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Are you ready to introduce solids to your baby, but have no idea where to start?
I have been there.
Introducing solids came up in a conversation recently, when my friends and I discussed how scared we were feeding solids to our firstborns for the first time.
After the third baby though, I feel confident that it is possible to find the right first foods and be successful in feeding your baby from the very beginning.
In this post, I address the most common questions when it comes to feeding first foods to baby.
I am not a doctor or a feeding expert, but I am a mom who has put hours of research into knowing exactly what and how to feed.
I have learned a little more about introducing foods with every child. If you have more questions or medical problems, turn to a doctor and let them help you. (see my full disclaimer here)
Often times we, moms, need to rely on our intuition to discern what’s right for our children. I am a Christian, so I pray for God’s wisdom and guidance above all.
Sometimes, there are no clear answers to what’s best, you need to experiment and decide for your situation.
If you have any questions that I haven’t addressed here, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email!
Let’s dive in!
1. When to start introducing solids?
You will definitely hear different advice from pediatricians and friends.
I don’t think there is one exact right way to do it, but I tend to side with those who say introduce solids closer to 6 months or even a little bit after.
Research says that a baby’s stomach starts to close in and get ready for food other than milk around 4 months of age, but it isn’t actually ready for digesting solids till closer to 6 months.
There are different enzymes needed for digestion of solid food, therefore your baby’s gut needs to be mature enough before she starts the transition.
For more information (and a more scientific explanation) read this article on LiveStrong.com
Another thing to pay attention to besides the age is the developmental stages of your baby.
Every child is different, and you know your little one best. Usually when a baby sits up without support and his tongue thrust reflex lessens that indicate readiness for solids.
She also needs to be able to hold her head up well and open her mouth when foods come her way. Pretty much, he needs to act like he wants to eat and somewhat knows how to.
He has been watching you for months now, and don’t for a minute think he hasn’t noticed you eating and drinking.
My babies watched with googly eyes like it was the most interesting thing ever when I chewed food or drank. Sometimes they would even reach their hands out to touch what I had in my hand.
Those are sure-fire signs of your baby’s readiness.
2. How much should my baby eat?
The quantity of your child’s food intake will greatly vary depending on age, personal likes and dislikes, activity level, development and many other, unpredictable factors.
The American Association of Pediatrics states:
The AAP reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
What this means is that there is no rush to wean your baby/stop formula just because you started solids.
When an infant transitions into first foods, expect him to eat about a teaspoon of food at first (if that), slowly increasing to a tablespoon and so on.
It really helped me to think about my baby’s eating more as a food “tasting”.
He just dips his little tongue in the bite of food I am offering, just to see what it tastes like. He is still relying on milk as his primary nutritional source, but he has started taking a little bit of grown-up food as well.
This change in mindset also allowed me to relax a bit more because I had more time to figure this complementary feeding thing out.
I am not a huge fan of stuffing babies with rice cereal to get them sleeping through the night. You may wish to do that, and that is perfectly fine, you just won’t hear me advising moms that.
As your baby gets older and tasted different foods, he will gradually want to eat more and eventually transition to a full meal a day, then two then three.
This tends to happen around 9-10 months old, but still, don’t expect your little one to necessarily eat a ton.
3. Should I try to get my baby to eat more?
Following his cues about how much to feed him is the best way to go,
There’s an amazing book about feeding children, from “highchair to high school” and I HIGHLY recommend it to every parent I talk to about feeding.
It has revolutionalized my view on meal time and my approach to feeding, and I think it will do the same for you.
The book is called Fearless Feeding by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen.
In it, the authors, both dietitians, explain the principle of “the division of responsibility”. You determine when, where and what is there to eat, and child determines if she eats or not, and how much.
They recommend taking this approach from the very first stage, as early as feeding solids. (Of course, breastfeeding should also be on demand, but babies are so little at that point that feeding isn’t a struggle like solids)
4. What consistency should baby food be?
First foods should be in form of liquid (or almost liquid), so pureed and smooth foods are the way to go.
If you plan to make your own baby food, use this immersion blender. It makes baby food making a breeze. You will want to add a liquid (water, broth or breastmilk) to your baby’s food before pureeing to make sure it comes out smooth.
5. Should I serve the food warm or cold?
That is probably a personal preference for your baby, but most babies like warm food, since breastmilk is at body temperature and if you formula feed, it’s like you have heated that up too.
However, I usually go with how I would eat that food as an adult. Do I heat up fruits? How about veggies? Do I usually eat meat or eggs cold?
Whatever your answer is, however you plan to serve it later on in life is how I go about introducing the food to baby.
6. How much time should pass between adding new foods?
It is recommended to wait 3-5 days between introducing new foods, so you can tell if baby is reacting to anything.
If you don’t have a history of food allergies and your baby seems to be accepting new foods with no problems, you can probably introduce a new food every 2 days and then stop if you notice any sudden changes.
7. What kind of “sudden changes” should I look out for?
Rashes, skin bumps, unusually strong belly aches or gas, new sleeping problems, any changes in bowel movements (such as becoming constipated) or sometimes even a clear refusal of the food in question.
If you notice any of these, and they aren’t severe enough to require immediate medical attention, go back to basic first foods or just stop complementary feeding for a few days.
8. What if my baby does not want to eat?
There are many reasons why a baby refuses to eat solids on occasion. Sickness, teething, dislike of the taste can be some of them.
However, when a young child seems to choke on his food often or doesn’t open his mouth to receive the offered food, or isn’t interested at all in grown-up food, she may not be ready.
It happened to my second child, he refused to eat any solids till he was close to 9 months. It’s not that I never offered them from 6 to 9 months because I always tried, but I could always tell he wasn’t ready.
