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Baby Food 101
by Meredith Lord, Child Development Professional

-“In the United States, around 24 million youth are overweight or at risk of being overweight.” (www.healthiergeneration.org)

-“Anorexia nervosa has been reported to occur as early as age four.” (www.ltspeed.com/bjblinder/publications/2.htm)

-“The number of children who are overweight has doubled in the last two to three decades.” (www.nih.gov/news/WordonHealth/jun2002/childhoodobesity.htm)

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about childhood weight problems. This has many parents concerned about their own children and their future. Will my child fall victim to diabetes or bulimia? Will my child’s social life or career suffer because of his weight? Will my child die prematurely because of her relationship with food? Here is what you can do TODAY to start your baby down the path to a healthy, happy life.

Many parents are unaware that good eating habits begin even before that first bite of solid food.

Generally, breast-fed babies drink until they are full, and when the feeding is over, the milk is put back into the bra, where it stays until the next feeding. Bottle-fed babies, on the other hand, typically follow a different routine. Many caregivers (parents, grandparents, baby sitters, etc.) will prepare the designated size of bottle, and then feed it to their baby until the bottle is gone, even if the baby is no longer interested in drinking. Get to know your baby’s signals, and recognize when your baby is full. It may feel wasteful to dump expensive formula down the drain, but this is an important step for your baby in learning to listen to his/her own hunger and satiety signals. (And don’t put the half-empty bottle back into the fridge either because once saliva mixes with the formula, it starts to break down inside the bottle.)

Once your baby makes it to the solid food stage, this is where the real work begins. Children’s taste buds develop rapidly over the first three years, so exposure to a variety of flavors and textures early in life is critical in the prevention of a picky eater later in life. Most pediatricians recommend rice cereal as a baby’s first food. From here, there are many other options. Try a new food/flavor with your baby every 3-5 days. Spacing out the new foods like this gives you time to watch for an allergic reaction before moving on to the next food. Start with the various cereal flavors, then add a few veggies, and then you can move on to the fruit. Starting with sweet fruit can make the veggies seem less appealing by comparison. Another important tip to remember is that you still need to read the label, even thought it’s “just baby food.” Several companies add unnecessary sugar to some of their foods (Gerber’s “desserts” for example), and 8-months-old is WAY too young to be developing a sweet tooth.

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