A baby’s first year is full of milestones. Some theirs and most ours as parents.
The first time you did the diaper, surviving the first night when you brought your baby home, the first time daddy managed a whole day with the baby while Mama was on a break. Ah, the joys of parenthood.
One of the biggest milestones is introducing solids, and it can be very exciting for baby, and even more so for mothers. If your breastfeeding your little one, then you might be relieved to finally have an alternative source of food.
I know I was…
But starting solids is no easy run, and there is a whole lot you need to know before you both go down that road. And be prepared for disaster.
So Mummies, get out your notepad and take notes! Here is everything you need to know about introducing solids to your baby.
It takes a baby’s digestive system 4 months to develop the enzymes that help break down foods that are not milk. Before this time, the babies menu has one sole item- milk (breast or formula).
The ideal time to start solids is between 4 to 6 months.
While some babies start showing interest in solids by 4 months, research says that their digestive systems are not ready for solids until 6 months of age.
The early introduction could lead to diarrhea and gastroenteritis. And cleaning up all that poop is no joke honestly. If there is some funny business about their diapers and you are not sure, then it is strongly recommended to visit a pediatrician right away.
Take Tammy Gold’s word for it, she is an expert.
Signs Your Baby Is Ready To Try Solids
If you are enjoying your guilt-free pizza around your child and he/she is trying to reach it or making a fuss, then chances are they are ready to indulge in this great activity called eating. Unfortunately for their taste buds, they cannot have the pizza anywhere in the near future.
Besides this, if your baby is chewing on his toys or is constantly trying to eat her hands, then this to start solids. Some babies do not communicate so well (which is no cause for concern), in which case you need to look for other signs:
- Your baby can control his neck and hold his head up
- Sits with only a little support
- Responds with an open mouth when you put a spoonful
Not the pizza, this is settled. You start with pureed fruits and vegetables that are very thin and runny so they can digest it easily. Some babies hate the different taste and might spit it out right away but take heart and don’t worry. To begin with, baby cereal, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, avocados, pears, squash and full-fat yogurt are excellent ideas.
If the baby responds positively to these foods and their digestive systems agree too, then gradually you change the texture and thicken the pureed foods. The process is a slow one so be patient, and your baby will take a liking to it too as well.
How to choose first foods for baby 4-6 months old:
- Start with things that grow on trees or are grow close to the ground. (baby cereal, rice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, bananas, avocados, pears, squash)
- Unless you are trying baby-led weaning, you should offer runny and smooth purees.
How to choose foods for baby 6-8 months old:
- Same as 4-6 month old, plus introduce more variety of fruits and veges, and some meat and grains (apricots, blueberries, grapes, kiwi fruit, broccoli, carrots, parsnip, zuccini, beans, chicken, turkey, pasta, oats)
- Unless you are trying baby-led weaning, you should offer smooth purees.
How to choose foods for baby 8-10 months old:
- Same as 6-8 month old, plus introduce more variety of fruits and veges, and some meat, eggs and dairy. (citrus fruits, tomatos, spinach, onions, cauliflower, beet, peppers, potato, turnip eggplant, beef, eggs, pork, cheese, yogurt)
- Unless you are trying baby-led weaning, you should offer thicker purees and smaller finger food.
How to choose foods for baby 10-12 months old:
- Same as 8-10 month old, plus introduce more variety of fruits and veges, and some more meat and dairy (strawberries, rasberries, fish, cows milk, corn)
- Chopped into finger food size for easy consumption for babies.
How To Prepare For Introducing Solids To Your Baby?
Personally, I cried at a glimpse of all the spat out food on the table and the floor.
Baby Solids Starter’s kit:
- Bib: start clipping on those bibs now or they will reject it later.
- High chair: We recommend high chairs that are easily cleaned and collect spilt food over time. And again use these early to avoid the rejection factor
- A few plastic spoons: one for feeding, one to hand your baby and a couple more that he might throw away
- Soft bowl: a spare bowl for your child to grab off the table might be a good idea too
- Reusable Food Pouches: for easier feeding of homemade vegetable or fruit puree. They are also safe and convenient for freezing large batches
- Wipes: to clean you your baby and any message afterwards.
