The Complete Guide to Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods
If you’re thinking about introducing your baby to solids, congratulations! You’re taking the first step towards getting them ready for eating real food. Although this is an exciting time for you and baby, it’s important for you to have realistic expectations. Here are some things you should keep in mind before feeding your baby his or her first solid meal.
Is Your Child Ready for Solids?
Most babies are ready for solid foods when they are between the ages of four to six months old, states MayoClinic.org. Before you start selecting foods and eating utensils, take some time to review their developmental milestones. There are other cues you should watch for to know if your baby is ready to eat solids, such as:
- Sits with little to no assistance or support
- Rolls over unassisted
- Lifts body up from tummy time position
- Opens and closes mouth when watching others eat
- Remains hungry at the end of the day
If you introduce solids too soon, you could end up experiencing a setback. Your child may develop a loose stool consistency or vomit. There is also the elevated risk of developing obesity, food allergies, skin rashes and celiac disease, states U.S. News & World Report. Your baby may resist the concept of eating solids, meaning you’ll have to find other ways of providing them with the additional nutrients their growing body needs.
If your child seems like he or she is not quite ready for solid foods, don’t worry. Reassess them again in a few weeks. Babies develop at their own pace.
What to Do About Milk?
Your child may be ready for solids, but that doesn’t mean they must give up milk. In fact, they’ll still need it to supply much of their nutritional needs for many months to come. The reason you’re introducing solids to your baby is not so they will stay full longer. It’s so they can get used to different tastes and textures and practice eating. The bottle or breast will still need to be their main source of nutrition for they turn 12 months or ready to be weaned.
You will need to make some adjustments to the amount they drink each day and when they drink it. To determine what milk schedule works best when you’re starting with solids, you‘ll need to experiment a bit. You may decide to give your child solids once a day or several times a week. There’s also the option of giving them solids at every other meal. No matter what type of schedule you use, stick with it to provide your baby with a sense of security and stability. Offering new solids at different times may cause them to feel a little unsettled and less receptive to the concept.
Initially, you should start off with a small serving of baby food after offering the breast or a bottle. As your child becomes more accustomed to eating solid meals, you can switch to offering him or her solids before the breast or bottle.
How to Start the Introduction
It’s important for you to take things slowly. Do not try to add a ton of new foods to your baby’s diet right away. You may end up overwhelming them which can make them reluctant to eat solids. It could also lead to them rejecting food altogether. You should speak with your pediatrician to ensure there are no health concerns or conflicts for you to keep in mind when introducing your baby to solids. They can also inform you about the dangers of introducing honey and other foods before your baby turns two.
You should be giving your baby a few spoonfuls at each feeding time. Watch your baby for cues. If he or she becomes fussy, stop giving them the spoon and offer them a bottle or the breast. Try again later. A good rule of thumb for you to follow when starting solids is to give no more than two meals of four tablespoons or less of food per day. If your baby loves eating, then you can increase their intake at each meal to a serving portion that is similar to the size of their fist.
As your child becomes more accustomed to eating solids, you should continue to offer them milk on demand and slowly increase their portion size of solids at each meal. As your baby gets closer to weaning time, you’ll want to increase the number of times they eat solids throughout the day, their serving sizes and decrease the amount of milk they drink.
What Foods Should Baby Eat?
One of the hardest choices you’ll need to make when your baby is starting solid foods is selection. You may be ready to make meal time more fun and exciting, but you must remember to do it gradually. Oats and rice cereals are excellent starter foods because they are single-grains, easy to digest and can be used to make the introduction of other foods easier.
As your baby becomes more comfortable eating solids, you can slowly incorporate vegetable and fruit purees. Be sure to introduce one at a time and to allow several days to pass in-between starting new foods. That way you can watch for signs of intolerances like hives, rashes and diarrhea. Avocados, bananas, pears and apples are great starter fruits. Broccoli, squash and carrots are good starter veggies.
Sometime after your baby turns nine months, he or she may be ready for finger foods. Some great finger foods for babies include boiled eggs, carrots, apples, soft meats and graham crackers. Make sure that any finger food you give your child is soft, cut up into tiny pieces and easy for them to mash in their mouth. Avoid hard, thick chunks and textured foods because they can lead to choking, states HealthyChildren.org.
Once you start feeding your baby solids, meal time will be messy. Don’t be surprised if there are times when more of their food ends up in their hair and all over the place instead of in their tummy. It’s normal and just a phase. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more tips and advice from other parents.