There comes a time, usually around 4 to 6 months after birth, that a new mom thinks about starting her baby on solids.
While eating solid foods comes easy for adults, it’s a whole new world for a baby! It may seem daunting, but your baby will start to show signs that they’re ready to start solids! Keep reading for more information on how to start solid foods with your baby.
Kealy is a Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own breastfeeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their breastfeeding journey. She offers one-on-one support and shares her knowledge to equip and empower moms. If you are interested in talking with her or taking one of her breastfeeding classes, visit www.littlebearcare.com.
When To Start Solids
If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard it all. My grandmother swears she started my mom on solids when she was 2 months old (which is definitely NOT recommended). Some people wait longer than they should, and moms are overwhelmed with recommendations about everything they should do for their baby.
Here’s the truth from some of the most renowned baby-experts.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend introducing solid foods around 6 months, specifically between 4 and 6 months.
There’s a pretty big difference between a 4 month-old and a 6 month-old… so how do you know when the best time is?
Well, each baby is different and unique, so some may be ready for solid foods sooner than others. But your baby will start to give you cues that they’re ready to start solids! The best way to catch these cues is to keep your child close at mealtimes. Once they can sit supported, put your baby in a high chair and watch what they do while you eat.
Your baby may be ready for solid foods if they:
- Are at least 4 months old. Offering solids too early can increase your child’s risk for things like eczema, celiac disease and childhood obesity. It’s best to wait until your baby is at least 4 months old.
- Hold their head up while sitting supported. Your baby should be able to sit with their head held stable. They may need support from a high-backed baby chair and should have good control of their head and neck.
- Mimic you while you eat. Your baby will start to watch you eat your food. They will open their mouth when you open yours and may start bringing their hand to their mouth when you do.
- Move food from their mouth to swallow. The first food you give your baby will probably make a mess. They will push it out of their mouth and move it around with their tongue. If your little one doesn’t swallow any of the food, they might not be ready. But even if they are ready, expect a mess!
If you notice those signs, your baby might be ready to start their solid food journey! Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t show readiness at 4 months. Breast milk or formula is enough for them until they’re 6 months old. In exclusively breastfed babies, the CDC recommends waiting until 6 months to start solids (but if you want to start earlier just look for the signs).
You DO need to start your baby on solids by 6 months though. While it’s acceptable to start as early as 4 months, you don’t want to wait longer than 6 months to give your baby solid food. The reason is at 6 months, their iron stores become depleted and your baby will need nutrition from somewhere other than breast milk or formula.
How To Start Solids
Starting solid foods generally works best when your baby isn’t overcome with hunger.
Think about it for a second.
If your baby is starving, they probably won’t be too thrilled with a new food that isn’t the milk they’re used to. Milk is fast and satisfying, so if your baby is hungry try giving them an ounce or two before introducing solids. If breastfeeding, just nurse for a short time to take the edge off.
You could also try introducing solids between feeding times. Try to give them their first solid foods when they aren’t ravenous, but also not completely full after a regular feeding.
Start with a small half-spoonful of mushy food. Wait for your baby to open their mouth and gently put the spoon inside. Your baby will probably push the food out and dribble it down their front. Watch to see if your baby is able to move some of the food from their mouth to their throat and swallow.
Your baby may not be ready for solid foods if they turn their head or start crying when you offer it for the first time. That’s okay, just wait and try again another time. Remember that your baby will have all they need with just breast milk or formula the first 6 months of their life
Amount Of Solids To Start With
Introducing solids is a gradual process. The first feeding may be just a few small spoonfuls that add up to only 1-2 teaspoons. You can give your baby breast milk or formula right after feeding if they’re still hungry.
Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the amount of solid food your baby eats. A few teaspoons the first few times is expected, and once they’re good at swallowing mushy foods they’ll be able to eat as much as 4 ounces per feeding!
When giving your baby their first bites, starting smaller is usually better. If you have a baby spoon, just half of the spoon full is good. Your baby will probably push most of the food out of their mouth anyway, so starting small is best. With time, you’ll notice your baby is better able to get the food from their mouth to their throat to swallow. Soon they’ll be taking bigger spoonfuls and more food with each feeding.
Baby’s First Food
There isn’t an agreed upon guideline for baby’s first food, but the most common first food is baby cereal. I think baby cereal is a good option because it can be mixed with breast milk or formula and help them learn how thicker food works.
Additionally, baby cereal should be iron-fortified. It’s extremely important for your baby to get enough iron in their diet for brain development and blood cell health. In breastfed babies, iron stores become depleted after 6 months so they need iron added to their diet.
The process of introducing solids to your baby is slow. They still need most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula until they are a year old, so enjoy the process but don’t try to wean them off milk too early.
If you want to start pureed meats, fruits, and vegetables start slowly. It doesn’t really matter which you start with, but often starting with pureed meats and veggies is best. Sometimes if you introduce fruits first, your baby will only want the sweet stuff! Vegetables and meats tend to have more nutrients, so I recommend starting them first.
Introduce one food at a time. If your baby has an allergy or doesn’t do well with a certain food, doing one at a time will help you determine the culprit. After a day or two, introduce another one after your baby does well with the last introduction. Take it slow and in a few months your baby will have a whole array of foods in their diet!
Starting Solids After Pureed Foods
Once your baby does well with pureed foods and infant cereals, they may be ready for small soft foods. Your baby will start to bring food and other objects to their mouth- this is when you’ll know they’re ready.
Make sure any foods you give are cut into small bites and are soft. Good foods to start with are small bits of banana, avocado, finely cut chicken, pasta, and wafer-type baby cookies. It’s great to let your baby feed themselves to improve their coordination and work on motor development!
You can boil or puree just about any fruit or vegetable to make it soft and palatable for your baby. Experiment with different foods and see what your baby likes best. Try to avoid choking hazards like grapes, hotdogs, hard fruits like apples or anything that your baby would need to chew. Those will be introduced much later down the road, when your baby is good at eating solid foods and has the teeth they need.
Your Baby Still Needs Milk
Your baby still needs most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula for the first year of their life.
In the breastfed baby, there are a few things to keep in mind. Breast milk is produced by a supply and demand process. The more a baby breastfeeds, the more breast milk is produced. When you introduce solid foods make sure to continue breastfeeding your baby enough. Breast milk supply can be affected if your baby starts nursing less.
You may need to offer solid foods in-between feedings to ensure that your baby doesn’t fill up on solids without taking any breast milk. Some moms find that they can breastfeed their baby before a meal and their baby will still eat solids after. Other moms will find that they can give a meal of solids and their baby will happily nurse afterwards. Each mom and baby is unique, so try out different things to see what works best for you but nurse enough throughout the day to keep up a steady milk supply.
Formula fed babies also need nutrition from formula until they’re a year old. Make sure that your baby is still taking formula throughout the day in addition to solid food meals, and each baby is different in their methods of eating.
Keep giving your baby breast milk or formula until they are at least 12 months old. Then, you can start to introduce cow’s milk or other alternative milks (soy, rice, coconut, etc).
Follow Your Baby’s Cues
If you’re anything like me, sometimes making choices as a mommy is difficult. You know your baby better than anyone, so pay attention to your baby’s readiness cues and you’ll be off to a great start! Introducing solids is a gradual process but it’s full of excitement and fun.
Seeing your baby’s eyes light up when they encounter a yummy new flavor or watching them scrunch up their face when they don’t like something is the best part. Follow your baby’s signs for when they’re ready for solid foods and have fun through the process!
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