Most parents are eager to begin feeding their infants with solid foods. Physiologically speaking, an infant is ready for solid foods when he or she is taking more than 32 oz (960ml) of milk a day and does not seem to be satisfied. Usually, a normal full-term infant can thrive on an iron-fortified milk formula or breast milk without the addition of any solid food until age 6 months. By then, the infant’s gastrointestinal system is ready to digest soft foods.
At 4-6 months of age, infants can be started with iron-fortified cereals. This is preferred because it is the least allergenic type of food and easily digestible. It helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Cereals should be mixed in a small bowl with enough fluid (breast milk or infant formula may be added) to make the mixture fairly liquid. Cereals should never be mixed with milk and given to the child from the bottle because by doing so, it would be necessary to cut a bigger hole in the nipple for the mixture to flow and there is a danger of aspiration if a too big hole is cut.
At 6-7 months, vegetables may be introduced to the infant. Vegetables are simply cooked and blended or strained so it does not have to be chewed. These are good sources of Vitamin A with higher iron content. Parents should not add butter because infants have difficulty digesting fats. Adding salt and sugar is also unnecessary. If commercial food is used, transfer the food into a dish. Do not feed directly from the jar since this will facilitate transfer of salivary enzymes and bacteria from the infant’s mouth to the jar. And if the parent keeps the jar for another feeding, bacteria will rapidly multiply in it. It is recommended that infant food jars should be refrigerated after opening, and should be used no later than 48 hours after they have been opened.
At 8 months, the infant can now be fed with fruits. They are rich with Vitamin A, and are also the best source for Vitamin C. Raw mashed banana is easy to prepare with just a fork; peaches are easily prepared in a blender.
At 9 months, soft ground meats and mashed egg yolks can be given to infants. These are good sources of protein. Parents should understand that egg white contains the bulk of protein, while egg yolk contains iron. But egg yolk alone should be given at first, because protein of the egg white could lead to allergy and are difficult to digest.
At 10-12 months, infants can eat regular table food. Mashed potatoes and peas and cut-off meatloaf are examples of table foods that infants like to eat and busy parents can quickly prepare.
It is important for parents to know that when giving new foods to the infant, they should introduce one food at a time, allowing 5 to 7 days before introducing another new food. In doing so, parents can identify possible food allergies. Otherwise, if two new foods are introduced at the same time and the infant developed allergic reactions to the food, it would be hard to know which one is the suspect. Introducing foods one at a time also helps to establish a trust in infants, because it minimizes the number of new experiences in any one day. Furthermore, parents should be reminded that their food selection for the infant should not be based on their personal likes and dislikes. Their own dislike of a particular vegetable, for example, does not mean their child will feel the same way about it.