The first few months of our children’s lives are certainly challenging. We make sure they’re safe in their cribs, properly secured in their car seats and worry endlessly as to whether they’ve had enough formula or breast milk to nourish their growing bodies. Just when we believe we’ve figured out some of the challenges, another hurdle rears its head in the form of the new little teeth that begin appearing in our babies’ mouths. Bringing on the question that every parent asks: “What do I feed my child?” The questions are plentiful, and the answers are straight-forward when broken down by Dr. Nicole M. Avena, nutrition expert and author of What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler.
1. Do mix fruits and veggies to help mask any unfavorable tastes and balance bitterness.
Our brains are programmed to associate bitter tastes with things that are bad, like spoiled fermented food. By exposing your baby to a vegetable, and immediately after finishing the veggie, giving the baby a sweet fruit, (and doing this for the suggested 6 – 8 days), you are programming your baby to associate the tastes, and therefore the baby is more likely to like the veggie sooner than if it were given alone.
2. Do stick by the motto “Fresh is Best.”
It is far better to give a toddler fresh green string beans and roasted corn cut from the cob than to feed them the canned or frozen alternative. Canned and frozen vegetables have an incredibly high sodium content, contain preservatives, artificial colors, and chemicals.
3. Do introduce healthy foods routinely.
One in three infants age 6 months to 8 ½ months and one in five infants age 9 to 11 ½ months don’t consume fruit or vegetables on any given day. While it’s incredibly easy to rely on snacks and ready-made toddler meals found in the baby aisle, it’s extremely important to begin introducing new flavors and fresh foods to our children, and to continue doing so until the flavors and consistencies become something they like and eventually ask for.
4. Do buy organic meat and produce whenever possible.
While organic foods aren’t necessarily more nutritious, they are safer in the sense that they contain far less unregulated growth additives and antibiotics. It’s almost impossible for you to maintain a 100% percent organic diet, but you can be smart about what kinds of foods are more susceptive to hormone, fertilizer, and antibiotic absorption. Meats and thin-skinned fruits and vegetables (especially those that you eat the skin) are more susceptible to environmental toxins. While you can’t control the chemicals in our environment, you can certainly try to reduce your baby’s intake as much as possible.
5. Don’t rely on over-processed foods.
The problem is processed foods are calorie-rich, but nutrient poor. More than ½ of American children aren’t getting enough vitamin D and more than a quarter aren’t getting enough calcium, magnesium or vitamin A. These vitamin deficiencies can result in weakened immune systems, stunted growth, reduced mental ability and chronic diseases.
6. Don’t give your baby too many new foods all at once.
The rule has been to introduce a baby or toddler to a new food and wait for 2 – 3 days to see if there’s any kind of reaction. It has been found that 2 – 3 days isn’t long enough and it’s far more safe and accurate to wait 8 -10 days before introducing an additional new food. Leaving adequate space between the introduction of new foods allows you to reasonably conclude that any reaction that arises is related to one trial, and not influenced by the proximity of another.
7. Don’t give infants under the age of 6 months rice cereal in their nighttime bottle because you believe it helps them sleep better.
Before babies turn 6-months-old they are getting all the calories, vitamins, and minerals they need from breast milk or formula alone, and that’s a good thing. Due to their developing digestive system, giving them cereal before this point can do more harm than good, causing poor digestion, bad gas, and constipation.
Don’t be afraid to use your discretion and trust your instincts. There are plenty of rules and expert advice to take in, but much of it is common sense. You are your baby’s mother, so have confidence, trust those motherly instincts, and start exploring a world of tastes and textures with your baby!
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