When babies hit the 6 month mark, they’ve hit a huge milestone…they get to eat real food! As a mom, it can be super scary to start real food. What should I feed them? What if they have an allergic reaction to a food? Should I feed them fruit first? A veggie?
As your little one gets older and more independent, they will start deciding what they like and what they don’t like (or really what they will try and what they refuse to try). You go on google to try and figure out the best way to overcome your obstacle, but then you’re introduced to so many different opinions and bits of advice you are back to square one. I thought what’s the best way to get accurate information? Go to the source!
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Kerry Lett, pediatric & maternal registered dietitian and owner of Milestones Pediatric & Maternal Nutrition, a practice that specializes in maternal and pediatric nutrition. Milestones Nutrition supports and empowers mamas-to-be and parents through every milestone and help you overcome any feeding, growth and breastfeeding obstacle along the way.
When working with my sleep consultant clients, there are a number of questions posed to me regarding feeding and I thought, what better way than to compile a list of the most asked questions and get the best in the business to answer them for you.
Today, I have a helpful interview with Kerry all about feeding and nutrition. It covers first foods, purées versus baby led weaning, a baby’s upset tummy, nutrition and its affect on sleep and even picky eaters.
For babies first trying foods-can you explain baby led weaning versus feeding them purees?
Kerry: “There are three approaches when it comes to feeding babies: baby-led weaning, spoon-feeding (or purées), and combination feeding. Baby-led weaning often involves skipping purées and spoon-feeding and going straight to introducing finger foods to babies from the start allowing the baby to be in control from day one. Spoon-feeding purées is the traditional method used to feed babies that puts the parent in control and involves the parent feeding purêed or mashed foods to their baby by bringing the spoon to the baby’s mouth. As the baby gets older (typically around 9 months old), they transition to finger foods and start learning to feed themselves. Combination feeding involves implementing a combination of spoon-feeding and self-feeding with finger foods.”
If you were seeing a young baby who is just starting out with food, what would you suggest? Purees? Baby led weaning?
Kerry: “How to feed your baby is a deeply personal decision that depends on many factors. There are pros and cons to each method of feeding, so I encourage families to make the decision that feels best to them and works best for their family. However, my personal recommendation is to try to choose combination feeding, if you can. I believe there is a benefit to babies learning to feed themselves a variety of textures and consistencies.”
Which foods would you suggest to introduce first? Why?
Kerry: “I typically recommend starting with oatmeal, sweet potato, and avocado. These foods are rich in nutrients and great bases for mix-ins as you continue to introduce new foods to your little ones. Oatmeal and sweet potato are also rich in iron, which is a nutrient that is important to older infants as their own iron stores that they were born with start to run out. I would also recommend introducing the major food allergens early and repeatedly unless otherwise recommended by your child’s pediatrician or food allergist in order to reduce the risk of food allergies.”
How often should I be introducing new foods?
Kerry: “Once your baby is developmentally ready to start solids and around 6 months of age, start introducing 1 meal daily, ideally in the morning. As they get older, I recommend introducing 1 additional meal every 2 months and lastly adding snacks around their first birthday. This comes out to be 1 meal at 6 months of age, 2 meals at 8 months of age, 3 meals at 10 months of age, and 3 meals & 1-3 snacks at 12 months of age.”
Are there any foods that can upset my baby’s tummy which will ultimately affect their sleep?
Kerry: “There are so many things that can cause babies to have tummy troubles, especially since their GI tract is still developing. Some common contributors that can cause tummy troubles are: taking in too much air when breastfeeding or bottle feeding, GERD, reactions to any medications they are on, reactions to ingredients in their formula (such as palm olein oil), reactions to foods or drinks that you are consuming through your breast milk (such as caffeine, dairy, spicy foods, etc), or reactions to foods they are eating, if they have started solids. If you suspect that your baby is being affected by the foods that they are consuming and/or you are consuming, I would recommend keeping a journal of their food and symptoms and working with a registered dietitian – like myself – to help pinpoint the root cause of your baby’s upset stomach.”
What do you suggest to calm my baby’s tummy for a good night’s rest?
Kerry: “Working to help identify and eliminate the root cause of why they are having tummy troubles will help give you the best results. If they are having gas, you can try to bicycle your baby’s legs, add in more tummy time, incorporate infant massage, place a warm towel on their belly, take a warm bath before bed, try a different burping position or burping mid-feeding, ask your child’s pediatrician about probiotics or switching their formula, or work with an IBCLC – like the one at our practice – to identify if your baby is taking in too much air when breastfeeding due to latch issues, oversupply, or bottle issues. If they are having reflux, keep your baby upright after eating for at least 30 minutes, work with a dietitian to eliminate any food triggers from your diet and your baby’s diet, and reach out to your child’s pediatrician for support. If your baby is taking solids and dealing with constipation, focus on getting fiber-rich foods at meals (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, & seeds) in safe ways, make sure they are hydrated by getting enough formula and breastmilk, and consider probiotics.”
Many toddlers, preschoolers and even elementary aged kids are picky eaters, but a well-balanced diet is very important for a young child’s health and can affect their sleep, mood and overall personality. From a nutritionist standpoint, how can someone help them get all the nutrients they need to thrive?
Kerry: “Picky eating can be a normal phase that children go through, which can alter their ability to get the nutrients that they need to grow and thrive. As best as possible, continue to make sure that their meals are balanced with a whole grain, fruit and/or vegetable, protein, and healthy fat and their snacks are balanced with one protein source and one fiber source (such as fruit, whole grain, or vegetables). Continue to offer new foods to your child as well as the foods that your child previously liked in low-pressure ways to help them continue to expand their diet and food preferences. If your child has dropped a full food group, then you may want to consider a children’s multivitamin. If your child has any of the following signs, they may benefit from additional support: dropped at least one full food group, eats less than 20 foods, has sensory or textural food preferences, is having growth or weight concerns, is having GI concerns, has fear/anxiety around trying new foods, and/or your parent gut is telling you that you need support. If any of these are true for your family, I would love to help!”
Kerry offers Food Explorer Groups for your picky eaters, free breastfeeding support groups, private counseling and many other services. If you ever needed more in-depth support or would like to work with Kerry, she offers FREE discovery calls to see if you’d be a good fit to work with one another!