Cathy Derus’s daughter is five months old and still nursing full time. But the first-time mother is keenly aware her baby will soon begin the transition to solid food.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that parents are often uneducated about important eating milestones. According to the study, 40 percent of parents give solid food to their babies before they reach the age of four months, and nine percent give solids to babies as early as four weeks.
Readiness and pacing
Usually around six months of age, babies are interested in solids, especially when they are able to sit up.
“They should also be able to have good head control, reducing tongue thrust, and willingness to lean forward toward foods and sit back when done,” according to certified pediatric nutrition specialist Florence DiMarco.
Some mothers are proud their babies can handle the spoon earlier. But DiMarco disagrees.
“Solids initiation is exciting, but starting too soon — before six months — does not mean that babies are developing better.”
Cup drinking can also be encouraged around the same time solids begin.
At one time, rice cereal was the first solid food, followed by other single-grain cereals, then fruit and vegetables, and finally meat. Now, there is no strict sequence of which solids should be introduced first.
DiMarco recommends offering one new food a time, then waiting for a couple of days to see if baby shows signs of an allergic reaction.
“There is also concern for possible food allergy or intolerance if solids are started too soon,” she adds. “Nevertheless, delaying solids initiation for more than eight months does not prove to prevent food allergy either.”
What hasn’t changed is the use of cow’s milk or its alternatives in the dairy case. They are not recommended before the age 1.
The path to healthy eating
By eight or 10 months, most babies are able to sit up independently, grasp finger foods, and able to start to chew. By 12 months, their skills get more and more refined for grasping foods and chewing.
Of course, fresh, one-ingredient foods are preferable to prepackaged items with food coloring, preservatives, or nitrites and nitrates.
Derus is looking forward to her baby’s next stage.
“While I was pregnant with Monica, we joked we had a foodie baby on our hands. Now that she’s about to start eating solids, we can’t wait for her to taste the foods she smelled during our cooking and eating.”
Christine Palumbo is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Naperville, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @PalumboRD, Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition, or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.
Makes two to four servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
For POM Molasses:
3 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup arils from POM Wonderful Pomegranates
1 tablespoon POM Molasses
3 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
POM Molasses: Combine pomegranate juice, sugar, and juice from one lemon in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Reduce until a very thick syrup forms that can thickly coat the back of a spoon, then cool to room temperature.
Relish: Prepare fresh arils. Place the shallots, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let sit five minutes. Whisk in the POM Molasses and then the olive oil. Stir in the fresh arils and the parsley. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Suggest serving on toasted crostini with brie.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: 30 calories (0 calories from fat), 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g total fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugars, 36 mcg vitamin A, 4 mg vitamin C.
Suzanne Goin, Chef & Restaurateur, Lucques, A.O.C., and Tavern Restaurants, Los Angeles, Calif.