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Introducing Solid Foods: When, What, and How – Part Two

Safe Toddler (One Year and Older) Feeding Tips
* Avoid stringy foods such as celery and string beans.
* Pick out fish bones before mashing fish. In canned salmon, mash the bones.
* Safe and natural frozen teethers are bananas or any melt-in-the-mouth frozen food.
* Avoid commercial white-bread preparations; they form a pasty glob on which baby could choke.
* Spread nut butters well, instead of offering baby a chokable glob.
* Check the chunks. Babies’ front teeth are for biting only. The molars — chewing teeth– don’t appear until after the first year. Babies still gum rather than chew.
* Offer finger foods only under supervision and when baby is seated, not when reclining or playing.
* Scatter only a few morsels of finger foods on baby’s plate or tray at one time. Too much food in a pile encourages whole-handed gorging rather than individual pickup bites.
* Hot dogs are neither a nutritious nor safe food for babies. A bite of a whole hot dog is just about the size of a baby’s windpipe, and baby may choke. Healthy nitrate- and nitrite-free hot dogs are a favorite of toddlers, and they can be safe if sliced lenghwise in this, noodle-like strips. Even these “healthy” hot dogs can be high in sodium, so limit them.

Safe and Favorite Finger Foods
O-shaped cereals cooked peas (dehulled)
rice cakes (unsalted) pear slices (very ripe)
diced carrots (well cooked) apple slices (cooked well)
whole wheat toast (remove crust) pasta pieces (cooked)
scrambled eggs tofu chunks
french toast green beans (well cooked, no strings)
avocado dip or chunks

Chokable Foods
nuts raw carrots
seeds raw apples
popcorn kernels whole grapes
hard beans unripe pears
hard candy stringy foods
meat chunks

Feeding Solids: Nine to Twelve Months
The previous stage was mainly to introduce your infant to solids — baby used to the transition from liquids to solids, from sucking to mouthing, and chewing food. Most beginning eaters dabble a bit with foods, eating only a small amount of a few select solids. Breast milk and/or formula make up about 90 percent of their diet.

In the later part of the first year, baby’s swallowing mechanism greatly matures. The tongue-thrust reflex is nearly gone, the gag reflex diminished, and swallowing is more coordinated. This allows a gradual progression from strained or pureed foods to mashed and courser and lumpier foods. Advance the texture of solid food — but not too fast. Going too slowly deprives baby of the chance to experiment with different textures and prolongs the strained baby food stage. Advancing too quickly causes bay to retreats new foods and new textures for fear of choking.

New Skills — New Foods
At this stage babies enjoy more variety and volume of solids. Solid foods become a major component of the infant’s diet, often making up around 50 percent of baby’s nutrition after one year of age. (This is an average; many breastfed babies are still at the 80-90 percent milk level at one year.) During this stage new developmental milestones bring about new feeding patterns. The thumb-and-forefinger pincer grasp, more highly evolved now, allows baby to pick up small morsels. Babies often show a preoccupation with any newly acquired developmental skill. Consequently, babies develop a fascination for small objects. Pick up on this new desire by presenting your baby with baby-bite-sized morsels. The fun of finger foods begins.

Finger Foods
To encourage picking up and eating rather than messing and smearing, place a few pieces of O-shaped cereal, cooked diced carrot, rice cake, or baby-bite-sized pieces of soft fruits on the high-chair tray. Babies also enjoy firmer finger foods for teething, such as teething biscuits. Harder foods, especially teething foods, should have a melt-in-the-mouth texture, dissolving easily while being gummed. You may notice that your baby will be fascinated with a pile of cooked spaghetti placed within easy reach. The ability to pick up with thumb and forefinger enables baby to pick up one strand, shell, or elbow at a time. Pasta picking holds baby’s meal attention longer than most foods. Some of the pasta may even make is way to the mouth. If worried about allergies, wait until one year to introduce wheat products such as zwieback, bagels, and pasta. If you know your baby tends toward allergies, you can buy wheat-free teething biscuits and pasta made with rice.

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The ability to pick up food also has its hassles. Food and utensils become interesting objects to bang, drop, and fling. This does not necessarily mean rejection of the food or the feeding but reflects baby’s natural and normal need to explore new ways to use the newly developed skills of picking up, dropping, and throwing. When it gets to messy for you, simply end the feeding.

Pointing and Dipping
Besides developing thumb-and-forefinger pickup, around ten months babies are using their index finger for poking and social directing — giving cues to their caregivers. Baby is likely to poke into a new food as if dipping in and tasting it. Capitalize on this skill by making dip. Avocado or guacamole dip (without the salt and heavy spices) is a nutritious favorite at this stage. Remember, each new developmental skill has it nutritional benefits and humorous nuisances. While babies will use their poking finger to dip into food and suck the food off their finger, expect the young artist to begin body painting and finger painting with the food on the high-chair tray. Enjoy this developmental skill while it lasts. And feel free to stop the meal if baby is no longer eating.

Feeding Strategies
Now that you have introduced your baby to the different tastes and textures of his favorite solids, here are some tips gleaned from other family feeding experiences.