The Ultimate Guide to Introducing Your Baby to Solid Food
The first time baby eats solid food is an event worth celebrating! Any new parent should be excited for his or her little bundle of joy making this new milestone. New moms and first time parents might find this chapter in their lives challenging (and it can be challenging!) so it is important to be prepared. We at Baby Care Weekly made this comprehensive guide to help you and baby transition into this new chapter with ease and confidence.
Should I introduce my baby to solid food?
Many doctors say that your baby can begin solids between 4 to 6 months. Younger infants are not yet physically ready to eat and process solid food so breast milk or formula is a sufficient source for all the nourishment they need.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests breastfeeding babies exclusively for at least six months but they also acknowledge that some babies might show interest and readiness to start eating solid foods earlier. The most important thing is you pay close attention to your baby’s needs and any signs of readiness that he or she is displaying.
Signs That Baby is Ready to Start Eating Solid Food
Aside from age, there are physical, behavioral and cognitive signs that you need to consider when thinking of introducing baby to solid food. Your baby might be ready to eat solid foods if he or she:
- Can sit up properly
- Can keep his or her head steady and upright
- Mimics eating behavior like opening of mouth and chewing food
- Has mastered his or her tongue and does not automatically spit out food
- Is still hungry even after regular breastfeeding
- Has doubled his or her birth weight or has significant weight gain
- Is eager to participate in eating rituals (grabs food from your plate or asks food)
Important Reminders When Introducing Baby to Solid Food
So you think you and baby are ready for the journey to solid food? Here are some important reminders to keep in mind:
Breast milk or formula milk will still be an important source of nutrition for baby at this point so any changes to baby’s feeding routine should be done gradually. Make sure baby is not too hungry or cranky when you give his or her first solid food.
At first you’ll have to observe and experiment to see how to include solid food into baby’s feeding routine without replacing milk. For example, if your baby drinks a lot of milk, then you might let him or her eat solid food first and then have milk after. The goal at this time is to get baby to become familiar and comfortable to the act of eating and the new tastes and textures of solid food
Choose baby’s starter food
There is no one best starter food for baby, but healthy food should be your primary consideration. Instead of processed food, introduce baby to pureed natural foods like vegetables and fruits. Many American families start baby on infant cereal but there is no medical evidence to support the health benefits promised by these products.
Safety should be another important consideration. Don’t give food that pose choking hazards. These include hard and crunchy food like nuts, candies and popcorn and sticky food like gum and jelly. Vegetables, fruits and meats should be cut into small pieces, soft cooked or pureed.
Look out for allergic reactions
Once you have chosen baby’s first food, stick to it for about 3 to 5 days first before introducing a new one. This will not only familiarize baby to the new taste and texture but will let you observe any possible allergic reaction.
Some common allergenic foods include eggs, soy, wheat, peanut butter and fish. According to The American Academy of Allergy and Asthma and Immunology, introducing allergenic food when baby is about 4 to 6 months may keep him or her from developing food allergies.
If baby suffers from rashes, diarrhea or vomiting after feeding a new food item, stop feeding and contact your doctor. Be on the lookout for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction which includes difficulty breathing, wheezing and facial swelling.
If your baby has food allergies, you may need to work with an allergist and nutritionist to come up with a special feeding plan for introducing him or her to solid food.
Check baby’s bowel movement
Baby’s stool could change along with his diet. Constipation usually happens when baby is first introduced to solid food. Although this is common and temporary, consult your doctor if you notice that baby is particularly uncomfortable or having less frequent bowel movements.
Changes in the color and odor of baby’s stools are also normal when baby first tries solid food.
Things You Will Need for Feeding Solid Food to Baby
The following equipment and items are useful to have when introducing a mealtime routine to baby:
- High chair. This will help baby sit comfortably and safely. in place.
- Plastic eating utensils like spoons, bowls and dishes. These are gentler on baby’s gums.
- Waterproof baby bibs. These are easier to clean and more durable than cloth baby bibs.
- Food containers. Store pureed and leftover food in clean and safe food containers.
- Splat mat. Put this under the high chair or table to keep floor mess-free.
Baby’s First Mealtime Routine
At about 6 to 9 months baby will begin to understand the dynamics of eating. When you notice signs like eagerness and interest when eating solid food you can introduce a mealtime routine. Help baby get used to the practice of eating by following these tips:
- Practice eating on schedule (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and enjoy family meals together.
- Make sure baby is calm and focused. Remove distractions like television or loud noises. This will help baby become more conscious of how eating works and recognize physical signs of being full.
- Prepare for messes. Protect baby’s clothes and skin from spills and drool by getting waterproof silicone baby bibs. These are more durable and easier to clean than cloth bibs
Introducing baby to solid foods is certainly an exciting milestone! Share your stories and tips in the comments section.
Prepare yourself for cute and hilarious reactions when baby starts eating for the first time! Here’s a funny video of babies reacting to different food: