When Can Babies Eat Spinach?

Spinach Does Your Baby Good: When to Start Feeding The Super Food

For many moms, the moment when her baby starts eating food is a big milestone. After months of feeding your baby only breast milk and/or formula, you're likely excited to add some solid foods to her diet and see her reaction to it. Spinach is a good food choice: It's easily pureed, and it provides so many health benefits. Here's when and how to feed the leafy green nutritional powerhouse to your little one.

When Babies Start Eating Food

Feeding. Baby's first solid food

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that when possible, moms exclusively breastfeed their babies for approximately the first 6 months of life. The AAP issues this recommendation because of the nutritional benefits that breast milk contains and because breastfeeding helps promote an emotional bond between the mother and baby.

However, some women prefer not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and choose to introduce solid foods prior to 6 months. Between 4 and 6 months of age, many babies develop the physical ability to eat solid foods.

It is during this age range that most babies stop pushing food out of their mouths and learn how to move food from the front of their mouths to the back for swallowing. To test whether your baby has developed this ability, you may want to put a very small amount of pureed food into her mouth to see if she swallows it. Other physical developments to watch for that indicate your baby's readiness for solid foods include her ability to hold up her head and sit upright without support.

Another sign that your baby may be ready to eat solid foods is if he shows an interest in what you're eating. Maybe he reaches for your food when you're eating and voices displeasure when you take it out of his reach. Or, perhaps he starts opening and moving his mouth, mimicking your chewing movements, when he sees you eating.

If your baby seems physically ready to eat solid foods and shows an interest in doing so, check with your doctor. Based on your baby's medical record, she may agree that you can start introducing your baby to some solids foods prior to 6 months, or she may advise that you wait until your baby gets a little older.

The Benefits of Spinach

Spinach is a good food for your baby because it's packed with nutrients vital to healthy growth and development. It's a good source of vitamins A and K and provides folate, vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc, fiber and magnesium. Iron and zinc, in particular, are important nutrients for a baby. Iron is vital for proper brain, neurological and red blood cell development. Zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system, as well as tissue growth and healing.

Prepared Spinach for Your Baby

Feeding. Baby's first solid food

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Many brands of baby spinach puree are available on the market, including organic varieties. Check the label to make sure that it's safe for your baby's age. Many commercial baby foods indicate on the label the age range of the child that the food is appropriate for, such as "sitting baby" or "crawling baby." Also make sure that the puree has not passed the expiration date and that it's free of any unnecessary additives and seasoning, such as sugar and salt.

How to Cook Spinach for Your Baby

If you have time, you can make your own spinach puree at home. First, thoroughly clean the spinach in water. Then, put the spinach in a steamer basket and steam it until the leaves become soft and wilted. Next, drain the spinach and put it in a blender or food processor. Using the "puree" setting, puree the spinach until it's a soft, mushy pulp. You may need to add small amounts of water in the blender or processor as it blends until it reaches the right consistency. Don't add any seasoning, such as salt and sugar, to the spinach puree.

If you don't have a blender or processor, simply mash cooked spinach with a potato masher and use scissors to cut up any stringy parts. To make it easier, purchase a baby food machine that cooks and purees food in a few minutes.

A pound of raw, fresh spinach equals about 1 cup of cooked spinach. Approximately 4 cups of spinach leaves equal about 6 ounces of cooked spinach. Experiment until you determine how much your baby will eat and the corresponding amount of raw food to cook.

Introducing Your Baby to Spinach

Before giving the puree to your baby, test it. Put some in your mouth to see if you can swallow it without chewing. Make sure that the puree has cooled down before giving it to your baby.

For your baby's first spinach or any other solid food, start with just a teaspoon or two in a small spoon. Put the rest of the puree immediately in the refrigerator.

Be aware that it's not uncommon for a baby to reject something the first time she eats it because of the new texture and taste. If your baby pushes the spinach out of her mouth, try again at the next feeding or the next day. You may also want to mix in some breast milk or formula to the spinach puree the first few times to help your baby get used to it.

Feeding Your Baby

Since harmful bacteria can grow in food left out at room temperature, which can then lead to a foodborne illness, throw away any puree that was out for longer than two hours. Also, throw away any refrigerated puree after three days.

Wait about three to four days before introducing another food to your baby so that you can pinpoint the cause of any allergic reactions if any develop. After each time you introduce a new food to your baby and he seems OK with it, you can combine it with another food that has passed the test. Pureed spinach goes well with sweeter pureed foods such as apple and pear.

When to See a Doctor

If your baby continually refuses spinach, try feeding her other vegetables and fruits. She may just not like the taste of spinach. If, however, your baby not only refuses to eat spinach, but also resists other foods, contact your doctor for advice and possibly an appointment. It may be that her resistance to eating food is a sign of a health condition that requires medical treatment.