Though I’m a vegetarian, I certainly understand that meat has a place in a baby’s diet. I gave up meat for health reasons, and I do believe most meat in the United States contains many harmful chemicals that will build up when consumed in excess. However, just as milk is an important part of a baby’s development, I assume it’s also important to introduce their digestive systems to meat at some point so that they can process large quantities of protein at once. To make sure I was correct in my assumption, I decided to research the topic and find out when a baby should be introduced to meat, and whether or not it’s vital to development.

According to experts, new moms don’t have to hold off on feeding baby meat once he or she is eating solid foods. While it seems like introducing the high dose of protein in the first few months of solid eating might be overwhelming to a baby’s system, the only true barrier is whether or not your baby has teeth. If your baby doesn’t have teeth yet (most don’t by the solid eating phase at seven months), it’s a good idea to start him or her off on pureed baby food that contains meat. Once he or she is able to chew, you can cut up small pieces of red meat or poultry.

While some babies will welcome the thought of a new food on their finger platter, many don’t like the texture of meat right away. As someone who hasn’t eaten meat in four years, I can vouch for babies in this area. When I accidentally ate a piece of meat at a Whole Foods sample table, it was the chewiest, saltiest, strangest thing I had eaten in—well—four years. If you’re not used to eating meat, the texture is shocking. Most moms find that their babies are ready for meat around the age of nine months when the usual fare becomes boring.

Meat can really be introduced any time the baby seems ready after solid foods have already been introduced. Meat is a good source of protein, but no studies say that it is absolutely essential for development. Babies get protein in a lot of their food, including any milk or legumes that they consume. If you’re raising an omnivore, go ahead and introduce that chicken when baby seems ready.

Source: Naia Edwards: Weaning and Coping with Feeding Problems: An Easy-to-Follow Guide. Random House Publishing March 2009