age, complementary foods can be offered before the milk feed. Gradually, complementary foods displace milk feeds, but breast milk or infant formula should remain a prominent part of an infant’s diet until at least 12 months old.
All babies are born with enough iron stores, passed on from their mother, to sustain them for approximately 6 months, by which time the iron requirements can no longer be met by milk alone. (Premature and low birth-weight babies are a little different so it pays to check with your pediatrician.) [45, 57, 72, 80] In fact, a 6 to 8-month-old infant requires 9 times as much iron and 4 times as much zinc, per 100g of bodyweight, as an adult male! Iron is essential to optimize brain growth, and the development of a strong immune system. However, not all iron sources are created equal.
Therefore, incorporating meat products into your baby’s diet will be hugely beneficial in terms of meeting his iron requirements.73 The World Health Organization recommends the inclusion of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs eaten daily, or as often as possible . Now, this is not to say a vegetarian diet can’t be healthy, it will just take a lot more work to ensure all his nutritional requirements are met. It is strongly advised you consult a pediatric nutritionist if you decide to go down this route.
All babies are different so there certainly is no ‘one size fits all’ on portion sizes. In the beginning, most of his nutrition will be coming from milk, so it is far more important to concentrate on the quality, not the quantity [5, 9], the development of taste preferences , and the overall sensory experience.
Start by offering 1 to 2 teaspoons of first foods after a breast or infant formula feed. Slowly increase this to 2 to 3 tablespoons. Start offering complementary foods once a day and, as they get accustomed to it, slowly build up to 3 times a day . Offer more food as your baby grows. As a rough guide:
It is important to listen to your baby and take his cue on this. Responsive feeding  is allowing him to eat only as much as he wants to satisfy hunger.
During the first years of life, an infant’s diet undergoes its biggest change from an exclusively liquid diet to one with a variety of complementary foods in addition to milk. This transition is necessary to support his increasing nutrient requirements, and to prepare for the cessation of breastfeeding or infant formula feeding. During this transition, an infant’s renal and gastrointestinal function must undergo significant change and maturation in order to process nonmilk foods. So establishing a healthy microbiome in the gut is essential for the digestion and metabolism of food.
Infancy is a critical time as this is when an individual lays down the blueprint for how food is metabolized. Given the rise in metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), this early stage of life is the prime opportunity to build a healthy microbiome, which in turn builds a robust immune system and enables the production of neurotransmitters that affect behaviour and cognitive function.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, the ‘good bacteria’ that live in our gut.
The colonization of the gut with microorganisms occurs naturally through the birth process (vaginal delivery), drinking breast milk, and everyday contact with the outside world. However, with the rise of cesarean sections (disrupting the transfer of beneficial microbiota from mother to infant), declining rates of breastfeeding (another source of beneficial microbiota), and the proliferation of antibiotic use (which can destroy the beneficial microbiota), many infants are on the back foot in terms of microbiome colonization. If this is the case, and given the importance probiotics play in overall health and wellbeing , a supplemental probiotic may be beneficial.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the human body cannot digest. They serve as food for probiotics. In the newborn, both probiotics  and prebiotics are transferred through breast milk. On receiving solid foods these prebiotics are provided through vegetables and fruits.
We are all born with an innate preference for sweet foods and a dislike for bitter. However, we all know that vegetables are nutrient powerhouses and as a nation we don’t eat enough of them. What if there was a way to not only get children to eat them, but want eat them ? Well, there is! [19, 51] Numerous studies have indicated that the beginning of introducing solid foods is a very sensitive time in terms of learning and processing. If we capitalize on this window of opportunity [5, 45] it is possible to train preferences for a wide range of flavor profiles, including bitter and sour. Offering small tastes of a wide variety of vegetables, in their single form not masked with a sweet puree , on multiple occasions, helps to promote willingness and acceptance of new foods beyond infancy and into childhood/adulthood.[10, 11] A spoonful is all that is required  as this is about exposure to different tastes, not nutrition or satisfying hunger. The focus is very much on taste experiences and building the foundations for healthy preferences. [3, 14, 15, 21, 32]
Although infants can’t verbally tell us when they are hungry or full, they do tell us in nonverbal ways. Responsive feeding is when caregivers acknowledge and respond to these cues in ways that will foster and reinforce healthy eating habits. [30, 49, 71] Failure to do so can lead to overconsumption, poor appetite control/regulation, emotional eating, and result in an increased obesity risk.  It is not OK to say “just two more mouthfuls” or “finish this before you can get down” or “I know you’re not hungry but have this anyway.” Forcing your baby to eat will create an unpleasant environment, cause elevated anxiety (for both you and him), and may lead to food phobias or not wanting to eat at all.
