As with every milestone of a child's development, it is important to really watch the child and look for cues of advancement, instead of relying on charts and calendars. So, when it comes to introducing solid foods for the first time, how will mom really know she's ready?
Different pediatricians may say different things, but there are some general rules of thumb for knowing an infant is ready to start solids like eagerly opening his or her mouth when he or she sees food, reaching for food, and when can sit up on his or her own. But if a child seems satisfied with his or her current milk diet there is no need to complicate things.
But once it is safe to really dive into introductory phase, and a child is introduced to his or her first few solid foods–much like the other extremely colorful experiences that come along with parenting–parents may not entirely know what to expect. There is no doubt that there will be some real surprises along the way, but to help take the edge off we compiled a list of 20 things every mom wishes she knew before starting her little one on solids, just as a heads up.
20 Wait Half A Year
Depending on who you ask, parents can start their babies on solids at different times in their lives. Some infants can go as long as one year of age before even tasting solids. But the general rule of thumb, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the World Health Organization is that infants should begin eating solids around 6 months of age.
Around six months of age babies have the ability to say “yes” to wanting food by reaching or leaning toward the food and “no” by pushing or turning away.
Although parents can expect some mixed messages as your baby learns to communicate. When in doubt, offer, but don’t force.
19 A Choking Hasard
Just say "no" to food in a bottle. Baby rice, oatmeal or other forms of "starter grains" can be very dangerous if served to your baby in a bottle. They can cause your little one to choke or be overfed.
And while the habit of adding cereal to an infant’s bottle is one that has been around for a long time, offering cereal in a bottle before babies are developmentally ready can increase the likelihood of gagging or inhaling the thickened mixture into their lungs.
By instinct, your baby knows how much breast milk or formula to drink. Some pediatricians consider putting cereal into a bottle as a form of force-feeding that can cause babies to “overdose” on calories.
18 Purees Aren’t Always Best
Steaming, boiling, draining and straining can be a bit tiresome for first-time, busy moms who decide to make their baby's food.
But studies show the thinly strained purees aren't always best.
Medical researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center suggest that parents work their way from soupy to lumpy as they increase how often and how much baby eats.
At first, parents should offer food only once a day; but within a few months, you’ll be feeding solid food for baby whenever you sit down to a meal. Babies differ so much in their preferences and their readiness for solids that it’s difficult to make hard and fast rules about the consistency, amount and type of solid foods to offer. Just remember that every child is different.
17 If I Don't, You Still Can
With all of the available food options out there it would be a shame to limit your little one's first `food choices to only things that you enjoy. Allow your little one to explore an array of foods including ones that you really do not enjoy.
First-time mom Heather says, "Don't let your own likes and dislikes affect what you feed your child. I don't like cottage cheese, but I gave it to my son anyway and he loved it."
After all, your children they are their own little people with their own taste buds, personalities, and opinions. Have fun exploring!
16 Keep Milk Alive
If your baby is under one year old there is no need to stop formula or breastfeeding when starting solids. Solid foods should be an addition, not a replacement.
Breastmilk and formula are far more nutritionally balanced for your growing baby than any solid food.
This is especially the case for breastfeeding babies. If you are breastfeeding it is best to start solids slowly also try not to skip too many feeding sessions which could lead to a decreased milk production, as per Dr. Sears' suggestion. Remember, the immediate goal is to introduce solid food for baby, not fill him or her up on solids.
15 Dinner Time!
One of the best ways to encourage babies to try new foods is by eating with them. Consider sitting down with your little one at lunch or dinner so he or she can feel a part of the fun.
For breastfed babies, Dr. Sears suggests introducing solids in the evening, around dinner time, when milk production is at its lowest.
"It is at the end of the day when your milk supply is likely to be the lowest and baby will be more eager to eat. Feed baby solids between breastfeedings, not right after, since solid foods may interfere with the absorption of some of the nutrients in breastmilk," he explains.
For formula fed babies make it a breakfast occasion Dr. Sears says, "Mornings are usually the time when babies are hungriest and in the best mood for social interactions, including feeding."