Before you start with the actual feeding, take some time out and practice sitting in the high chair a couple of occasions. Make sure you strap him in just right and if your baby has trouble sitting in the high chair after all the strapping and support, then maybe you could delay solids for a couple of more weeks.
Encourage him by exciting him. Take the first bite and make big, yummy faces which make them excited to discover what is it that mummy is having.
How Much Food Should You Start With?
Start with a couple of teaspoons and increase the quantity as you go. Introduce one new fruit or vegetable every four days and give their system the time it needs to adapt. Remember, their digestive systems are just getting started, and they need a head start.
Once your baby starts to reject the spoonful or spits the food out, stop.
Seriously just stop.
As a mother, we always think they haven’t had enough but it is their body, and your baby knows best so it is wise to listen to them. You don’t want them to puke everything they just had or overeat.
Pushing babies to eat often leads to food rejections in the very near future. You want your baby to enjoy eating and not turn it into a task that needs to be checked off the list of things to do.
How much baby food for a 4-6 month old baby?
- Breast milk or formula is still the core of the babies diet at this age
- Start with baby steps- only 1-3 teaspoons at a time.
- Introduce new foods in their diet every 4-7 days.
- Don’t push it even if your child hasn’t had any food.
How to Deal With Food Allergies
This is the biggest risk factor and stuff of nightmares of every concerned mother. What if my child is allergic to something and has an adverse reaction to it?
Well, you can’t find out quick enough so be very careful and keep a watchful eye on your child after you introduce a new food. The only way you will discover if your baby is allergic is by having the food.
If any of the family members have any allergies to certain foods, then take extra caution before starting those foods. In fact, it is always best to consult with the pediatrician that knows your baby and ask for his professional advice on the best way to approach a ‘risky’ food to your baby. Sometimes with kids, we can never be too careful.
Symptoms of Baby Food Allergic Reaction:
- Skin rashes
- Breathing difficulty
- Tongue or lip swelling
- Excessive crying
According to research, if you introduce foods like eggs, seafood and nuts early on, there is a smaller chance your baby will develop an allergy to the particular foods. So I don’t mean to push you down the metaphorical staircase here or anything, but talking to your pediatrician is the best approach to dealing with allergies. It is important that we as parents are comfortable and confident about the foods we offer our babies.
Steps to dealing with baby food allergic reactions:
- If there are allergies present in the family, then introduce those foods with utmost care. In case of severe reactions, consult a pediatrician immediately.
- In case of severe reactions, consult a pediatrician immediately.Introducing foods that have a risk of allergies sooner decreases a chance of developing them later.
- Introducing foods that have a risk of allergies sooner decreases a chance of developing them later.
Offering The Right Food Textures
The texture of the food is one of the biggest discussions in the world of baby-raising. When you first start solids, whether it is at 4 months or 6, you start with pureed, smooth foods that should be made runny with formula or breast milk.
Eventually over the course of weeks as your baby gets accustomed to the idea of having foods other than milk and responds positively, you can make the texture thicker and then later make the food lumpier.
By the time your baby is 9-10 months old, you can start introducing table foods. By their first birthday, they can be eating with the whole family at the table. Be prepared for screaming, a lot of fuss, mess, and food on the table and floor by then. Soon enough quiet dinners will become a thing of the past.
Continuing pureed foods for too long will lead to rejection to different textures when they grow up. You don’t want to raise a picky eater, ladies. Trust me. But if your baby is not comfortable with the change of texture and seems agitated or refuses to take a bite, then back up and slow down. Give him some time and he should settle on his own.
Actionable steps – Offering the Right Food Textures:
- Introduce texture once your baby has successfully digested smooth purees.
- Take it slow but not too slow. Babies can take different textures by the age of 7 months.
