What Are The Best Solid Starter Foods?
Question: We have a 6-month-old, who is beginning the adventure into solids. Since his birth, our pediatrician has had him taking vitamins – at different phases, we have taken either poly vi sol with iron and/or vitamin D. I have since learned that this is unnecessary with babies who are solely breastfed (as he has been). When we learned this a few weeks ago, we discontinued the poly vi sol with iron. Our Doctor was not thrilled with this when we saw her yesterday, and instructed us to at least do vitamin D, alongside a solid starter food.
She also said that we should do iron-rich solids like fortified cereals. We are now feeling a bit stuck, as we had wished to gently expose him to solids and not stress about iron. However, I was reading on kellymom.com last night that babies who are given the iron supplements (as ours has) may experience some disruption in iron absorption through breastmilk. Perhaps now we should proceed to try and include iron-rich foods as instructed because we had been on the track of using the supplement? Is there a best or highly recommended solid starter food?
Answer: I can see your dilemma, and how you are feeling stuck. (By the way, the information about breastmilk in the link to kellymom.com is excellent.) Here is how I see your situation. Decades ago, the favorite starter food was rice cereal, the rationale being that it is fortified with iron. Since some breastfed babies tend to run out of iron stores, pediatricians do a routine finger-stick hemoglobin check between six and nine months of age. Rice cereal has long been downgraded to the bottom of the list of starter foods. Here’s why:
The Best Solid Starter Foods for Baby and Why
A baby’s brain is mostly fat (60 percent) and the calories in breastmilk is 40-50 percent fat. Since a baby’s brain is growing fastest in the first few years, it makes sense to begin solid foods that are highest in healthy fats. Our favorite first food for babies is avocado. It contains healthy, monounsaturated fats, some protein, fiber, and other nutrients, including a little iron. Also, since avocado is virtually carb-free, it follows our principle for starting solid foods: to shape young tastes. The veggie-like taste and smooth mouth-feel of avocado makes it a smart starter food.
Our favorite second food is wild salmon. Here’s a list of some nutrients that your baby needs that are in wild salmon: omega-3 brain-building fats, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin D, and niacin. (For an in-depth discussion of why wild salmon is the top brain food, see our book, The Omega-3 Effect). While there is not much iron in salmon, your baby’s iron level is probably still OK, since he was on the supplement. Until your pediatrician does the finger stick iron check, don’t worry about it. If you want to head off a possible low iron level, organic chicken liver is a good choice, also egg yolk. The flavor of the liver can be smoothed out by mixing it with avocado.
A good way to supplement your baby with Vitamin D is to take a supplement yourself. You can ask to have your own Vit D level checked if you aren’t sure. See more about iron-rich foods on our website, AskDrSears.com/iron.
– Martha Sears, RN