Tips: How and When to Introduce Solid Foods
Introducing solid foods is at once an exciting notion for new moms and a nerve-wracking one. Personally, with my first baby I found it pretty stressful, but it just got easier and easier and with the rest of my five.
Now, what do I mean by solid foods? “Solids” actually doesn’t mean anything solid at all; it means purees and soupy foods. So how do you know when your baby is ready to start solids? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends beginning between 4 to 6 months, so it’s a good thing to ask your doctor about it at your 4-month well baby visit. Once you start, you will experiment with purees and baby cereals for around 2-3 months. So depending on when you start, you’ll be at this stage of “first foods” until your baby is around 7 to 9 months old.
Some parents are eager to start early, but don’t despair if your baby just isn’t ready. My first didn’t eat anything at all until he was 7 months old (he’s still a picky eater). This was upsetting to me, but eventually, he ate! This is one of those things, like worrying about when by baby would walk, that I really stressed about. I later realized learned didn’t matter as much as I thought!
Signs of Readiness for Solid Foods:
- Tongue thrust reflex subsides. Most babies are born with this reflex where she pushes her tongue forward to protect herself from choking. It usually goes away by 4 to 5 months.
- Baby able to move food through mouth
- Baby able to sit up
- Baby has head and neck control
- Baby might show signs of curiosity for food
- Baby appears hungry
You can try and give solids at any point in your baby’s day. What I did is give the milk first and then wait 20 minutes or so – read my Solid Feeding Schedule or watch the show for more on that. Trying to thrust a spoon with sweet potato into the mouth of an infant used to nice warm milk might not work at first, especially not first thing in the morning! If you give milk first, the baby is not crying with hunger and you can experiment with giving her a few mouthfuls of the solid. You can try this after the morning, midday, and evening feeds.
Guidelines for Introducing New Foods:
- Wait three days to be safe days before starting another type of food
- Check for signs of allergies or bad reactions: diarrhea, rash, vomiting
- If there’s a reaction, stop giving food in question immediately and contact your doctor
If you are trying to start solids and aren’t getting anywhere, check with your doctor. He might recommend waiting a week or two and then trying again, which is what happened with me and it worked out just fine.
The tradition with first foods has been to begin with single grain, iron-fortified baby cereals one at a time: first rice, then a single whole grain like oatmeal, then another single grain like barley. You prepare these cereals with a little bit of breast milk or formula so it’s very liquidy (Click here for my demonstration).
But you don’t have to follow tradition. You can think outside the cereal box! Some people think it’s better to start with pureed fruits or especially veggies, maintaining that doing so prevents babies from developing a preference for starchy, sweet foods. This is really up to you and your doctor. One thing to keep in mind if you start with fruits or veggies is that at 6 months of age your baby’s iron stores may begin to diminish so ask your doctor about which sources of iron are good for your baby. Some examples are iron-fortified cereal, formula, meat, or baby vitamin supplements.
Stage One Pureed Food Choices:
- Sweet potato
- Butternut or winter squash
- Green beans
- Meats such as chicken (a great source of zinc and iron)
Watch my video here for a demonstration of how to go about feeding these first foods to your baby.
Once your baby has accepted these new foods with no adverse reactions, you can then combine the single fruit or veggie or meat with rice, oatmeal or whole grain cereal.
Foods to Avoid in the First Year:
- Cow’s milk
My doctor told me to stay away from fish, eggs, and nuts until after the first year because these foods can cause allergic reactions. However, some doctors think it’s okay to introduce eggs and certain types of fish, beginning at 4 to 6 months.
Also no cow’s milk until the first birthday and stay away from honey because it can be a source of bacteria.
Store-Bought Baby Food:
There are a number of different brands of jarred baby foods as well as many organic options. When I’m on the go, I bring a pouch of organic puree by a company like Plum Organics, Happy Baby or Ella’s Kitchen a plastic bowl, a spoon or two and some paper towels into a Ziploc bag and that’s all you need. When you are done feeding, you rinse the bowl and spoon and put back into the bag.
Many people choose to make their own baby food to save money and also because they like to know the food is fresh and organic. If you have the time, the way to do this at first is through single foods. I would make small amounts, and then freeze in small amounts in safe plastic ice cube trays for freezing or small glass containers. Make sure you put on the date; you can use non-stick blue tape. Personally, I try to use within two weeks. Then, I defrost overnight in the fridge or take out that morning and I use that day, fresh is best. Click here for my show that demonstrates all this.
Best of luck introducing these delicious things to your baby and check out my shows on second stage foods and finger foods for more information as you continue to feed and enjoy your own little chicken!