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Is your baby ready for solid food, but you have no idea where to start?
I have been there.
Introducing solids came up in a conversation recently with my friends and we discussed how scared we were as new moms when the time came for first foods for baby.
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.
So if you feel lost, don’t worry. I got you.
What Every Mom Should Know About First Foods For Baby
In this post, you will learn about:
- when to start introducing solids
- all about baby food
- tools needed to feed baby
- stages in introducing different foods and
- what to especially watch out for
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 start feeding baby solids closer to 6 months.
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, she needs to act like she wants to eat and somewhat knows how to.
Baby 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 Solid Food 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 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 meals as more of 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 allowed me to relax.
As your baby gets older and tastes different foods, he will gradually want to eat more and eventually transition to a full meal a day, then two then three.
This transition tends to happen around 9-10 months old, but still, don’t expect your little one to necessarily eat a ton.
3. Should I Make My Baby Eat More?
In short, no.
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 dietitian authors explain the principle of “the division of responsibility”.
You determine when, where and what is there to eat, and the child determines if she eats and how much.
They recommend taking this approach from the very first feeding stage, as early as starting the first solid foods.
Of course, breastfeeding should also be on demand, but when babies are little moms deal with a different set of problems in feeding them. For example how to increase milk supply and how to teach baby a good latch.
4. What Consistency Should Baby Food Be?
First foods should be in form of liquid (or almost liquid), so pureed and smooth foods are best.
If you plan to make your own baby food, you can use a blender to reach desired consistency. (I use this immersion blender and it makes baby food making a breeze.)
You will want to add a liquid (water, broth or breastmilk) before pureeing to make sure the food comes out smooth.
5. Should I Serve Baby 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 likely you have been heating that up too.
I also think about how I would eat that particular 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 Long Should I Wait Between Baby Food Stages?
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 Is Not Interested In Baby Food?
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 chokes on food often or doesn’t open her mouth to receive the offered food, or isn’t interested in grown-up food, she may not be ready.
This was the case with my second child. He refused to eat any solids till he was close to 9 months old. It’s not that I never offered him baby food because I tried consistently, 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. Is Homemade Or Organic The Best Baby Food?
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, 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.
If you add more children, you will also have less time 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 your 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 Store 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.
11. What Kind Of Liquid Should I Use To Mix With The Solid 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.
If you prefer adding breastmilk or homemade broth to your baby’s foods, those are great options too.
12. What Tools Do I Need For Feeding Baby Solids?
Later, you may want to add a mesh feeder, so baby can mouth foods on her own, as well as a sippy cup.
13. Does My Baby Need To Drink 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 solid food quantities, you definitely want to offer water in a sippy cup. Let him decide how much to drink. 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 Wide Variety Of Foods Or Stick To The 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 gently 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.
When their pincer grasp develops, it is a very good fine motor-skills practice to feed themselves.
If in your baby’s life 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 Exactly Are The Best First Foods?
My personal opinion on feeding 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.
I aim to introduce foods that aren’t usually allergenic and have a high nutritional value.
- easy to digest vegetables (zucchini, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes)
- non-problematic fruits (apples, pears, blueberries)
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)
Also introduce grains, preferably whole grains in cereal or cooked and pureed forms (oats, rice, wheat).
The next step is introducing:
- fermented or aged dairy products (yogurt, kefir, cheese)
- whole eggs
- all kinds of veggies, fruits, and meats.
At this feeding stage, it’s a good idea to add more texture by not pureeing the food completely.
When your baby is close to a year old, you can try feeding him the same foods you are eating, except puree or mash it.
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 in 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 my complete 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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