Is It Time for Solids?
How can you tell if your baby is ready to embark on a culinary journey bound to stimulate baby’s senses with new tastes and textures? Here are a few hints that your baby is ready to start trying solids:
- Is your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished? This reflex, which prevents infants from choking, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.
- Can your baby support their head? To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up.
- Is your baby interested in food? A six-month-old baby who stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for some variety in the food department.
- Is your baby uninterested? If your doctor gives the go-ahead, but your baby seems frustrated or disinterested as you’re introducing solid foods, wait a few days before trying again. Breast milk and/or formula will still meet all baby’s nutritional needs.
How to Start Feeding Solids
When your baby is ready, and the doctor has given you the okay to try solid foods, pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or cranky. You want your baby to be a little hungry but not all-out starving; you might want to let your baby breastfeed a while or provide part of the usual bottle.
Have your baby sit supported in your lap or in an upright infant seat. Infants who sit well, usually around six months, can be placed in a high chair with a safety strap. And of course, don’t forget that easy-to-clean silicone bib that will save you loads of time and money. Now get ready for messy—the drooling, spitting, grabbing, throwing kind of messy—that will have you considering foregoing the cute digs and dressing down to the diaper in no time flat.
Most babies’ first food is a little iron-fortified, single-grain infant cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Feel free to try a more nutrious grain-free food instead. Place the spoon near your baby’s lips, and let him smell and taste. Don’t be surprised if this first spoonful is rejected. Wait a minute and try again.
Do not add cereal to your baby’s bottle, as this can cause babies to become overweight and doesn’t help the baby learn how to eat solid foods.
Once baby gets the hang of eating cereal off a spoon, you can introduce a different single-ingredient—maybe a pureed vegetable, fruit, or meat. The order in which foods are introduced doesn’t matter, but when introducing new foods, go slow. Introduce one food at a time, and wait several days before trying something else new. This allows you to identify foods to which your baby may be allergic. Your baby may take a little while to learn how to eat solids. During these months, you’ll still be providing the usual feedings of breast milk or formula, so don’t be concerned if your baby refuses certain foods at first or doesn’t seem interested. It may just take some time.
Foods to Avoid
Kids are at higher risk of developing food allergies if mom or dad have food allergies, eczema, or asthma. Talk to your doctor about any family history of food allergies. Possible signs of food allergy include: rash, bloating, an increase in gassiness, diarrhea, and/or vomiting.
For more severe allergic reactions, like hives or breathing difficulty, get medical attention right away. If your child has any type of reaction to a food, don’t offer that food again until you talk with your doctor.
Also, do not give honey until after a baby’s first birthday. Honey may cause botulism in babies. And do not give regular cow’s milk until your baby is older than 12 months because it does not have the nutrition that infants require.
If you don’t feel like whipping out the food processor, blender, or masher, aim for organic baby food brands that do not add fillers and sugars. If you want to save money, don’t mind a little extra cleaning, and have a few minutes to spare to make baby foods at home, keep this in mind:
- Protect your baby and the rest of your family from foodborne illness by following the rules for food safety (including washing hands well and often).
- Try to preserve the nutrients in your baby’s food by using cooking methods that retain the most vitamins and minerals. Try steaming or baking fruits and vegetables instead of boiling, which washes away the nutrients.
- Freeze portions that you aren’t going to use right away rather than canning them.
- Don’t serve home-prepared beets, spinach, green beans, squash, or carrots to infants younger than four months old. These can contain high levels of nitrates, which can cause anemia in babies. Use jarred varieties of these vegetables instead.
- Whether you buy the baby food or make it yourself, remember that texture and consistency are important. At first, babies should have finely pureed, single-ingredient foods. (Just applesauce, for example, not apples and pears mixed together.)
After you’ve successfully tried individual foods, it’s OK to offer a pureed mix of two foods. When your child is about nine months old, coarser, chunkier textures are going to be tolerated as he or she starts moving to a diet that includes more table foods.
If you use commercially-prepared baby food in jar, do not feed your baby directly from the jar as bacteria from the mouth can contaminate the remaining food. If you refrigerate opened jars of baby food, it’s best to throw away anything not eaten within a day or two at most.
Your goal over the next few months is to introduce a wide variety of foods, including iron-fortified cereals, fruits, vegetables, and pureed meats. Keep reintroducing unpopular (spit out) foods at later meals. It can take multiple attempts before baby tolerates certain foods.
Water or juice can be given after six months of age, which is also a good age to introduce your baby to a cup. Buy one with large handles and a lid (a sippy cup), and teach your baby how to handle and drink from it. You might need to try a few different cups to find one that works for your child. Use water at first to avoid messy clean-ups.
Too much juice adds extra calories without the nutrition of breast milk or formula. Drinking too much juice can also contribute to excessive weight gain and cause diarrhea. Outside of breast milk and formula, water is best. If you choose to offer juice, use only 100% fruit juice, not juice drinks or powdered drink mixes. Do not give juice in a bottle, and remember to limit the amount of juice your baby drinks to less than four total ounces (120 ml) a day.
Steer clear of cow’s milk until baby’s first birthday. Babies can’t digest cow’s milk as completely or easily as breast milk or formula. Cow’s milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can tax your baby’s immature kidneys. In addition, cow’s milk doesn’t have the right amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients for infants. It may even cause iron-deficiency anemia in some babies, since cow’s milk protein can irritate the lining of the digestive system, leading to blood in the stools. Finally, cow’s milk doesn’t provide the healthiest types of fat for growing babies.
Courtesy of Nemours