Your mom told you to feed your baby rice first, but your lola (that would be your child's great-grandmother) says to go with potatoes. With conflicting opinions on what and how your baby’s solid food should be, feeding time becomes a challenge for any parent who’s new to the routine. So let's help you separate myths from facts when it comes to baby's first meal.
Myth#1: When introducing food to your baby, the order to follow is rice-fruits-vegetables-meat.
Fact: There is truth to this statement, but the reasons behind this order are based on the idea of the food pyramid. Lia Padilla-Medalla, M.D., a pediatrician and lecturer on children’s nutrition, says, “The food pyramid tells you how much of a certain food group should be given. It guides you if you are giving all the food groups at the right amount.”
Rice and rice cereals are usually given first because these are easy to manipulate. You can adjust the consistency to make it either very thick or thin (check this homemade baby cereal here). So whether combined with soup or broth, rice makes for an ideal first meal. Mashed foods are next on the list, and you may start with either fruits or vegetables.
These must be almost liquid to avoid choking and to ensure easy digestion. Meats are tough to mash, which is why they are given last.
Myth #2: It’s not a good idea to give your child food with spices. Stick to bland-tasting food.
Fact: Race and culture figure greatly in a child’s ability to tolerate spice. The genetic makeup allows the taste buds to either be very sensitive or numb. “When culture comes in, there are many things we cannot avoid. Like in Korea, they never eat anything without kimchi, or in India, they never eat anything without spice,” explains Dr. Medalla.
Mom Renee Rose Rodrigo likes to add certain spices and herbs on her son’s baby food. "The amount we're talking about here is a pinch on a big batch of baby food. It's just enough to train his taste buds to bolder (not still not sweet!) flavors and to make the food interesting for him," she writes in this article for SmartParenting.com.ph.
When seasoning your child’s food, consider how much sugar or salt you will add. Excess in sugar can lead to obesity in the future. It is also not advisable to heavily salt your baby’s food because her kidneys cannot tolerate a high amount just yet.
Myth #3: There is a strong family history of allergies against a particular type of food so you must never feed this to your baby.
Fact: Allergies are developed after repeated exposure to a certain substance or food. For example, just because the majority of your family members are allergic to berries doesn’t mean you can’t let your child have them. Luz Callanta, a registered nutritionist and dietician, says, “Allergies are not inherited. When you introduce one food, stick to it for two to four days. That’s only when you’ll know if your child is allergic or not.”
But it’s a matter of timing when it comes to highly allergenic food. Consult an allergologist for his recommendations. Try not to sensitize your child too early — introduce these foods only when your little one has reached her first year.
Myth #4: You should never feed your baby fatty foods.
Fact: The truth behind this myth is this: we need fat in our diet. “Fats and oils, even if they’re not a food group, are found at a small proportion in the food pyramid. This statement about fatty foods needs to be classified,” suggests Dr. Medalla.
When you’re choosing the food to give to your child, examine the fat content. There are some oils that are good for your baby such as unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be found in fish oil, canola oil, and olive oil. On the other hand, transfat, or the bad fat, should be zero or minimal.
Myth #5: Bottled baby food makes for a picky eater.
Fact: There are plenty of reasons why a baby grows up to be a picky eater. Every child is different, and some factors to consider when it comes to introducing your little one to food are your child’s environment, family history, and personality. Your own food choices may also affect your baby’s tastes. “If the mother is too meticulous with the food she gives, then you might end up raising a picky eater,” advises Dr. Medalla.
What’s important is to make feeding time a fun experience with an assortment of food, whether bottled or homemade.
But Callanta cautions mothers on bottled baby food: “Masarap ang baby food. Some kids will really look for the flavor. They don’t get satisfied with just one serving and they tend to finish one bottle!” Make sure you give the right portion.
For baby meal suggestions, Callanta recommends:
- Introduce sour soup. Good old sinigang makes for a great meal for your baby. “You don’t include the vegetables just yet. Take the soup and mix it with rice,” she says.
- Instead of rice cereals, how about oatmeal? Introduce your baby to a different type of food texture by feeding her some oatmeal. Just adjust the consistency according to your baby’s ability to eat.
- Say yes to potatoes! Root crops like potatoes and sweet potatoes are common mashed food choices. But Professor Callanta advises mothers to be careful with cassava. “It’s tricky to prepare this, and if you don’t do it right, there is a chance for food poisoning.”