- Unless advised by the doctor, they can be eating table foods by 12 months.
- If your baby gets fussy and irritated, then back up – this is a major sign he isn’t ready.
Baby-Led Weaning Your Baby
Welcome to the world of modern day baby raising. Parenting tactics have changed drastically over the years, and some typical examples are “don’t say no to your kids” and “don’t spank your kids”.
Did you really think feeding kids would be the same in this era? Nope! Baby-led weaning is when you skip the purees even as first foods and hand the baby finger foods directly. They explore and discover. Sometimes with their tongue and most times with their nose. Just hand them the banana and let them do their thing.
While it is quite obviously the messier option, and kind of makes me cringe… it is an excellent way to create good eating habits in your baby. The baby will adapt to foods well, get excited to eat and really enjoy mealtimes. If you don’t want to rely entirely on baby-led weaning, then you can do a mixture of both, purees plus finger foods.
But you will have to keep an eye on them in case they choke on the food or stuff too much in their nose. Trust me, it happens. Choking and gagging are another one of those things that can easily be classified as ‘nightmare stuff’. If you child is gagging, it is due to the new feeling of food in their mouth. And kids gag a lot when first introduced to foods so don’t be so alarmed. Keep your calm, you will need it.
Baby-Led weaning foods
As mentioned, Baby-led weaning comes with some special considerations to ensure its safe for your baby.
Choosing which finger foods you let your baby try is very important, and the food will need to be prepared, cutting into small managable pieces for the baby (baby fist-size), and may need to be soften by steam cooking or baking it before giving to your baby.
The recommend foods to start with are:
- Fruits – banana, pear, apple, avocado, peaches, nectarines, melons, plums.
- Vegetables – broccoli, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, green beans, pumpkin, white potato, beet, bell pepper, cauliflower, cucumber.
- Grains – whole-wheat fusilli pasta, wheat toast with hummus, boiled rice.
- Other – toasted bread, ricotta, chicken or turkey chunks, grated cheese.
Heres another resource for more baby led food ideas.
Yep, just hand it over
How to baby led wean your baby:
- Just hand over soft foods and watch the mess as it happens (foods mentioned in section above).
- Great way to encourage self-feeding.
- A better idea would be to take baby-led weaning as well as smooth purees together so keep them used to the different texture.
Pre-Made Baby Foods V’s Home-Made Baby Foods
Do you lack the energy to make baby foods after those nursing/feeding sessions? Or are you off maternity break and simply can’t cope? While making baby food is not that much work or effort, there is little reason to feel guilty about pre-made foods.
Here is the thing. Pre-made baby foods lose most of their nutrition in the packaging process in order to increase their shelf life. I don’t want to give the verdict but regarding nutrition content, home-made food wins. ALWAYS!
Another advantage of making foods at home is you can puree whatever fruit or vegetable you like. Or make mixtures of both. Most pre-packaged foods contain mostly fruit purees and very little vegetable. Your baby will not meet vegetables for a while and might not learn how to enjoy them.
Making baby food at home isn’t that hard and doesn’t even require a lengthy cooking process either. Some fruit simply need to be mashed away. Others need to be boiled or roasted before being mashed away. Also, homemade baby food is much cheaper than pre-made baby food.
But this does not mean pre-made food is a poison of any sort. It does come with a lot of conveniences. I found it very easy to carry a little jar and spoon in my diaper bag and feed it to him when I had no time to make food at home.
Toss one in your bag and you are ready to go
There is no reason why you cannot do a mixture of both. Fruits like banana or avocado simply need to be mashed right up so I will highly encourage you to avoid the jar and do it the old-fashioned way.
How to prepare homemade baby food:
- Prepare vegetables or fruit by peeling and chopping food
- Steam vegetables or fruit till cooked
- Puree with food processor, can add cooking liquid or formula to achieve correct food texture
Successful Homemade Baby Foods Storage
If you lack the energy and time to cut up fruits and cook and puree them after a long day at work then behold. You can always store homemade purees for later use. If this was you, skip the cons of pre-made jars, and get the pros of homemade foods without the daily hassle.
