When Can I Introduce Solid Foods?

Based on statistics in my practice, 85% of my patients are nursing with more than 50% making it to 12 months. My solid food recommendations are usually tailored to nursing mothers, but can apply to every baby.

Between 4-6 months, most babies will watch you, start reaching for your food, and trying to put it in their mouths. Some babies are not interested until they are a little older, which is normal. As long as they are gaining weight and growing well, there is no reason to force introduction of solids. Each baby is different.

1. I am not a fan of infant cereal; the recommendation to start with cereal comes from the need to supplement babies with iron, stores of which reach a low at 4-6 months. Infants absorb only 6% of the available iron from cereal, as compared to 90% from beef, and 95% of the iron available in human milk. However, not enough iron is present in breast milk to provide all the infant needs. Europe starts infants on beef and vegetables, because babies absorb iron adequately from food with beef, and it is a protein unlikely to cause allergy.

Why is Iron important? A child who becomes iron deficient has been shown to develop mild cognitive delay by the time they start kindergarten. Even if supplemented with iron once deficient, they cannot get back the IQ points they lost. That is why I feel so strongly about the provision of adequate iron in an infants diet. Only one or two teaspoons per day of beef are necessary to meet their needs.

2. I recommend making your own baby food. My all-time favorite book is Top 100 Baby Puree’s by Annabel Karmel, I have made most recipes in there. I learned how to use parsnips, leeks, scallions, and even how to make salmon puree. I would double the batches, grind it all up on a weekend and then store it in the freezer. She provides no recommendation for beef puree, so I made up my own. I give this out 3 times per day, so figured it would be good to write it down.

Dr. Niran’s Beef Puree Recipe:
Chop up 3 lbs of round steak into stir-fry size and boil in a large pot with water for 3+ hours. Add one or two beef bullion cubes to the water for taste. Using a food processor, grind up the meat and use the juice in which it was boiled to get it to the right consistency. Then freeze it in ice cube trays and use as needed. (You could also make in a slow-cooker.)

My children loved a teaspoon of beef mixed with a tablespoon or two butternut squash, sweet potato, or carrot puree, and lots of butter. The other favorite from the book was chicken, apple, sweet potato puree, which is also amazing. As they grow, you can grind it up more coarsely so there are lumps, and then they can learn to chew different textures, and slowly advance their skills.

3. After 6 months of age, please introduce tastes of creamy peanut butter, whole milk yogurt, and then as they approach 9 months introduce eggs, both whites and yolks. Your child is 10 times less likely to have food allergy when you follow this early introduction approach, which is backed up by excellent studies. Be careful of foods they might choke on however.

To sum it all up, I recommend watching your child for cues, letting your child nurse on demand, and eating solid foods when they are hungry. A parting thought: Some of you are vegetarians and as you know I respect your wishes for your own children. Above is just my opinion about feeding infants and what I did with my own children. There are no right or wrong answers, only what is ‘right’ for your family. Happy Exploration!

 

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