Mother feeing child solid food

Happy Family answers your most frequently asked questions about beginning solids

The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommend introducing solid foods at around six months of age—when your infant’s intestines are mostly developed. Some doctors may be OK with your baby beginning solids as early as four months. But the longer you wait, the better the outcome might be, as adding solid foods too early may increase the risk of allergies and even choking.

Below, Happy Family answers your top eight questions about feeding your little one solid foods, and how to get started:

1. What are signs that my baby is ready for solid food?

Some signs that your baby is ready for solids are:

  • Baby should be able to remain in a sitting position, unsupported. (Before beginning solids, babies need good head and neck control.)
  • Baby shows interest in food (AKA he or she is reaching for yours!).
  • Tongue thrust reflux is gone, and your baby can transfer food to the back of their mouth.

2. What is the best time of day to feed my baby?

Any new skill can be frustrating to learn, and eating solid foods is no different. To minimize the challenges, pick a time when your baby is not tired or cranky. Earlier in the day is usually best. Offer your child food when he or she is hungry, but not ravenous. This would typically be about an hour after you have nursed or given your baby a bottle.

Your baby’s signs of hunger may include:

  • Smiling, gazing and cooing at you during feeding
  • Actively moving his or her body or head toward food
  • Grabbing at the spoon or a hand holding food
  • Attempting to swipe food toward his or her mouth
  • Fussing and crying (provided, of course, you have ruled out other reasons like a full diaper or other discomforts)

3. What are some good examples of first foods to feed my baby?

Research shows that the first months of eating solid foods is the best window of opportunity to get a child to eat new, healthy foods.

Here are some ideas for first foods (no need to add salt or sugar!):

  • Small pieces of ripe and mashed banana and avocado
  • Soft, cooked and mashed sweet or white potatoes and butternut squash
  • Cooked whole-grain cereals with oats or quinoa
  • Cooked and soft, pureed vegetables such as peas, carrots and spinach
  • Pureed fruit such as apples, pears, mangos and peaches (no skin, core or pits)
  • Pureed moist beef or chicken

Provide your baby with many opportunities to try different foods and continue to reintroduce foods he or she may have previously disliked.

4. Do I have to wait a certain amount of time before introducing a new food?

Gradually introduce new foods every few days, and keep an eye out for an allergic reaction. If you suspect an allergic reaction—common warning signs include diarrhea, rash or vomiting—call and discuss this with your baby’s pediatrician. Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and meat.  Remember: Your baby’s main source of nutrition will still come from breast milk or formula until the age of one.

5. How much food should I feed my baby in one sitting?

Begin by offering approximately one to two tablespoons of food at each feeding, one to two times per day, in the beginning. Let your baby lead the way with how much and if at all, he or she wants to eat. Allowing children to self-regulate food intake according to their hunger levels versus parental need to control intake amount should start now. This sets up the beginning of a healthy relationship with food, starting with your baby’s first meal.

6. When should I transition from pureed foods to more textured foods?

Your baby will gradually start eating food more frequently and in greater quantities, eventually eating approximately three meals and two snacks per day. To help you get there, make sure to introduce varied textures of foods. Research shows that waiting beyond nine months to progress to lumpier foods may lead to selective eating and even rejection of alternative food consistencies. So, after feeding your baby pureed foods, be sure to advance to foods with a lumpier consistency once your baby becomes comfortable. When your baby has mastered thick and lumpy puree foods, move on to finger foods of various consistencies and sizes. By the end of your child’s first year, he or she will most likely be able to sit at the family table and eat soft finger foods.

7. When should I let my baby feed him or herself?

Around six to nine months is a good time. Expect things to be messy! You can certainly use a soft baby spoon for first meals to feed your baby but also allow for self-feeding and exploration. Give your baby some utensils to play with; this allows him or her to get used to seeing and handling them. This also provides a loose and fun environment when it comes to meal times (versus one of stress and forceful feeding, which leads to trouble down the road).

8. Are there any foods I should avoid giving my baby?

Avoid feeding your baby these specific foods in the first year:

  • Honey, due to the risk of botulism spores
  • Whole milk, due to the risk of iron deficiency and intestinal bleeding when given before 9 months. (Although cow’s milk should not be introduced until 12 months, yogurt can be introduced earlier because the cultures found in yogurt break down the milk sugar, or lactose, making it easier for baby to digest.)
  • Excess sodium
  • Foods that are dietary choking hazards. These include: nuts; seeds; popcorn; raisins and dried cranberries; popcorn; whole grapes and cherry tomatoes; whole kernel corn; olives; hot dogs; hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots; chunks of meat or poultry; sticky foods, such as peanut butter, which can get stuck in the back of the mouth; hard candy; gumdrops and jelly beans.

Additionally, try to avoid or actively limit these specific foods for children of all ages:

  • Coffee, tea and soft drinks containing caffeine, which can make babies and children irritable
  • Juice, sweetened beverages and added sugars
  • Additives, artificial preservatives and artificial sweeteners

Allison Tannenbaum, MS, RDN, CDN, CBS and Happy Mama Mentor. You can chat live with the Happy Mama Mentors to get answers to all of your nutrition and baby and tot feeding questions here: https://www.happyfamilyorganics.com/infant-feeding-support/

Sources:

“Starting Solid Foods” Healthy Children.Org – date accessed 27 July 2018

“When, What and How to Introduce Solid Foods” Centers For Disease Control – date accessed 27 July 2018