You can simply steam, bake or boil fruits and vegetables and then puree them in a blender or a food processor. You can mix a couple of fruits and vegetable as you go. My baby loved carrots and potatoes together.
As you blend the food, thin them out using formula, breast milk or water. Fill up resusable food pouches or ice cube trays (plastic), and wrap up the tray in plastic and toss in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the pureed cubes from the tray and store in bags.
Make sure you label and date them as you go and remember, DO NOT USE THESE FROZEN FOODS IF STORED FOR MORE THAN A MONTH. This is the word of God.
For more interesting baby recipes, click here.
How to store homemade baby food:
- Boil/bake/steam and blend away.
- Store for later use by freezing in ice cube trays and or re-useable food pouches.
- Label and date them before putting in freezer.
- Home-Made Baby Food will keep for 1 month if stored in the freezer, or 2 days if stored in the fridge.
Starting Solids to Premature Babies
Premature babies require special treatment and starting solids is no exception. Every preemie is different from another and the nutritional needs and requirements vary largely depending on how premature your baby is. Whatever the case, you need to talk to your pediatrician first before starting solids since it is a big milestone and it crucial to identify if your preemie is ready or has needs other than milk.
A preemies signs of readiness for solids are same as a full-terms baby’s (holds head up, sits by himself) but there could be development delays so don’t freak out if he doesn’t meet all the requirements. However, if he pushes the food out or gags too much then it is a wise idea to put off solids for a while.
Whatever you decide don’t rush to make milestones meet. This is sound advice to all parents at all points in life. Let all your babies go at their own pace.
Avoiding Non-Picky Eaters
Well, some kids are born picky so we don’t have to take all the blame for their poor eating habits. Only partial. We as parents make our natural picky eaters worse by pushing them too much. Well, I confess I do. My son has taken into licking his spoon first and then pushing out the food if he doesn’t like the taste. It drives me nuts. So if your mealtime is turning into something close to war, then there are some things you are doing wrong.
Fortunately, we can always set right those wrongs and I have been implying some of these methods and with great success.
Start with a scheduled dinner. If the whole family eats together at one table every day then the baby automatically is interested in the activity. There will be a lot of screaming and throwing food and it can get annoying especially after a long day but it is better than a starved child.
Strictly no phones/toys/TV/iPads during dinner time. I agree they make stuffing food down your baby very easy but at a big cost. Your baby doesn’t learn to listen to his hunger cues and honestly, it’s a bad, bad eating habit generally speaking.
Learn more from this Mum and her eating hacks:
Encourage your baby to feed himself. While feeding your baby with your hands is a lot less messy and takes lesser patience, it is a habit that will stick long and is hard to break. They take it well into toddlerhood and some even later. When I watch my son literally take one grain of rice at a time I get very frustrated but he enjoys the eating process and that calms my nerves.
Give it good time. I know motherhood takes a fair share of patience and then some more. But remember, some good habits will take you a long way. By the time your baby will be 24 months old, their eating habits will last long. Both good and bad. So just work hard for a couple of years.
How to raise a non-picky eater:
- Don’t push- you will make it worse.
- Encourage self-feeding by leaving him to the plate.
- Schedule a dinner time and sit with the whole family.
- Give it as much time as needed.
- Discourage TV or distractions during meals.
Stick With It… It gets easier
In all honesty when I first started solids I kept thinking feeding my baby just breast milk was so much easier and I wish I has continued for a while longer. But if there is something that does not rhyme with laziness is motherhood.
Also, whenever you decide to start solids remember continuing breast milk or formula is very important. Your baby should receive either or both (whatever you do) for at least a year and then after that they can be put on whole milk but not anytime before 12 months. This is crucial so bookmark this.
This is all the stuff I really wish I had known before I started. The beginning of my journey of solids with my baby was too close to disastrous, but many tears and struggles later we found our way. Patience, all you need is patience.