My son’s pediatrician told me I could start increasing his diet with single foods. I am not sure what is best.

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I have a seven-month-old son who has been eating cereal since he was about four months. Vegetables and fruit juice (apple only) since he was about five months all based on doctor’s advice. He is in the 95th percentile in both weight and height so his size is not a question, but he still doesn’t have teeth.

At his six-month doctor visit his pediatrician told me I could start increasing his diet, introducing meats (baby food form), etc. She even said that he might not even want baby food by the time he is nine months old. I have not introduced many regular table foods. Really the only time he gets table food is when we are having something that we let him taste to get a reaction, such as mashed potatoes or a popsicle.

I bought some Gerber vegetable chicken and vegetable beef because I have heard from several people that the plain meats smell like dog food and their children gagged on them, but then I read one of your answers about feeding them single foods before mixed so I am not sure what is best.

My doctor’s philosophy seems to be that he can have anything that he can handle without teeth. Is it too early to start meat and should I try the plain meats first? And what is the best way to start introducing table foods? I have considered purchasing a grinder of some sort that is sold to turn regular food into baby food, but then I am uncertain on how to know that the foods I am cooking are healthy enough for him.

I forgot to mention that my son is still being breastfed.

I know that it is difficult to know what to do since babies don’t come with instruction manuals to read when you run into trouble.

Unfortunately, infants can’t buy baby food. So parents taste baby food before feeding it to the infant and make the decision on what baby food to buy based on the parent’s taste buds. Baby food companies previously added lots of salt and sugar to baby food to entice parent’s taste buds. Your baby has an acute sense of sweet (due to a genetic preference to breast milk) and an underdeveloped sense of bitter and sour. His food doesn’t taste the same to him and if he spits it out it doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t like it. It may be a new texture he is not used to.
Pureed meats are grainy in texture and often babies may spit them out initially.

My advice to start with single foods rather than a mixture is still recommended to prevent adverse food reactions caused by food allergies. If you feed your son a mixture and he gets a rash, diarrhea or vomits, you won’t know what food caused the reaction. Only add 1 new food per day along with the other foods your baby has already tried and tolerated. Then you can mix the foods you know he has tolerated.

Meat is usually added around 9 months of age. Iron is an important nutrient that meat contains. Iron-fortified pabulum (baby cereal), breast milk or iron-fortified formula is a good iron source until babies start to eat meat. The main problem with iron-fortified cereal and formula is that iron can be constipation, which isn’t a lot of fun for a baby or the parent.

Any of the national baby food brands are OK including Gerber, Heinz, and BeechNut. You may also want to try Growing Healthy, which is fresh frozen baby food. Or try making your own baby food from the foods you cook by using a food processor or blender and then freezing small cookie dough quantities (2 ounces per serving) Plain mashed potatoes (without milk or butter) are “baby food.

The new foods that you have added to your son’s diet seem appropriate at the ages you started various foods. Solids are added when an infant can sit up without assistance and ground table foods added when they have some teeth, which will be around 9 to 12 months of age. It’s easy to tell when your baby doesn’t want baby food anymore, he won’t eat it and will want what you have.

A food grinder would be OK and the food you cook for your family would be appropriate for a baby. Your baby needs more calories per pound than you do. I would suggest you avoid low-fat foods so that you provide your baby with the calories he needs.

Babies can eat meats, starches, fruits, vegetables, and grains (cereal, rice, and pasta). I’d suggest avoiding gas-forming foods (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage-baked beans) at first. Start with 1 tablespoon of a ground food. Foods that can cause choking are grapes or hot dogs. Cut these foods into smaller pieces if you suspect that it could become caught in your son’s throat. Gradually increase the consistency of your son’s food to the point where you are just cutting the food you eat into smaller pieces for him.

Some things to remember, avoid honey, chocolate, and berries for the first 2 years of life. Avoid cow’s milk for the first year of life. Unpasteurized honey contains bacteria (botulinum spores) that could kill a baby and cow’s milk, chocolate and berries are highly allergic foods if fed too early. If you would like a good reference for feeding infants and children read “Child of Mine” by Ellyn Satter RD. If you are unsure, ask your pediatrician to recommend a dietitian for feeding tips.