What tells you that your baby is ready to start eating solid foods?

  • Baby is at least 4 months old (if your baby was born premature, wait until they are at least 4 months “corrected age”; e.g. if baby was born two months premature, wait until they are ~6 months old).

    • Before 4 months, your baby’s gut is not ready for anything other than breast milk, or formula, if breast milk is not available.
    • Early introduction of solids increases risk of food allergies.
  • Baby holds their head up well

    • If baby doesn’t have good head control, they will have a hard time swallowing food without choking.
  • Sits with just a little support

    • If baby is falling to one side or the other, they will have a hard time managing food in their mouth and swallowing.
  • Moves toys and objects from one hand to the other.

    • This is another sign that baby has good control of head and body.
  • Acts interested in YOUR food

    • Baby reaches for whatever you are eating.
    • Baby shows interest in whatever you are offering them–leans forward to take food off spoon or your fingers.

These things typically happen by 6 months of age.

It is important for babies to start foods by about 6 months of age.

  • The window of time between 6 months and 1 year is a “critical stage of development” for learning to eat.

    • Waiting later than 1 year to start foods may make it difficult for  baby to learn to eat.
  • Some research suggests that introducing foods by 6 months helps to prevent food allergies.

    • In countries like Israel, where peanut products are introduced as an early food, there is far, far less peanut allergy in children than in the US or Western Europe.
  • Eating is important for babies’ development

    • Eating solids helps baby move their tongue around their mouth–importatn for development of Speech.
  • Introducing foods to babies is a fun part of parenting!

First Foods

 

  • Contrary to popular belief, there IS NOT ONE FOOD to start with! You can give vegetables, fruits, meats, cereals….

    • First foods need to be very soft or pureed
      • You can use commercial baby foods, or grind or mash your own foods
      • Babies eat so little to start with that making your own “baby foods” is least expensive (a new eater will not finish a jar of baby food!)
    • There is a good case for giving a food that is high in iron, like meat or iron fortified cereal (e.g. baby rice, oat or wheat cereal).
      • Breast milk is low in iron, and babies use up the iron stores they got from mother before birth by 4 to 6 months of age.
      • If using baby cereal, mix it with expressed breast milk or formula to get to the consistency that you want.
      • If using meat, cook in a moist method (roast with broth, steam or stew) and grind meat with a baby food grinder or a blender.
        • It is just fine to use baby food meat or poultry, but it is expensive!
    • You can start with whatever vegetables, fruits, cereals, meats you have on hand, just grind, mash or blend to make them very soft.
  • Making home made “baby food”

    • Making large batches of baby food:
      • Cook meat or poultry in a moist method (bake or cook in broth or water)
      • Steam or boil vegetables
        • Blend food in a blender and then pour into ice cube trays, cover and freeze.
        • Pop out a cube at feeding time and heat in microwave or in a small pan on the stove (stir well and check for hot spots before feeding to your baby!)
        • Send a few cubes to daycare with your baby.
    • Cook rice or other grain with extra water to make it very soft.
      • Mash with a fork or put in blender with meat and/or vegetables
    • Cook pasta until very soft and mash with a fork, or let baby try to eat with their fingers
    • Cook potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes and just mash with a fork.
    • Scramble or boil eggs and mash with a fork
    • Mash soft fruits with a fork, mix with a little rice, pasta or baby cereal if they are very juicy (this gets them to an easy consistency for baby to eat)
      • Bananas, baked apples can just be mashed and fed–no need to blend or mix with anything else.
      • Peaches, nectarines and pears work better if mixed with something that is starchy.

Enjoy this time in your baby’s development!

  • Feeding should be fun for both baby and parents!

  • BUT, some infants have a difficult time with feeding!

  • If your baby is having a hard time transitioning to solids, ask your pediatrician to refer them to a feeding specialist

    • This could be a pediatric Dietitian, a Speech Therapist or Occupational Therapist who has had special training in infant feeding.

Look for my next post on moving from “baby foods” to whole foods.

 

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