As your baby grows, he’s knocking out milestones every day! You can’t believe how fast your little one is growing up! (Believe me, it doesn’t slow down, either!) While it seems like just yesterday, you were fixing two ounce bottles, today you’re fixing six to eight ounce bottles or you’re pumping a LOT more at once. And it STILL doesn’t seem like enough. So, you’re considering starting solid food!
But where to start? This milestone is a lot of fun, but it is also overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. Here at Piper Jade Kids, we know as parents, we’re all in this together. That’s why we created this handy guide for an easy transition to introducing solids. With this information, you’ll set up the behaviors that lead to a lifetime of healthy eating!
Is Your Baby Ready to Start Solid Food?
Before you start planning out your menu, it’s important to see if your baby is ready for solids. There are some very common signs babies show when they’re ready for starting solid food, but even if all signs are pointing to “Yes!” make sure you talk it over with your baby’s pediatrician.
Most babies show signs of solid food readiness around six months. Sometimes it’s earlier, but studies from the World Health Organization and other medical groups show waiting until closer to six months reduces risk of allergies and digestive issues later on.
Regardless of age, look for these signs of readiness:
- Sits and holds head up independently
- Still seems hungry after nursing or having a bottle
- Shows interest in food and moves his mouth when he sees you eating
If these signs are present and the pediatrician gives the okay, awesome! But keep an eye for these signs that maybe it’s not quite time, after all:
- Involuntary tongue thrust to push the food out (this is a reflex to prevent choking in small babies);
- Doesn’t close mouth around food or food just falls out;
- Trouble swallowing;
Pureed Foods or Baby-Led Weaning
Ready to try starting solid foods? Think about if you want to try pureed foods – either homemade or jarred purees – or baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning means letting your baby start feeding himself, usually you just put a few dabs of soft foods on your baby’s tray and let him go to town.
There’s no right or wrong answer – some babies LOVE pureed foods, other babies want to feed themselves. If you do want to try baby-led weaning, just remember that your baby may not have teeth, so anything you feed him has to be very soft and easy to pick up. Think slightly mashed baked sweet potato, avocado, heavily steamed carrots or somewhat mashed banana to start.
Best First Foods for Babies
You’ve got a plan in place for how you want to feed your baby. Now, which foods to try?
For generations, most parents started with single grain cereals like oatmeal or rice cereal mixed with a little formula or breast milk. Those are still fine, though oatmeal seems to be the better option. Rice cereal can cause constipation. Not a fun way to start solids.
A lot of parents are skipping the cereals and starting babies with fruits or vegetables. Foods with healthy fats like avocado are popular while sweet potato and squash have plenty of nutrients and a slightly sweet taste babies like.
Regardless of what food you start your baby on, it’s important to only try one food at a time (no apple-banana blends!), and stick with that food for a few days to check for allergies. Of course, if your baby has a reaction (rash, diarrhea) stop immediately and call your pediatrician, but sometimes it takes a few days. Take your time introducing new foods too. There’s no rush!
Having Fun When Starting Solid Food
Okay, your baby is ready, you’re ready, you know how you’re starting solid food and what you’re starting with. You’ve GOT this, Mom! (Or Dad!) The hard part is over. Mostly. Now, it’s just about making mealtimes fun and productive.
Also, a little warning – your baby’s mealtime is MESSY. Instead of having to scrub your baby clothes or worry anything getting ruined, strip your baby down to her diaper. Want some cute pictures? Add an adorable, easy-to-wash bib! Then just have fun with it – if your baby makes the “yuck” face, it happens. Don’t try to force the issue, such as if she turns her head away or flings more food than she eats. Right now, this is all about learning and discovering since she’s still going to get her nutrition through breast milk or formula.
Whether you’re doing pureed food or baby-led weaning, let your baby have her own baby-safe utensils. While it is HIGHLY unlikely she will know how to use them, she’ll have fun playing with them. Plus, she may focus on that instead of trying to steal the spoon out of your hand while you try and feed her. Otherwise, sing, talk, and describe the food she’s eating and focus on making this a fun, calm time for her!
Play It By Ear
No matter what, don’t stress about starting solid food. As long as your baby is growing and thriving and your pediatrician isn’t concerned, things are going fine! There’s an old saying, “food before one is just for fun,” so if your baby isn’t really into meal time, that’s okay, too.
Here’s a few final tips for happy, healthy eating:
- Respect boundaries – if your baby turns away or refuses to open her mouth, that’s okay. Just try again at a later time.
- Don’t add sugar, salt, or pepper to your baby’s food. It’s okay if it’s a little bland.
- Just serve a little food at a time. Babies don’t eat much starting out, and you don’t want to waste. Food that’s been served once shouldn’t go back in the fridge because saliva from the spoon can lead to food-borne illness.
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