Woohoo your baby has reached the starting solids milestone! Congrats to your hard work and endless love to your infant these past four to six months. Now is when the real fun, and mess begins!
First steps first, is recognizing the signs indicating that your baby is ready to start eating solid foods. Some key signs to look for is an interest in food or what you are eating, as well as physical signs of readiness. Is your baby able to sit up on their own and control their head? Is your baby turning their head side to side? Did they lose the tongue thrust? Which essentially means that when offered food, they thrust the food out of their mouth with their tongue. Another recommendation is your baby should be 4-6 months in age and/or has doubled their birth weight (weighing approximately 13 pounds or more).
Great, if you answered yes to all or majority of those questions your baby may be ready to try solid foods! Now, let’s get into first foods!
Babies have iron stores that will last them approximately the first 6 months of life, however around the six months mark it is appropriate to start adding outside sources of iron to a baby’s diet. Unfortunately, breastmilk contains little iron and is not an adequate source of this nutrient after six months. Therefore, for exclusively breastmilk babies it is recommended that their first foods are ample in iron. Sources of iron rich foods include beef, pork, lamb, beans, legumes, chicken, poultry, iron-fortified infant cereal, tofu etc. Additionally, animal sources of iron are more readily absorbed by the body. Therefore, it may be beneficial to pair plant-based sources like legumes or beans with a high Vitamin C food such as broccoli or bell peppers.
Okay now it’s time to introduce these foods to your baby! There are a variety of feeding approaches to choose from whether it is baby-led weaning, spoon-feeding, or combo feeding. Whatever approach you choose it is important to wait approximately 3-5 days after introducing a new food to note any symptoms or allergic reactions. Once cleared for a reaction, you may introduce another new food!
Reminder this time is about exploration and exposure. Therefore, your baby is not going to start gulping down oatmeal the first day they start solids and that’s okay. This time is for introducing a variety of foods and allowing your baby to enjoy the journey of exploring new foods, flavors, textures, and smells at their own pace. Try not to stress too much about the amount of solid foods your baby is taking in at this phase because breastmilk or formula will remain to be their primary source of nutrition.
By Dr. Kathleen McCue
Feed your baby what you would want to eat….
Do not overthink it.
You like food with spices and herbs, they will too!
I have sessions with so many parents who stress and stress over what their child is eating… I am here to tell you to take a deep breath and trust your instincts. There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. Embrace the foods you enjoy eating and share them with your baby, simple as that. The overall goal here is to encourage a healthy and happy relationship with food. Not a relationship filled with stress, structure, and unattainable routines.
Listen to your body. And allow your baby to do the same.
Your child will eat when they are hungry. I know this is a hard truth to accept, yet they are the ones experiencing their bodily needs and will instinctually listen to that. Therefore, they will eat when they are hungry, they will decide how much to eat, they will decide when to eat, and they will decide what they want to eat.
A parent’s job when starting solids is to emphasize support and patience during the process. A big no no is force feeding your child as this will foster an unhealthy relationship with food. The parents who role model healthy eating habits and wholesome relationships with food tend to pass these onto their children as well.
Exposure is key when starting solids with a baby. Reminder that this is their first time trying everything, so it is vital to be patient and allow them to explore the foods with all their senses.
Release control and expectations of how the experience is supposed to happen. Stop obsessing over the mommy blogs portraying this perfect image of starting solids. It will get messy, like many things in life, so please don’t fret and embrace the beautiful journey of watching your baby try new foods and learn to love nourishing their bodies.
By Dr. Kathleen McCue