It's exciting to dig that tiny spoon into the first dish of pureed baby food and serve it to your little one. Eventually, however, those mushy textures aren't enough for your baby and they require something more substantial. What's the right time to serve your baby advanced foods?
"Meats can be started at approximately nine months -- they just don't need it before that," says Susan Davis-Brown, M.D., board-certified in pediatrics. Table food can be started at the same time as long as your baby can handle the consistency. "The only difference between what adults eat and prepackaged baby food is the consistency and the fat/salt/sugar/preservative content."
Says Mary F., mom of two, "If the girls looked interested in what we were eating, we'd let them sample. By nine months they were eating homemade chicken soup with meat and veggies, toast, dry cereals, pastas."
If your baby is spending more time blowing raspberries in her high chair and less time opening up for baby food, she may be ready for mealtime independence.
For easy, healthy finger foods with pleasant textures and natural sweetness, Jean-Jacques Dugoua, M.D. (Dr. JJ), a naturopathic doctor, recommends organic squash, bananas and lentils, great sources of vitamins and other nutrients.
Most fresh fruits can be cut into small, soft pieces, says Davis-Brown, who recommends apple slices once the child masters chewing. "Carrots, broccoli, asparagus tips and cauliflower can be steamed and made softer and more appropriate for new self-feeders."
Of her son, Michele B. says, "I introduced avocadoes, mashed winter squash and other vegetables after he sprouted teeth at four months."
Suspect you have a carnivore? Cut meat into small pieces or shred it if you've cooked it in a crock pot (a lifesaver for busy moms). Davis-Brown recommends avoiding hot dogs, chicken nuggets, hamburger and high-salt canned foods: "Homemade is always better."
Pasta is an early favorite. "Macaroni and cheese and spaghetti with tomato sauce can be cut into small pieces if the noodles are soft enough," says Davis-Brown. And while travel staples often include puffs and Cheerios, offer these empty-calorie items sparingly. With today's fun lunchbox options (not just for the grade school set!), chopped fresh fruit will keep and carry easily for a healthy, filling snack.
Doubting your culinary skills? A baby's taste buds are developing, so don't be concerned with much beyond steaming veggies or baking meat or poultry, says Dr. JJ. However, "This may be an opportunity to incorporate spices," he adds. Just avoid the hot stuff, like cayenne and spicy peppers.
If you don't have the time or energy to make homemade baby food, thank goodness for prepackaged foods. "You're not letting your baby down. Just get them the best quality: organic and preservative-free," says Dr. JJ. Plum Organics is a growing brand of organic baby foods that supports the introduction of unique and more complex ingredients for palate development.
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