Way back in the day, when I first started Domestic Dreamboat, I wrote a guest post for Wisconsin Parent on making your own baby food. And since I'm now soon going to be in the position of feeding a baby solid foods for the first time, I'm going to have a go at the topic again. First I'll tell you all about how to feed your baby solid foods - how to know they're ready, what to feed them and logistics involved in solid foods. Later on, I'll write another post on how to make your own baby food. It's easy - really. Here we go.
When will your baby be ready for solid foods?
According to current guidelines, babies are ready to start eating solid foods around 6 months. Babies who eat solids before 4 months have a higher risk of obesity later on, and babies who don't start eating until much after 6 months may be at increased risk of developing texture aversions. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. However, every baby is different so here are some signs to look for that your baby may be ready to start tasting some solids:
- baby seems interested in foods and other people eating, and may even start grabbing for food
- baby can grasp objects and bring them to his mouth
- baby can hold his head up
- baby can sit up with minimal support
- baby can take food into his mouth without immediately pushing it out with his tongue
- baby is able to indicate that he is full by pushing away or turning his head
If your baby meets all of these criteria and seems hungrier than usual, and is over 4 months old, he may be ready to start solid foods.
What type of solid foods should I feed my baby?
While there used to be a recommended timetable of certain foods you should feed babies at certain times, the "rules" are much more flexible now. However, since most breastfed babies' iron stores start dropping at 6 months, it is recommend to start off feeding foods that are high in iron. This could be store bought iron fortified baby cereals, or pureed meats.
- When first starting solids, foods should be pureed to a thin consistency with no lumps. As baby is able to tolerate that (this should generally happen quite quickly), purees can be made thicker with more lumps. After that, baby should be ready for finger foods.
- Don't feed babies under 6 months homemade baby foods containing spinach, carrots, green beans, squash or beets. These veggies may be high in nitrates and cause a particular type of anemia. Store bought baby foods with these ingredients however, are safe, as they've already been tested for nitrates.
- Keep your baby's food plain. He doesn't need any seasonings, especially salt or sugar.
- While it used to be recommended to hold off on introducing allergenic foods like milk, eggs, nuts and fish until later, current evidence actually contradicted that recommendation. It is now believed that delaying the introduction of these foods can actually increase allergy risk. If there is a family history of allergy, watch your baby closely for signs of an allergy.
- Avoid foods that may be a choking hazard. This includes foods that are hard or very crunchy (nuts, popcorn, hard raw vegetables), sticky (large gobs or thickly spread peanut butter) or chewy (candy).
- Avoid honey (even if it's pasteurized) in babies under 1 year as it may cause botulism.
What should my baby drink?
Babies can start drinking water from a cup at 6 months when they start solids. It might take a long time and many (many) different cups before they find one they like and agree to drink from a cup. Don't start giving them milk until they are a year old (though they can have yogurt and cheese). Also don't give babies juice until they're much older. Even then, it should be diluted and used sparingly (eg. as a treat).
How do I go about introducing solid foods?
The logistics of starting solids can be tricky, especially if you're busy with older children or working outside of the house and your baby is with a caregiver for part of the day. There is no specific "method" to follow when introducing solids, just keep these general pointers in mind.
- Start off feeding baby solid foods once per day. Count on feeding baby about 1 tablespoon or less of food per feeding. Once baby is tolerating one "meal" per day, add a second, and eventually a third. Gradually increase the amount of food he gets as well. By the time your baby is a year old, he should be getting 3 solid meals per day, plus snacks at regularly scheduled intervals.
- When you first start feeding solids, keep your baby's breast or bottle feeding routine the same. Only after he has increased his solid food intake significantly will he want to start cutting down on his "liquid diet".
- Timing doesn't matter (too much). Avoid feeding baby solids when he's very hungry. Instead choose a time when he's not full, not hungry, but comfortable. This could be whatever time of day suits your schedule, but choose a time where you have minimal distractions. Some people say to avoid feeding solids in the evening, in case it upsets baby's stomach and keeps him awake. I'm not sure how great this risk is, but I've followed the advice so far as I will avoid anything that keeps my baby (and me!) awake at night. Try to keep the times that you feed your baby consistent from day to day.
- Wait a a couple of days after introducing a new food to watch for food allergies or sensitivities. If you introduce too many new foods at once, and your baby does experience an allergy, it would be difficult to determine which food caused it.
- Make sure you use a spoon that is made especially for babies. It will typically have a small, softer plastic (or silicone) bowl and longer handle. Larger spoons that are meant for older children may cause your baby to gag, and thus feeding will be difficult.
Stay tuned for another post on how to make your own baby food!