What do I feed my baby after 7 months?
Mother-to-mother: It’s funny that you submitted this question, because only a few days ago my husband and I gave our six month old daughter “solid” food for the first time. I had been planning this glorious moment for months (mostly ̶d̶a̶y̶ night-dreaming in my head during all of those brutal 4am feedings). Note: I’ll never, ever resent my child for ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ needing to nurse frequently. One time I tried a liquid juice diet, and about three hours in I was ready to Muhammad Ali anyone who came between me and solid food. I can’t imagine living off only MILK for half of a year. Nurse away, baby girl.
So when the time finally came, I had to stop and take a moment to decide… What was going to be the first regurgitated looking food I was going to put into my sweet little baby’s mouth? A couple research studies from grad school popped into my head…
” There’s good evidence that babies can taste even before birth and that they are sensitive to different chemicals in the amniotic fluid… Many of the same dietary flavors that make their way into a woman’s amniotic fluid will also be present in her breast milk (Eliot, 1999).”
Considering this was me:
(until I found out she had a milk protein allergy)
I was pretty sure Nutella was clearly the answer. Nutella might be the answer for everything. Nutella for president. Ok, but seriously then I remembered Nutella is made from hazelnuts, (hence NUTella) and I really didn’t want my child’s first encounter with food to potentially end in an allergic reaction. So, what’s the ideal or “right” first food for babies?
On the developmental side of things: I want to begin this answer reiterating part of my website’s disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or a dietitian. Ideally, you should consult your child’s pediatrician as they are the expert on your child’s personal medical history (past and present) and will be able to give the best recommendation for you and your baby. I do hold a masters degree in child development, so what I can do is help disseminate and report the latest research regarding a child’s developmental readiness when introducing solids.
I used to work at Anne & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, one of the best ranked children’s hospitals in the United States. I still follow the amazing research and information they provide to the public via social media. At the beginning of August this year I watched a fantastic live recorded interview they did with pediatrician and nutrition expert, Dr. Rebecca Unger on when and what solid foods to introduce to your baby.
You can watch the full interview with Dr. Unger HERE.
If you don’t have an extra 30 minutes to watch the video, here is a paired down transcript that was provided by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in the comments section of the video (all questions were asked by the interviewer, and all answers are from Dr. Unger):
- When do I start feeding my baby solid foods?
Health experts, including myself, recommend introducing solid foods starting between four-six months old.
- Are there signs my baby will give me that he/she is ready for solid foods?
Yes. If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, your baby may be ready for solid foods:
- Does your baby have good head control?
- Does your baby seem extra hungry in between usual feeding times?
- Is your baby interested in table foods that you eat?
- If you offer your baby a spoon, does he/she accept the spoon to his/her mouth?
- What foods should I introduce first to my baby?
Things have changed over the years. The AAP recommends that most anything goes these days. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vegetable or a grain or fruit first. There are several foods that you don’t want to offer your baby until they are a year old and that include cow’s milk and honey.
- Should you wait a few days in between introducing new foods?
Definitely. You should wait 3-4 days so you can look for a reaction which would include trouble breathing, rash, diarrhea, blood in the stool, and/or vomiting. If any of these reactions occur, stop feeding your baby the food and contact your pediatrician.
- What about rice cereal and levels of arsenic?
I don’t think we need to avoid it all together. The recommendation is to mix it up with other things. You don’t want to give your baby a diet just of rice cereal or just of a fruit.
- How often should I feed my baby?
Every baby is different. Breastfeeding or formula feedings should not change. Solid foods should be given in addition to breastmilk and formula. Every baby is different. In the beginning, one meal a day. Doesn’t matter what time a day, give one type of food at a time. Eventually, you will work your way towards breakfast, lunch and dinner. Family meals should be something you begin when introducing solid foods.
- Are nuts encouraged earlier now?
We are still evaluating that. We used to say 2-3 years of age is when you should introduce nuts, but the tables have totally changed on that. If you have a family history of a nut food allergy, there may be some benefit of starting earlier than we thought. If your baby has eczema or allergies, it might be a good idea to see an allergist before. Other foods that commonly cause food allergies are: nuts, shellfish, strawberry, eggs.
- What foods should a baby avoid?
Honey and cow’s milk. As well as those foods that are choking hazards such as cut up hotdogs and grapes.
- What are your thoughts on sippy cups?
I think every child is different. It is important to offer a cup early on and I recommend starting around 6 months of age. I tell parents and caregivers to fill the cup with breastmilk or formula in addition to water. As far as what type of cup, I don’t think it matters.
- When can a baby start drinking water?
Around their 6 month birthday when introducing sippy cups. Babies aren’t outside playing sports sweating a lot so it’s not like we need to replace those fluids.
- When can my baby start having “real” people food?
Food that he/she can pick up and you and I eat? At the 6 month visit, we talk about it. We recommend that these types of food be introduced around 8-10 months. These are foods that baby’s will use their fingers. Ground meat, chicken, cut up fruits and vegetables.
- What about picky eaters?
I always recommend parents provide and child decides. Provide healthy choices. Offer them food repeatedly and they will eventually eat it. Also, parents are good role models, so your eating habits can definitely influence your baby’s. You want to be a role model and keep offering foods.
- How come you can try yogurt, cottage cheese, before one year but you wait till one year to introduce cow’s milk?
The proteins are different. Cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt is fine around 8-10 months. We want to wait on milk because we want babies to receive breastmilk or formula until one year of age. There is some evidence that cow’s milk protein is not as heathy for young babies. That’s why it is recommended they wait.
- What foods should I avoid to avoid constipation?
Anything that would be considered part of the BRAT diet- binding foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
- Organic vs inorganic?
We don’t know yet if there is a medical benefit to organic foods. It’s definitely better for the world but it’s really up to the parents to make that decision. There is not much evidence to suggest yet that organic is better. I would do organic for the dirty dozen foods.
- At 12 months what type of milk should I be giving my child?
Right now, we are recommending whole milk or 2%. My favorite really is 2%. At two years of age you can give 1% or skim milk.
Lastly, it’s important to have family meals and to sit down every day as a family. It’s great for spending time together and for establishing healthy eating behaviors!
Ps. We ended up deciding on pureed sweet potato mixed with breast milk. This was her general feeling about it:
Remember, the first handful of attempts at giving your baby solid food should be viewed as a “taste test.” Baby is still learning the mechanics of eating from a spoon, not to mention getting used to the taste of something other than breast milk or formula. So relax, take your time, and don’t force your child to eat. They will learn at their own pace!
Here are a couple extra helpful resources: