New rules for start­ing solids and the cook­book nook.

I un­der­stand the rec­om­men­da­tions of what to feed ba­bies and tod­dlers has changed. This in­cludes first foods and foods that can cause al­ler­gies. Can you please clar­ify the cur­rent guide­lines?

THERE HAS BEEN A REAL SHAKE-UP IN the rec­om­men­da­tions of what to feed ba­bies and tod­dlers. For decades, there was a stan­dard or­der of in­tro­duc­ing ce­real, in par­tic­u­lar rice ce­real, as the first solid food, fol­lowed by veg­eta­bles, then fruit and so on.

The new ad­vice, called Nu­tri­tion for Healthy Term In­fants: Rec­om­men­da­tions from Six to 24 Months, is a joint state­ment of Health Canada, Cana­dian Pae­di­atric So­ci­ety, Di­eti­tians of Canada and Breast­feed­ing Com­mit­tee for Canada.

No­tice the age group in the ti­tle. Not only have the sug­gested foods changed, but also when to be­gin feed­ing solids. Rather than start­ing at four months of age, par­ents can en­joy watch­ing their young ones eat solids for the first time at six months.

Iron-rich choices, such as meat and al­ter­na­tives like pulses (lentils or kid­ney beans for ex­am­ple) and iron-for­ti­fied ce­re­als should be the ini­tial solids in­tro­duced at this time. But these se­lec­tions should be com­ple­men­tary to the breast or for­mula feed­ing. Other foods can then be in­tro­duced in any or­der and can de­pend on what the fam­ily is eat­ing.

Of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of shapes and tex­tures, from lumpy and pureed to fin­ger foods, be­fore nine months of age may help to pre­vent your child from de­vel­op­ing into a picky eater. Avoid chok­ing haz­ards such as whole grapes, whole nuts or seeds, nut but­ter on a spoon or thickly spread and pieces of raw hard fruits or veg­eta­bles like ap­ples and car­rots.

There’s a big change, how­ever, in the area of po­ten­tially al­ler­genic foods. Rather than hold­ing off on their in­tro­duc­tion, research is show­ing that feed­ing op­tions such as eggs, cow’s milk, wheat, fish, soy and nuts and seeds ear­lier may de­crease the risk of al­ler­gies. It can take a day for re­ac­tions to oc­cur, so it’s best to in­tro­duce new foods at a slower pace of not more than one new food over a two-day pe­riod. If there’s no re­ac­tion, these se­lec­tions should be in­cluded reg­u­larly to keep up the tol­er­ance. But for those with food al­ler­gies, par­ents should con­sult their health­care pro­fes­sional.

Be­lieve it or not, it’s also time to for­get the sippy cup. An open cup helps in­fants to de­velop ma­ture drink­ing skills and doesn’t en­cour­age pro­longed bot­tle feed­ing.

There are a few other rec­om­men­da­tions that still stand. Breast is best is still the mantra. How­ever, when cow’s milk is in­tro­duced, it should still be ho­mog­e­nized milk, not fat-re­duced, un­til the tod­dler is two years old. For breast­fed ba­bies, 400 IU of vi­ta­min D is also rec­om­mended. An­other long stand­ing rule is to avoid feed­ing honey to an in­fant un­der one year of age as there is a risk of bot­u­lism poi­son­ing at this age.

Rosie Schwartz is a con­sult­ing di­eti­tian in pri­vate prac­tice in Toronto and au­thor of The En­light­ened Eater’s Whole Foods Guide (Vik­ing Canada). Read more at

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