Start solids at no earlier than 6 months old. Giving your baby breast milk exclusively is not just adequate for six to nine months--it's optimal. Formula is a second-best option, but either way, no solid foods need to be added during the first six months. (Pediatricians used to recommend starting solids at age 4 months, but we now know that introducing them this early may increase a child's tendencies toward allergies and obesity.) Fruits and vegetables are easier to digest than cereal and thus make excellent first foods. Cook a sweet potato, mash it and feed it to your baby.
No. Some doctors believe that diets very high in soy (as many vegetarian diets are) can lead to such problems as attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity because of phytoestrogens in the soy. Not only are these dire predictions not supported by science, but millions of people worldwide are vegetarians (myself included) and have no behavioral problems whatsoever.
Absolutely not. Granted, breast milk does contain trace amounts of the same chemicals found in cow's milk; our air, food and water supply; our very own bodies; and, yes, in formula. Yet it is still the "cleanest," best food you can feed your baby. And because of its newest additives, while formula may seem better for your baby than breast milk, it's not. So don't let your concern keep you from breastfeeding. Just eat the healthiest foods possible and drink clean water (bottled or filtered, if necessary).
Its normal for babies of this age to get full and gassy, but rest assured that as her intestinal tract matures, shell have a much easier time. That said, I have had great results decreasing a breastfed baby's gastric distress by changing the moms diet. Eliminating dairy products, eggs and peanuts can make a huge difference; these protein-rich foods can make breast milk harder to digest. If you do eliminate dairy and are worried about getting enough calcium, take a calcium-magnesium supplement.
Nipple confusion can be a problem for many breastfed babies if they are given a bottle too early, even if it's filled with breast milk. Here's why: Infants coordinate their jaw, cheek and swallowing muscles in a specific way when they are breastfeeding. With a bottle, their feeding patterns are completely different--a bottle, for instance, gushes milk into a baby's mouth, and the child needs to move his tongue to control the flow. Not so with the breast.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and virtually all other experts advise against introducing solids before 6 months of age, so I'd wait awhile before giving him any more. (Babies are not meant to digest solids at 4 months, as you have observed.) When you do offer solids again, start with small amounts of fruits and vegetables, such as applesauce, pureed carrots, smashed pears or sweet potatoes; try them for a few weeks or more before offering oatmeal or cereal grains.
If you don't mind paying a little more for baby food made from ingredients produced without the use of pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics, here are four new organic brands to try:
Homemade Baby Employing a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, this Los Angeles-based company offers kiddie dishes like Baby Tex Mex (brown rice, kidney beans and vegetables) and Piwi (pears and kiwi). Ships nationwide, $1.59-$1.99 per 4-ounce container (plus shipping costs); homemadebaby.com.
For busy, sleep-deprived moms, making baby food from scratch may seem like a recipe for insanity. But going the homemade route is actually quite simple, plus it saves money and the food can be more nutritious and tastier than store-bought varieties, says Lisa Barnes, the San Francisco-based author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook (Penguin, 2005). Offer your 6-month-old puréed foods one at a time (to watch for allergic reactions), and eventually work up to chunkier, more varied meals by his first birthday. Here's how to make your own meals:
A lot of tools aren't necessary for making your own baby food, but you will need a steamer (steaming preserves nutrients better than boiling); a food processor or blender to puree the food; extra ice cube trays for freezing individual portions; freezer bags to store the food cubes in; and recipes. Here are some products that can help:
Whether you wean your baby at 6 or 16 months, the key is to do it gradually. If you stop breastfeeding suddenly, your breasts will likely become painfully engorged and you risk developing blocked or infected milk ducts, according to Richard Schanler, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics' section on breastfeeding and chief of neonatal-perinatal medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. "There is no exact science when it comes to weaning," he says. But there are some things you can do to make the transition go smoothly for both of you:
You don't have to be Julia Child to make your own baby food—all it takes are the right tools, a little time and a bit of imagination. Virtually any fresh food you can think of can be safely prepared for your baby. Bananas and other soft fruit, such as mango, papaya, avocado, peaches and kiwi, are ideal because they don't need to be cooked and can be mashed with nothing more than a fork. Firm fruit, such as apples and pears, may need to be cooked and then mashed.