I had to rely on my intuitions and trust myself and my son that we would figure this out. We did and I am so glad I gave him space.
9. Should I make my own baby food/serve all organic fare?
This is an absolutely subjective decision, and you will hear some extreme opinions on the topic.
Often, I like to find my solution somewhere in the middle, but a few years had to pass before I found that spot.
With my first kid, I thought I would poison her if I didn’t make the food at home or not from organic ingredients.
I do realize now that it was an irrational fear and pressure I put on myself, but I know many moms deal with this same worry.
Let me point you to this article about why organic food is not superior and why I stopped spending twice as much on organically grown foods.
As far as cooking baby food at home goes, there’s a balance.
You will spend a ton of money on store-bought jars, many of which are so diluted with water, that you get much less of a nutritional value.
Not to mention that it is extremely easy to have a small pot on the stove cooking some veggies or meat as you prepare your family’s daily dinner. You can puree and then freeze the food in containers to have for later days.
However, there are fruits and veggies that you will want to introduce to your little one, but they are too much of a pain to process yourself or you may not have the fresh variety available.
For example, raspberries, cherries, kiwi, some tropical fruits, peas, etc. are much easier to buy in already prepared form.
As you add more children, you will also have less time because you will need to prioritize and it may not be the most important to have homecooked baby food.
So in some cases, you would do good to serve store-bought food because you’re anxiety from doing too much will actually affect your baby a lot more than minuscule food choices.
Think through your priorities, your time and your own food principles and go with what best suits you. This is NOT a decision you should stay up all night about.
10. How long should I keep baby food in the fridge?
You should always take food out to a separate bowl to serve it to the baby, so you don’t contaminate the rest of it with saliva.
That way, baby food can be safely stored for 24hrs when your baby is first starting out and about 2 days when your child is older.
In the beginning, you’ll find yourself toss food often because babies will just take tiny tastes, yet another reason why you should serve food in a separate bowl.
You can always just freeze what’s left before the 24hr mark expires.
11. What kind of water should I use to mix in with the food?
Most stores sell purified water just for babies, or drinking water, and that should be perfectly fine for our purposes.
You don’t need boiled or sterile water unless you have no bottled water available. In that case, you can boil tap water for 10 minutes and cool, before adding to baby food.
12. What tools, utensils will I need to feed my baby?
Later, you may want to add to your stash a mesh feeder, so baby can mouth foods on her own, as well as a sippy cup, more functional bibs for blossoming self-feeders and easy-to-store bowls with lids for leftovers.
13. Does my baby need water?
In the first stages, probably not. Afterall, she is just taste-testing the new foods and textures.
However, as your baby graduates to more quantities, you definitely want to offer water in a sippy cup. Then let him take the lead deciding how much, by asking and offering. This brings us to the next question:
14. Should I give my baby juice?
Keeping nutrition in mind, no, babies don’t need juice. The nutritional value of juice is pretty low compared to fresh or cooked fruits. Water is the best for quenching thirst.
15. Should I feed my baby a variety or stick to basics?
It is very important to feed babies a variety of tastes and textures.
The more types of food they are exposed to, the less likely they are to be picky.
The earlier you establish feeding habits that you want to see later, the easier you make your and your child’s life.
Babies initially don’t know the difference between spinach and bananas, all foods taste new.
They will slowly develop preferences, but it can take as long as 15 tries before a child learns to like a new food.
Exposure is key, keep offering small amounts of new/disliked foods and keep things interesting. If you don’t push your child’s boundaries, who will?
16. When can my baby eat finger foods?
Whenever he is able to pick up food and is interested to do it!
Usually around 8-9 months, babies are becoming interested in picking up pieces of food as they are able to handle a little more texture by then.
Their pincer grasp develops and it is very good fine motor-skills practice to feed themselves.
If this stage comes sooner or later than 8-9months, it is perfectly normal. As long as you see your baby progress compared to herself, there is no need to worry.
Finger foods usually include wafer-type snacks that sort of melt in the baby’s mouth, or soft fruits and veggies (like bananas, cooked carrots or green beans, cooked apples,etc.)
The latter is definitely better nutritionally speaking as the baby puffs don’t pack much nutrition at all. However, they are a good way to learn self-feeding.
17. What should my baby eat?
My personal opinion on solids is that I am feeding my baby to nourish him and teach him to like different flavors and textures, not to help him sleep through the night or to stop breastfeeding.
Keeping that in mind, I aim to introduce foods that aren’t usually allergenic and have a high nutritional value.
Start with easy to digest vegetables (zucchini, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes), non-problematic fruits (apples, pears, blueberries) and simple meats (cooked chicken).
You can then move towards harder to digest veggies (broccoli, spinach, peas, cauliflower), fruits that may cause an allergic reaction (tropical fruits, bananas, melons), heavier meats (beef, pork) and fish.
Also introduce grains, preferably whole grain and in cereal or cooked and pureed form (oats, rice, wheat).
The next step is introducing fermented or aged dairy products (yogurt, kefir, cheese), whole eggs and a whole variety of veggies, fruits, and meats. It is also a good time at this stage to add more texture by not pureeing the food completely.
At this point your baby is close to a year, so you can try feeding him the same good you are eating, except pureed or mashed.
Cow’s milk is not recommended until after 1 year and many wish to stay away from whole raspberries and strawberries due to young children’s difficulty of digesting the seeds.
Nuts and nut butters are also not recommended, as well as any food that is hard to chew or could cause choking (grapes, candy, hot dogs, hard crusty bread, whole orange segments, etc)
If you wish to know more, read this step by step guide to exactly what to feed your baby at what age.
I hope this article answered most of your questions about first foods for baby.
What did I miss? Ask me in the comments!
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