New parents know that a baby’s nutrition is so important for their growth and development and once they start supplementing breast milk or formula with solid foods, it can become a very stressful time. You want the very best for your baby but you’re overloaded with information on the web, from friends or even other family members. I wasn’t surprised to learn that over half of parents report feeling overwhelmed by the varying opinions of early childhood nutrition*.
I try to simplify it for parents to help alleviate some of that stress and ensure they’re choosing the most nutritious first foods. Below are some of my tips to keep in mind as your baby starts making that exciting journey into real food. This is a time you should enjoy and not spend worrying.
Safe dairy for babies under 12 months. Shopping for dairy can be confusing when your baby has stopped taking breast milk but is too young for cow’s milk.You might think it’s safer to avoid any new dairy products until they are at least 12 months. But dairy is packed with essential nutrients (such as calcium and vitamin D) for growing bodies, and it is an important part of baby’s diet. The good news is babies as young as six months can begin eating yogurt, even if they’re breastfeeding. Not only is it a healthy option for their little bodies, you’ll find that infants love yogurt!
Exposing baby to healthy foods early. Introducing baby’s first solids is a stressful time for parents and I wasn’t surprised to learn that over half of parents (53%) feel overwhelmed by the varying opinions of early childhood nutrition*. There’s a lot of information out there!
To keep it simple, I have my list of trusted foundation foods that ensure your baby is receiving the proper nutrients.
My foundation foods are: eggs, prunes, avocados, fish, yogurt, cheese, nut butters, chicken, beans, lentils, berries, citrus fruits, green vegetables, whole grains, and water*. Mix and match these foods as your baby becomes more and more comfortable with solids.
As always, check with our pediatrician before feeding these foundation foods and modify as needed to accommodate any food allergies.
Protecting baby’s gut health. Let’s talk about your baby’s tiny tummy. Did you know that gut health is the foundation for overall good health as babies grow? To help protect your baby’s gut health, you want to ensure they’re getting enough probiotics. While naturally found in breast milk, probiotics are also found in yogurt, one of my foundation foods.
Natural sugar vs. added sugar
Sugar is receiving a lot of attention in the news recently and many of my parent patients are looking more closely at labels when grocery shopping. Most importantly, we need to understand the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.
Wholesome foods like milk, yogurt and fruit have naturally occurring sugar that is a part of a healthy diet. Added sugar helps to give different flavors their sweet taste and is what you should be on the lookout for. Many labels don’t differentiate between natural and added sugar but will begin to in the near future.
Don’t be afraid to put down the spoon and let your little one try feeding themselves with some nutritious finger foods. My favorite way to start is with some cut up berries. The soft berries are easy for them to pick up and feel gentle against their gums. You’re helping to develop their fine motor skills and introducing a new and delicious snack.
Note: As with all young babies, monitor their eating closely to avoid any choking.
Survey Methodology: ORC International conducted this research on behalf of Stonyfield via an online survey of among 1,016 parents of a child two years of age or younger, fielded August 23-29, 2016.
Dr. Tanya Altmann is the author of What to Feed Your Baby and a paid spokesperson for Stonyfield YoBaby.