14 Everyday Will Be Different
As with most aspects of life, every day has its little nuances, the same goes for introducing your little one to solids, this means that he or she is not guaranteed to like same food 2 days in a row.
Crazy right? Welcome to parenthood.
Try putting your little one on an eating schedule so they have an idea of when to expect solids, this will then feel more and more like just part of the routine.
However, it makes no nutritional difference to your baby when you serve what, since babies have no concept of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It's more about your baby's mood and willingness to eat.
13 Easy Clean-Up
If you have heard other moms talk about their experiences introducing solids, chances are there is one major thing they all have in common–the mess.
Yes, introducing solids can be very messy, albeit fun, but messy all the same.
Just a little tip: try feeding your little one while he or she is only wearing a diaper to aide clean up. That way most of the food will end up on or in your baby's tummy, instead of the laundry basket. And don’t forget the bib. The best bibs for debut solids are large ones with an easy-to-clean surface and a bottom pocket to catch the spills.
12 That's Solid Alright
It may seem simple enough but you would be surprised by how many parents are surprised after introducing solids and then changing a diaper.
Solid food means solid poop. As you change the foods that go in one end, expect a change in the color, consistency, and frequency of the waste that comes out the other end. You may notice bits of food in baby’s stools or a serious change in color— red stools with red vegetables, such as beets, and yellow stools with carrots.
Babies who eat too many bananas or rice products may become easily constipated. As your baby’s intestines continue to mature, their stools will take fewer characteristics of yesterday’s meals.
11 Encourage Allergies
It's true, allergic reactions can be scary, but instead of cowering over your baby with an EpiPen or delaying the introduction to well known allergenic foods until they are old enough to drive, consider introducing things like peanuts, eggs, soy, and fish as early as the first solids.
Studies performed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics show that early introduction to these types of foods can actually help prevent a peanut allergy. Just in case, if you have a family history of food allergies or are particularly worried about them, keep a food diary, which not only helps you learn your baby’s preferences but helps you be more objective about which symptoms are caused by which foods.
10 The Old Switcharoo
Starting solids can be tricky. One day your little one loves something the next day they hate it, but once you've offered up a few things and now have a staple food you know they love, when offering up a new less sweet, yet still nutritious food, consider giving them a spoonful of their known favorite in between, then revert back to the new food to encourage eating.
Babies can become bored with foods like they do with toys. So, if your baby refuses a food, put more variety in what you serve and the way you serve it.
For your information: The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that the taste buds for sweet flavors are found toward the tip of the tongue; the taste buds for salt are found on the sides of the tongue; the taste buds for bitter are found at the back of the tongue. In the middle of the tongue, the taste buds are more neutral and perfect for veggies.
9 Keep Things The Same
Mother of two Emily explained, "My son reacted to peas 12 hours after eating. It's very important to follow the advice of introducing new foods individually and a few days apart. That way, if a reaction occurs, you can know what really caused it."
When starting solid foods, give your baby 1 new food at a time. Don’t use mixtures like cereal and fruit or meat dinners. Give the new food for 2 to 3 days before adding another new food, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This way you can tell if your baby is developing a food allergy. Typical signs of a food allergy are bloating and gassiness, a sandpaper-like raised red rash on the face, runny nose and watery eyes, diarrhea or mucousy stools, a red rash around the anus or vomiting.
8 Texture Is So 'In' Right Now
While many may encourage you to thin down your baby's start foods just remember, the main goal of early solid food for baby is for your infant to learn how to swallow foods of different textures, then comes the nutritional importance.
You’re likely to have more success with fruits than with vegetables. When introducing veggies, try the sweet ones first: carrots and sweet potatoes. If you have a baby who loves vegetables, even better!
For most parents, however, try not to worry if your baby confronts veggies with less enthusiasm than fruit. He or she will eventually learn to like them if you keep offering them.
7 Think Outside Of The Jar
When it comes to feeding baby his or her first solids, parents should always try to estimate how much they will actually eat during any given session and serve that.
