Enjoy Feeding Your Infant: How to Expand His or Her Palate

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The first 12 months of your baby’s life are the prime time for introducing and accepting new flavors and textures.

Pat yourself on the back for successfully starting your baby on solids. Now it’s time to expand his or her palate. The first 12 months of your baby’s life are the prime time for introducing and accepting new flavors and textures. Take the next step in feeding your baby by incorporating the following tips and tricks, along with some insight into my baby’s solid food expedition. If your child has any allergies or medical conditions, make sure your solid food incorporation is monitored by a doctor or dietitian.

To cook or not to cook? That is the question.

Cooking for your baby is a personal choice, and there is nothing wrong with refraining from doing so, but don’t let intimidation stop you from trying. Cooking may be easier than you think.

You do not need any specialized equipment, but you should consider investing in a good quality blender. Blend the prepared foods into purees to facilitate baby’s consumption. Prepare large amounts of the purees, and freeze servings in individual portions or in ice cube trays. I suggest removing frozen cubes of food and placing them in containers in the refrigerator to defrost overnight. The frozen cubes fit perfectly into baby food containers. Freeze everything from single vegetable purees to cooked grains, beans and even meat.

I find the store-bought pureed pouches to be especially helpful when my baby needs a quick snack or when I need a little extra food for a meal.

Do I need to feed my baby organic food?

According to the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Jay Hoecker, a Mayo Clinic expert, organic foods are environmentally friendly and must be produced without conventional pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones. That being said, most studies do not find organic food to be nutritionally superior to conventional foods. It has been shown that infants may be more susceptible to harm from the residues of these substances found on conventional foods. However, the United States Department of Agriculture states that both organic and nonorganic meet government safety standards.

Organic food is pricey, no matter if you’re cooking for your baby or buying ready-made baby food. Reference the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” for a list of foods you might consider spending your money on to buy organic.

I try to buy as much organic food for my baby as possible, but sometimes it’s just not practical. You can find me perusing the freezer aisles and seasonal local farmers markets for affordable organic produce. Fresh organic blueberries are expensive (even in the summer) but frozen organic blueberries are very affordable. Defrosted frozen blueberries are delicious natural sweeteners I add to my baby’s morning oatmeal. In my opinion, a balanced meal with lots of fruit and vegetables takes precedence over an entirely organic meal.

How do I know when my baby is ready to try food with more texture and mixed foods?

There’s no rush to advance the diet. Take your baby’s lead for when to offer mashed and then chunky food. Make sure your baby has tasted all the individual foods before offering a mixed food dish, like a casserole. The eventual intention is to have your baby accept an array of textures and food combinations. Don’t give up on rejected food; try again at a later date.

A baby’s gums are really tough. My baby grinds food with his eight front teeth and then chews with his gums. The only food that proves to be a challenge is meat. An amusing scenario took place at a friend’s BBQ where my husband and I took turns pre-chewing steak for our baby. Somehow our baby ended up eating more steak than anyone else at the BBQ! I can’t wait for his molars to come in.

When can I add spices to my baby’s food?

The only spice you should avoid adding to your baby’s food is salt. Try adding cooked garlic and onion as well as all fresh and dry herbs and spices.

Ever since my baby started eating, I made sure to add some type of spice. A breakfast dish that my baby loves is oatmeal cooked with vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spices, and topped with pureed pumpkin.

How much do I need to feed my baby?

Do not stress about portion sizes, calorie amounts or nutrient amounts. Environmental and social factors do not influence infants, so they’re able to self-regulate their food consumption. My baby is a bottomless pit – the other day he ate so many (cut up) grapes that he regurgitated and then continued eating. If your baby appears hungry, give your baby something to eat. My baby indicates that he wants more food by pointing to the refrigerator.

When do I switch to cow’s milk? Do I have to give my baby cow’s milk?

Until 12 months, the primary sustenance is formula or breast milk. At the time solids are introduced, you can incorporate a little water with meals, and then at around a year, if desired, you can switch to cow’s milk. Breast milk will continue to be the superior milk even after the first year.

The taste of cow’s milk is different than breast milk and formula, so consider mixing the two milks to help your baby acquire the new milk taste. Until the baby is 2 years old, whole milk (versus low-fat milk) is recommend to support normal growth and brain development.

My baby never liked cow’s milk. Every time I offered cow’s milk, he took a sip then gave me a nasty look. He proceeded to open his mouth and let the milk dribble out while looking me straight in the eye.

Do not dismay if your baby rejects cow’s milk. Many children enjoy yogurt and cheeses, and you can cook foods with dairy products. My baby eats at least one yogurt and some cheese every day. There are also plenty of other ways for the baby to get the vital the nutrients found in dairy with non-dairy sources.

  • Protein: meat, plant-based proteins (beans, nut butters, green peas, quinoa, chickpeas, tofu, seeds)
  • Fat: avocados, olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, fatty fish such as salmon or tuna
  • Calcium: molasses, dark leafy greens, calcium-fortified plant milks, soybeans, navy beans, almonds, broccoli, salmon
  • Vitamin D: sunlight, vitamin D-fortified plant milks or cereals, eggs, fatty fish, shrimp (most babies can benefit from a vitamin D supplement even if they drink milk)

What is Baby Led Weaning?

British infant-feeding expert Gill Rapley coined the term “Baby Led Weaning,” which simply means the baby feeds him or herself from the plate at their own pace, as opposed to starting solely with spoon-feeding. According to Rapley, BLW enables the transition to solid food to be a more natural process, and babies are capable of feeding themselves from the beginning. Evidence shows babies are not any more likely to choke on their food in BLW than with spoon-feeding.

I believe a combination approach of spoon-feeding and BLW is appropriate, but not all babies are the same. Check with your health care provider before attempting BLW, especially if your baby has had any medical conditions. You always have to supervise during meal times and monitor for choking.

I started my baby on purees, but once he showed a keen interest in plate food – and by “keen interest” I’m referring to stealing food off my plate – I let him continue to eat what he wanted as long as it was soft and small enough.

Final Words

If you have any questions about your own eating habits or issues surrounding feeding your baby, make sure to speak with a registered dietitian. Babies mimic eating behaviors, so it’s imperative that you and those regularly around your baby are exemplary food role models.


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