INTRODUCING FOOD & DRINKS TO YOUR 6-24 MONTH OLD
February 27, 2020
By Alexa Wilson, MPH
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 6 months and above should be introduced to a variety of foods, other than infant formula or breast milk. Since every child is different, signs that indicate that your child is developmentally ready to be introduced to a variety of new foods include:
• ability to sit independently, with minimal or no support provided
• good head control
• leaning forward when food is offered, and opening his/her mouth to accept food
Recommended Foods to Introduce
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, offering food in a certain order is not necessary. At 6 months of age, solid foods may be introduced, followed by an assortment of foods from different food groups. Such foods may include:
• infant cereals (offering a variety of infant cereals fortified with iron is essential; these include oats, barley, and multi-grains, rather than cereal that exclusively contains rice, as children may be at risk to be exposed to arsenic). More information regarding iron-fortified infant cereals is available at U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
• meat & other types of protein
• fruits & vegetables
• dairy foods, such as yogurts & cheeses
How to Introduce New Foods to Your Child
Offering one new food at a time is recommended, as this allows you to observe if your child has food allergies, or issues with certain textures. Waiting 3-5 days in between offering each new food is beneficial.
The 8 most common allergenic foods include:
• tree nuts
It is not necessary to delay introducing these foods to your child. However, if there is a family history of existing food allergies, speaking to your child’s Primary Care Physician is recommended.
Recommended Food Preparation
Offering foods that are easier for your child to eat, including mashed, pureed, strained and smooth textured foods are recommended. As new textures may be an adjustment for your child, they might cough, spit up, or gag when initially tasting new foods. Thicker and lumpier foods may be introduced gradually, as your baby’s oral skills develop.
Offering food in small, bite-sized portions, encouraging your child to eat slowly, and watching your child as they are eating, help to prevent choking.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helpful food preparation tips include:
• Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
• Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
• Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
• Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
• Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
• Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
• Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices
• Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway.
• Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces.
• Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.