The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition suggests using a spoon and bowl to feed your little one, instead of directly from the jar.
"Always spoon-feed from a bowl, not from the jar of food unless your baby will finish it during that feeding. Feeding directly from the jar may introduce bacteria from your baby's mouth to the spoon and back into the food, creating a food safety issue. If your baby is still hungry, use a clean spoon to take more food from the jar."
6 Meat Up
If your family supports eating meat, there is no need to delay your child's introduction to meat as a solid food, especially if they are primarily breastfed. Since most breastfeeding babies’ iron level begins to decrease at about six months, good first choices for solids are those rich in iron.
Current recommendations are that meats, such as turkey, chicken, and beef, should be added as one of the first solids to the breastfed infant’s diet. Once your little one gets acclimated with other fruits and vegetables a mix puree is a great quick dinner for your little one.
Meats are good sources of high-quality protein, iron, and zinc and provide greater nutritional value than cereals, fruits, or vegetables, healthychildren.org reported.
5 It Can Take Time
If your baby flashes you an approving smile when you start solids, then he or she is ready and willing. If the food comes back at you, accompanied by a disapproving grimace, your baby may not be ready.
Some babies take a little while longer than others to get used to eating solids. Others just make funny faces just because this is all so new to them.
Watch his or her mouth to see if they are enjoying solids. If the mouth opens for a second helping, you may live to feed another day.
If not, try to remember that your baby will not go hungry if he misses a day of solids. If your child fights feedings, take that as a signal to change the food and/or the method. Sometimes you may just have to skip solid food for baby for a day or two and then try again.
4 Moo-ve Into Next Year
When it comes to cows milk, even vegetables or meats mixed with cows milk, it is better to wait until your little one is at least one year old to give it a try. "Cow's milk shouldn't be added to the diet until your baby is age 12 months," The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests.
"Cow's milk doesn't provide the right nutrients for your baby," the Academy added. Cow's milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can tax your baby's immature kidneys. Cow's milk does not have the right amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients for infants.
If your baby is under 12 months of age, breast milk and iron-fortified infant formula should be their primary source of nutrition. If your baby is 12 months or older, whole cow milk is appropriate.
3 Short And Stout
Just because it is time to start your little one on solids does not mean they will be eating the same quantity as you. If your baby eagerly accepts the first fingertip of food, offer a little more the next time. At his or her first feedings, she may actually swallow only a teaspoon or two of solid food.
Gradually increase the amount you give your baby over time. Expect some erratic eating patterns. Baby may take a couple tablespoons one day and only a teaspoon the next.
And above all learn to know when enough is enough. Signs that your baby is done eating include pursing of his or her lips, closing his or her mouth and turning his or her head away from an approaching spoon.
2 Think Cutlery
As your baby's first form of cutlery, consider using a clean finger. It’s soft, at the right temperature, and baby is familiar with it.
Encourage baby to open her mouth wide. Place a fingertip full of sweet and colorful food on your baby's lips while letting her suck on the tip of your finger.
Next, advance the fingertip of food to the tip of your baby’s tongue where his or her tastebuds are more receptive to the sweetness. From then use plastic spoons with smooth, rounded edges to feed your little one, they do not get too cold or hot, and they are quiet when banged or dropped.
Many parenting sites discourage the use of an infant feeder since they are less likely to promote a chewing motion which will allow for better eating habits in the future.
1 That Is Not Okay, Honey
Although it can be tempting with your baby's growing sweet tooth, be sure to avoid honey at all costs as a starter food for your baby's first year of life. Avoid honey in any form for the first year because it can cause a type of botulism, indicates the American Academy of Pediatrics. Seasoning is okay, however, in fact, one mother says that seasoning her children's foods actually helped them become better eaters later in life.
"Season your baby's food. Even if it's just a little cinnamon, it will help her develop a taste for adult foods. Our daughter loves garlic, onions, and other foods that most kids don't like, and I attribute it to her getting paprika, garlic, pepper, and other spices in her baby food," said Beth Anne.
References: Baby Center, AskDrSears.com, Healthychildren.org, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatrics