Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Older Infants

Sep 28, 2001

The Bottom Line These are some helpful hints about introducing solids to older infants that I have been taught or figured out in the last few months.

When my daughter turned 4 months old, I was told she could start trying to eat baby food if she was ready. She was not sitting up yet, but the doctor said as long as I paid attention to how she was handling the food, we could try. She actually did okay with the stage one baby foods when they went into her mouth. At first she did not quite know what to do with the food, but she quickly figured it out.

Her little body was not ready on the inside though, because her digestion did not do well with the foods. We would try once a week or so, and there finally came a time when her body was ready for jarred foods.

(I considered making my own baby food for her, but my machine would not chop it as finely as it needed to be, and she seemed to like the prepared food. That is a choice you should make for your own family according to your own preferences. Either way is fine as long as baby is ready to start solids.)

Anyhow, I’m sure you know a little about starting solids in your baby’s diet, but as they grow, there are things to know about what they can or cannot eat, and when to move them on to the next stage of food.

I have been slowly learning all of these things. To be honest, I was not sure when children were old enough to eat certain foods, and I just figured we would get there when the time came. Since my daughter really didn’t start eating solids on a regular basis until she was around 5 months, I figured I had a little bit of time before I had to worry about other things. Boy, was I wrong!

It is important to remember that every baby is different. Some babies are ready to eat before my daughter was, and some babies are not ready for a while after her. There are some general rules to follow when deciding to move on to bigger foods. We got into stage 2 foods a week after she kept down the stage 1 because she liked the thicker variety and she was eating bigger quantities at a time.

When she turned 6 months, we were in the doctor’s office and we noticed a sample bag with Cheerios and some coupons. I checked out the package and it said it was for 6 months and up, so I grabbed one and decided I would look into the information later. From around 6 months, babies are ready to begin to learn food texture. They must be sitting up before they eat things like this. My daughter as a late sitter, but when she figured out how to sit, things drastically changed.

We tried the Cheerios with a little reluctance on my part. I was nervous because she only had one tooth at the time, and it was up front so she couldn’t even chew with it. I was scared she would choke. I did not know babies could eat things like that at her age of 6 ˝ months. But we tried them. I sat closely and watched her little face and jowls as she gobbled that Cheerio, opened wide and grunted for another one. I was shocked. She hadn’t choked, and she liked it.

The truth about Cheerios is they have a hole in the center, and they sog up very quickly. The hole in the center makes it very difficult for the babies to choke on them. Kids are usually able to get them soggy, break them apart with their gums and attempt to swallow. This is the part that gets tricky. It’s hard for babies to go from thick purees to soggy chunks, no matter how small or mushy they are. That is why they need to be sitting up. They may not take too well to getting the mush down their throat the first time, so if they are sitting on their own, it is up to them whether to send it to the back of their throat or not. They don’t have to worry about it sliding down there while laying back in their infant feeding chair.

Now that I’ve bored you to tears with all of that, I will get to the topic, I promise.

Here are some basic rules for feeding an older infant:

~ Before introducing any table food (Cheerios, etc.) be sure the baby is sitting completely independently. Other signs that they are ready is that they will be trying to rake food into little fists, grabbing at the spoon, and looking for food when you take it away.

~ Start small. This is a short list of things that I have found that are easy for my little one to eat.

- Cheerios
- Little bites of melon
- Cubes of cooked carrots (cooked very well)
- Mashed potatoes

(Anything that can be mushed up easily in a little mouth is good.)

~ Remember that every baby has a different size of mouth and throat. Just because your friend’s baby eats bigger bites, doesn’t mean it is right for your little one. Do what works for you and your baby.

Things to avoid:

~ Honey – There are a few reasons to avoid honey. Honey can sometimes contain “spores” that are not good for baby and can make them sick. Adults are safe eating honey, but little digestive systems are not always able to handle foods the way we do. Also, honey is a product of bees, and a large number of people are allergic to bees and their products. If you baby is allergic, it will be very hard to catch the reaction she has to the honey until it is very apparent and then it may be hard to get help in time. It is best to wait until your baby is a year to give him honey. This allows the digestive system to be ready and also, they communicate more clearly at that age and they can let you know if they are not feeling well after they eat it.

~ Nuts – Also can cause an allergic reaction – wait until baby is one year.

~ Chocolate – Also can cause an allergic reaction – wait until baby is one year.

~ Fruits or vegetables with membranes – Such as whole peas, apples, blueberries, lima beans and things like that which have a solid membrane surrounding the mushy fruit or pulp. The reason you should wait for these is because, as babies are learning to eat before they have teeth, they just sort of mush things up. Membranes or “shells” are harder to mush up due to tougher fibers and they will be harder to swallow and digest. It is best to wait until your baby is at least 10 months before giving these types of things to him.

~ Canned adult foods – A lot of grown up foods have high amounts of sodium and they are not good choices for babies.

~ Teething cookies – These are great for toddlers, but babies have to be careful. This one is purely up to your judgment, but think about it carefully before you give these to your little one. Teething cookies sog up and break into chunks. If they break into a chunk that your baby is not ready for, baby can choke. If you do decide to give your older infant a teething cookie, please be sure to sit right there with your child. As the cookie starts to break into pieces, get them away from the baby. They will have the enjoyment of chewing the cookie and tasting the flavor without choking on anything if you are right there paying very close attention. I decided that I am way too stressed out when my daughter is chewing a cookie and we don’t eat them anymore. When she is older, they will be a wonderful treat.

~ Acidic foods - Things like spaghetti sauce and citrus fruits should be watched carefully. A lot of babies are very sensitive to the acid content in foods and sometimes they can develop very bad skin rashes (especially in the diaper area) when they have too much acid in their system. Be careful of these types of foods.

Remember that just because your older infant is eating some table food, it doesn’t mean that should be their only source of nutrition. Babies still need formula or breastmilk to get nutrients and fluids, and baby foods are still important.

If you are using jarred food, there are a few things to remember.

~ Don’t serve food right out of the jar. – Put a one serving size into a bowl and serve from that. If it does not get finished, throw it away. The germs and bacteria from the spoon get put into the food with every bite are they bad for the baby if they are left to sit. Serve from a bowl, one serving at a time.

~ Only re-heat the food one time. –When you take a portion of food from the fridge and re-heat it, it should be used immediately. If the portion is not finished, you should throw it away. Bacteria thrives under these conditions. If it is not finished after it has been re-heated one time, throw it out.

~ Discard opened foods after two days. Juices can be kept for three days.

~ Do not add salt or sugar – Babies are developing their own sense of taste at this time. You do not want them acquiring a taste for things that are too sweet or too salty because it can lead to poor nutrition later.

I hope I have been of some help to you. These are all the things that I have learned over the past few months about what to feed my baby. If there is anything you are unsure about, ask your doctor.

Our babies grow so fast that sometimes we forget they are still so small. Take it slow when introducing new foods, and have fun with your bay. Make meal time a bonding experience, and enjoy your little one.

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Member: Alicia Slansky
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