I spent the first 6 months relaxed with my newborn because I didn’t have to worry about what to feed him today. But sadly the time to start giving my baby solid food came too fast. I must admit that I was more confused with this change than my baby because I did not know how he was going to respond to this new regime.
Also, this new addition meant that I will now have to do a lot of research on what foods should I introduce to him first, and how? In this post I’m going to share as much of my research and experience as possible, to help you understand the guidelines and timeline for starting solids into your baby’s food.
The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends only breastfeeding for the first 6 months after birth. Breast milk or formula is the only diet or food your baby needs at that point. But, as the newborn reaches 4-6 months of age, they are ready to start taking solids. This does not mean that your baby needs to shift entirely to solids at once. This change is rather done gradually along with breast milk or formula. The reason why solids are recommended to be introduced after 6 months is that by this time babies develop the ability to taking in food instead of pushing it out of the mouth. They have learned to move solid foods within the mouth towards the back for swallowing. The American Academy of pediatricians, though, does not recommend giving solids to babies before 4 months, because it can cause choking, obesity, and food allergies later in life. Also, at 4 months of age, babies are still at risk of choking. Additionally, babies should not be delayed from having solids after 6 months, because breast milk or formula alone is not enough to meet their growing nutrient needs. So adding complementary solid foods can help meet the nutrient requirements of your baby for growth and development. Solids also help babies learn various foods and textures, which helps them develop certain tastes later in life.
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Signs that your baby is ready to take solid foods
Your baby’s readiness depends on his individual development and behavior. The American Academy of Pediatricians, on the other hand, has specified some signs, to help parents know if their child is developmentally ready for solid foods or not. If your baby can do the following then he is ready for his bigger milestone.
- Your baby is now able to sit without any help or little support.
- Your baby can control his head movements.
- Your baby knows how to respond to food when offered to eat i.e. opening mouth.
- Your baby shows interest in the food you are eating.
- He is grown out of tongue-thrust reflex and does not throw food out of his mouth.
- He is still hungry even after feeding enough times for the day (8-10 breastfeedings or 32 ounces of breast milk).
How to introduce solid foods to your baby?
Keep feeding your baby formula or breast milk – up to 32 ounces a day and then add:
Start simple by offering foods that only have one ingredient, and neither salt nor sugar. Before giving an entirely new food make sure to wait for 4-5 days, for any kind of reaction like vomiting, rash, or diarrhea.
Nutrient sufficient food
For 6 month older babies, zinc and iron are very important for the growth and development of their bodies and bones. These nutrients can be found in pureed meats and iron-fortified cereals
Basic baby cereal
When your baby is ready to eat multi-ingredient foods then feed him cereals containing single grain, iron-fortified cereal mixed with a little breast milk or formula inside. Do not feed your baby cereal with a bottle, instead, try feeding with a spoon once or twice a day.
Start feeding with 1-2 teaspoons of cereal at first, and after your baby gets a hang of it mix the cereal with less liquid and increase the food portions.
Introduce single-grain cereals like oatmeal, barley, and rice, but never feed only rice cereal for it can increase the levels of arsenic in your baby.
Introduce veggies and fruits
Slowly, start feeding your baby single-ingredient pureed vegetables and fruits without any salt and sugar. Wait again before introducing new food for any reactions.
When your baby reaches the age of 8 -10 months, he can swallow small finely chopped finger foods like soft fruits, pasta, veggies, soft meat, cheese, dry cereal, and baby crackers.
What to do when the baby refuses his first food?
Most of the babies refuse to eat pureed foods and vegetables at first because the taste is different for them. In this case, do not force it instead wait for another week and try to feed them again.
If your baby keeps rejecting pureed foods for longer than talk to your doctor, it could be some other reason.
What not to feed your baby?
Your little one can only eat simple and healthy foods. Anything hard or processed can cause health problems. Consider the following guidelines, when feeding solids to your baby
- Do not feed your baby cow’s milk as a source of iron, because it is not a good source and would rather increase the iron deficiency.
- Avoid feeding honey up to 12 months, to your baby as it contains spores that can lead to serious illness like infant botulism.
- Do not feed your baby raw eggs or mayonnaise containing raw eggs as the bacteria in raw eggs can cause certain illnesses.
- Besides cow’s milk do not feed your baby other kinds of milk as well like soy milk, goat’s milk until 2 years.
- Do not hand your baby foods without cutting them into fine pieces, because they can cause choking.
- Never offer your baby hard foods like nuts, seeds, popcorns, or candy for they can get stuck and lead to choking. Instead, make nut butter and spread them in a thin layer over fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid feeding your baby juice until he reaches 12 months. As it does not offer any specific health benefits and is less valuable as the whole fruit. Too much juice can lead to diarrhea, obesity, and tooth decay.
- Use homemade fresh juice with no sugar and preservatives, in case you do then make sure not to feed it more than 4 ounces a day.
By feeding your baby allergenic foods early in life, your baby can avoid the risk of developing certain food allergies later in life.
Research has found that parents who avoided feeding their baby highly allergenic foods like fish, eggs, peanuts, did not prevent the risk of eczema, allergic rhinitis, food allergy, and asthma. On the contrary, babies who were given certain foods like peanuts and eggs showed no signs of allergies from them later in life.
While introducing highly allergenic food make sure that you do it at home with an oral antihistamine available. If your baby shows no signs of allergy, it means that it’s safe for them, but make sure to increase the amount gradually.
Tips on managing meal times
- Make a routine of eating with all attention. Wash your baby’s hands, put away toys, and turn off the TV before every meal. This will help your baby recognize when to stop eating.
- Be patient with introducing solids, because the new textures and tastes are new to your baby and they may take a while to accept the taste.
- Your baby is going to make a mess every time he eats. This is pretty normal and doesn’t point that your baby hates the food. Your baby is learning to coordinate getting food into his mouth with a spoon.
What changes to expect after your baby feeds on solids?
Your baby is most likely to have various colored solid stools and the odor of the stool will be much stronger due to sugars and fats present in the foods. Green colored vegetables like peas might make your baby’s stool look deep green, and in the case of beetroot deep red. Beets can also turn the color of the urine red, so do not worry when that happens.
Your baby’s stool might also contain undigested pieces of food like hulls of peas, corn, the skin of tomatoes, and other vegetables. So make sure that you feed your baby pureed foods or finely chopped fruits.
Babies have an immature digestive system that is why sometimes you will find the stool to be extremely loose, watery, or full of mucus. But this can also mean that your baby’s stomach is irritated.
In such cases, reduce the number of solids and incorporate them more slowly. If the condition persists then talk to your doctor.
Activities like eating with a spoon, sitting up, pausing between bites, and stopping when full will help your baby develop healthy eating habits. This kind of early training will help your baby maintain good eating habits throughout their lives.
Also, create a norm of eating with family because dining with the family has been found to have positive effects on the development of a baby. Maintain a healthy diet full of nutrients for your baby and watch out for cues that your baby is full. Do not overfeed!