“My doctor said since my baby is four months old, I can start giving him solid foods.”
“My mother-in-law said that if I give my baby rice cereal at night, she will sleep better.”
“My friend says her six month old eats three jars of baby food a day, but mine doesn’t seem interested.”
“At the La Leche League meeting I went to, no one seemed interested in starting their babies on solids and one mom told me that babies don’t really need rice cereal.”
A lot of conflicting advice and opinions about babies and solid foods swirls around the internet and in the opinions of others around us. Why is there so much concern and conflict about what babies should eat and why? What should you feed your baby? Interestingly enough, the answer depends very much on your time and place in history, rather than on any hard and fast rules about what a baby actually needs! If you were a mother at the turn of the twentieth century, you would get a much different answer than a mother in the 1930’s! Many contemporary people express a lot of concern about wanting their babies to try a variety of foods and sometimes a bit of a parental competition can emerge regarding whose baby has the most varied palate. However, if you were receiving advice as a parent in 1906, you would have learned from doctors at that time that eating many different foods would likely result in child death: “And how many [parents], after a time, do we hear lamenting the loss of this child saying: ‘Poor thing! He was eating everything when he died.’ They do not understand, unfortunately, that it was precisely this that caused the baby’s demise more than anything else.”* Something that doesn’t change is the value of watching your baby rather than the calendar and listing to your instincts rather than the experts.
So…what ARE the medical answers through the ages to the question of what should I feed my baby…
When should I introduce solids?
1906: 12 months, 10 at the earliest.
1927: Six to eight months old.
1932: Eight, or better yet 10, months.
1947: six months
1979: three months
2008: 6 months
2015: once baby has doubled birth weight and weighs at least 13 pounds and is around six month olds
What should I feed my baby?
1906: At one year old—3 breastfeedings per day, plus at night after midnight. Also, gruel made with flour only (no fats) at noon + breastfeeding for dessert. At 7:00 p.m., you may give 130 g of milk.
1927: First food should be a bread and garlic soup. At one, baby should be having four breastfeedings a day, plus salty soup at noon and sweet gruel at 7:00. Salty soup contains bread, salt, and garlic and sweet gruel contains oat or rice flour and milk.
1932: Garlic and bread soup.
1947: “salty soup,” which can include cheese, chicken, or fish. At 7-8 months old some children can tolerate half an egg yolk or a teaspoon of grated cheese or a teaspoon of butter, or a teaspoon of pureed liver. Offer a different food each day.
IMPORTANT: “At one year old, it is essential that the child eat more than just breast milk. If the child is raised only on this lacteal secretion, he will become white and flabby. These are ‘curd babies.’” ( 😉 )
1979: At three months, begin with two servings of flour and milk gruel and one serving of fruit. At four months, add vegetables. At six months give egg yolk and liver (you may possibly begin this at four months).
At six months to one year, for breakfast baby should have sweet gruel with crackers or bread. For lunch, soup or strained vegetables or potatoes with added meat, liver, brains, etc. Fruit for dessert or some cheese. Afternoon snack should be strained fruit or fruit yogurt or crackers. For dinner, offer sweet gruel with egg yolk or soup with egg yolk, ham, fish, or white sauce.
At one, you may begin to give cocoa, dried legumes, fruits, sauces, candies, and cakes.
2008: Cereal should be first food. Once your baby learns to eat cereal, gradually introduce other foods such as strained vegetables, fruit, and meat. Give one new food at a time, and wait at least 2-3 days before starting another. Give eggs last, because they occasionally cause allergic reactions.
Your baby can start drinking juice at this time also. Apple juice and white grape juice are well tolerated by most babies. You may want to dilute the juice with an equal amount of water, as undiluted juice can cause diarrhea, diaper rash, and excessive weight gain. Many babies are sensitive to orange juice and other citrus fruits, so they should not be given before 6 months of age.
Within 2 or 3 months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include breast milk or formula, cereal, vegetables, fruits, and meat given over three meals.
Once your baby is sitting up, you can give him finger foods to help him learn to feed himself. Some examples include well-cooked and cut-up squash, peas, potatoes, and small pieces of wafer-type cookies or crackers.
2015: For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. However, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby.
Though many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits, there is no evidence that your baby will develop a dislike for vegetables if fruit is given first. Babies are born with a preference for sweets, and the order of introducing foods does not change this. (via Switching To Solid Foods – HealthyChildren.org.)
What should my 14 month old be eating?
1906: Once your baby is 14 months old, you can add one egg yolk to the morning gruel and give an additional serving of plain gruel in the afternoon.
At fifteen months, you can add egg yolk to both gruels.
1927: At 15 months, two servings of gruel made of flour, four nursings. An egg yolk may be added to the gruel once a day.
Between 15-18 months, you can introduce mashed potatoes, eggs, and pastas.
1947: four to five daily nursings, plus strained fruit with crackers in the morning and strained vegetables with liver at noon. You should also give one feeding of gruel with strained egg yolk. At 8:00 p.m., give wheat, tapioca, or oatmeal gruel and juice, plus additional gruel at 11:00 pm.The child may have 2 crackers per day or a small piece of bread.
2015: Generally, meats and vegetables contain more nutrients per serving than fruits or cereals. Many pediatricians recommend against giving eggs and fish in the first year of life because of allergic reactions, but there is no evidence that introducing these nutrient-dense foods after 4 to 6 months of age determines whether your baby will be allergic to them.
Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include the following:
Breast milk and/or formula
What should my 18 month old eat?
1906: At 16-18 months, add broth, legumes, and crackers (no more than once a day!).
1927: Between 18-24 months, meats and fish.
Pureed vegetables can be given in small quantity, they are not very nutritious.
At 18 months, you can give fruit, but only if it is cooked. Only during the 3rd year will we authorize the use of fresh fruit in small quantities.
1932: You can start bread with butter, egg yolk, tomato, grape and orange juice, pasta and legumes.
When should I wean?
1906: At 20-21 months cease breastfeeding and give crackers three times a day. At 22-24 months, you may add chocolate, fish, and brains.
At 3 years, you may give whole egg and chicken croquettes (make sure to follow special recipe). Three 10 g servings of milk per day also.
At 3 ½ you may introduce fruit and vegetables at 4 years, but only a little, the same with veal
1932: You may give fish at 2 ½ years and chicken at age three.
1979: 10-12 months
2008-2015: Breastfeeding should continue for 12 months and then as long thereafter as desired by both mother and child.
*This tongue-in-cheek look at the solid food advice given by medical professionals during different decades of American history was gathered from information provided by the wonderful book My Child Won’t Eat by Dr. Carlos Gonzalez.