Responsive feeding is crucial for supporting babies and children in developing appetite regulation and form the basis for healthy feeding practices .
Signs of hunger at 6 to 12 months old:
Signs baby has had enough:
Yes! Red meat in particular is an excellent source of iron [24, 73] which is easily absorbed, and recommended by the World Health Organization to be eaten on a regular basis . Meat also provides important sources of dietary fat, B vitamins, and zinc.
Although it can feel daunting to introduce potentially allergenic foods, research now shows us that leaving it for too long can actually exacerbate the problem. Evidence affirms that the early introduction of potential allergens, even in high-risk infants, can actually help protect against the development of an allergy . In light of this, most guidelines around the world advise to introduce all potential allergens in the first year of life, but not before 4 months. [34, 36, 37, 55, 77]
However, if someone in your baby’s immediate family (mother, father, sibling) is known to have a severe allergy to any of the food groups, please consult with your pediatrician first.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) New Guidelines for Infant Food Allergy Prevention
What Families Need to Know
How to Introduce Allergenic Foods
Rub a small amount of smooth peanut butter (a good-quality peanut butter without added salt or sugar) on the inside of the infant’s lip (not on their skin).
Repeat the steps above but with well-cooked egg. You can mix a small amount (1⁄4 teaspoon) of mashed hard-boiled egg with a liquid such as breast milk or formula, or into the baby’s usual food (such as vegetable puree). There is no need to separate the white and yolk.
Yes. Allergic reactions do not always occur on the first exposure to the new food. Monitor him if it is a common allergen (e.g. peanuts, egg, dairy) for at least 6 exposures. Once introduced, it is a good idea to keep exposing him to that food on a regular basis (once a week is good) as this helps to build up his immune system to that particular food.
A food allergy stimulates an immune response and can result in these symptoms  within 2 hours of exposure. A food intolerance, on the other hand , results in a range of mainly digestive symptoms, including abdominal bloating, wind, diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion. However, a food intolerance can also result in eczema flare-ups and/or asthma. Sometimes these symptoms can mimic other medical conditions and it’s advised you follow up with your pediatrician.
Some straining during pooping is OK. However, if coupled with the following symptoms, it might pay to have it checked out with your pediatrician.
Providing there are no underlying causes, constipation can be quickly turned around without medical intervention. Here are some things to keep in mind:
You may notice a change in his stools when he starts solids. It is quite normal for them to change in color, consistency, and even smell. Typically stools will become more solid and stronger in odor. Peas and other green vegetables can result in green-colored stools while beets can make them red. Stools may also contain undigested pieces of food. This is normal as the immature gut needs time before it can fully process these new foods. If the stools are extremely watery or full of mucous, it may mean the digestive system is irritated. Try cutting back on the amount of solids but ensure he is still receiving the milk feeds. If it continues, consult with your pediatrician.
In order for him to be able to digest cereals and grains he needs to make use of enzymes he produces to break these down to release nutrients. However, the particular enzyme he requires, pancreatic amylase, is not produced until the second half of his first year (6 to 12 months). Although there will be no drastic effect (in most children) in introducing grains before this enzyme is present, it will mean that the nutrients from the grains may not be well absorbed. Undigested product can also begin to irritate an immature digestive system, effecting the balance of bacteria and microbiota . Therefore, the general consensus is to wait until at least 6 months before incorporating small amounts of cereals/grains, preferably wholegrain, [87, 89] into his diet. It is also important to offer a nutritionally dense  diet of varied flavors and textures to train healthy eating habits , and to limit highly refined and processed foods .
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Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only. Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.