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What to Feed Your Baby

Babyproofing

If you make your own baby food, always cook it thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, and fish. Never feed raw or even softcooked eggs to your baby. (Indeed, most pediatricians would advise you to hold off on eggs altogether until after your baby's first birthday.)

By six or seven months, your child should have sampled two or three dozen different foods: a few cereals, bread and pasta, and at least a dozen different fruits and vegetables. In the months to come, you should continue to make an effort to expand your baby's culinary repertoire. Continue to add variety in fruits and vegetables. During the seventh or eighth month, you can begin adding more sources of protein: cooked tofu, legumes, and meats.

When introducing meats into your baby's diet, start with beef or poultry. If they cause no adverse reactions, then you can try adding some fish. You can buy jars of pureed meat, stews, or casseroles, or you can make your own almost as easily. Just add a little water before you puree the meat, and you should come up with the right consistency.

If you want your baby to be a vegetarian, she can get the protein and calcium she needs from formula as well as a variety of beans, peas, and green leafy vegetables. If, however, you are raising your baby as a vegan (eschewing all animal products), you may need to take extra care to ensure your child's normal growth and development. To provide nutritional balance, continue to breast-feed your baby throughout the first year if at all possible. When introducing solid foods, serve whole-grain cereals, breads, and pasta. Make sure she also eats plenty of high-protein foods (tofu, brown rice, beans, and peas) and calcium-rich foods (broccoli and green leafy vegetables). Finally, ask your pediatrician whether your baby might need a calcium supplement and/or a vitamin-and-mineral supplement that supplies iron, vitamins D and B12, and folic acid.

Whether feeding vegans, vegetarians, or meat-eaters, try to provide nutritional balance as your child eats more and more solids and less and less breast milk or formula (though your baby will still need about 24 ounces of breast milk or formula every day). You can't go wrong if you offer your baby essentially the same balanced meals that (ideally) the rest of the family eats. But you'll need to mash, puree, or strain the food to a thick, liquid consistency and serve it in much smaller quantities.

Keep in mind that a balanced diet does not mean that your baby always needs to eat something from each of the major food groups every day. Try to take a more long-term approach to balancing your baby's diet, by watching what she eats over the course of a week or two. If your baby eats nothing but chicken for two days, for example, she will--probably on her own but if not, then with your guidance--balance it out with lots of carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables for the next few days.

As for consistency, your baby's food should remain smooth and almost liquid until the sixth or seventh month. But once your baby has started to chew her food, regardless of whether she has any teeth yet, you will no longer need to puree everything she eats. Your baby may still enjoy certain pureed foods, but you won't need to grind up her food as rigorously. You can also start to add small chunks of vegetables, meat, or fruit.

More on: Babies

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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