For many moms and dads, the introduction of solid foods is an anxiety-provoking occasion. Feeding your infant doesn’t have to be a stressful situation. Just get back to the basics in a fun, healthy, and safe way. Try these 5 tips for a good start:
1. Wait until your baby is 4 - 6 months old to start on the solid foods
Some experts recommend breastfeeding your babies exclusively for the first 6 months, but other professionals and public health organizations advise parents to transition to solids any time between 4 to 6 months. Before this first bite your baby must display the following signs of readiness:
- Your baby must be able to hold his head up on his own and be able to sit up.
- He should display signs of interest on food and open his mouth when offered.
- Your baby must be able to move food from his mouth into his throat. If he seems to push it right back out of his mouth, give him a few more practice bites, but also consider waiting another week or two.
2. Meats, legumes, veggies, and fortified cereals are the best options
There is no reason to wait for meat – you can make it one of your baby’s first foods. Eggs and fish are also an excellent choice. Legumes are packed with protein and relatively high in iron – try lentils, mashed chickpeas, or beans. Vegetables are nutritious and usually well received by your budding foodie. Offer some fruits, but know that they don’t give you as much nutritional bang for your buck, being higher in sugar and water. Including two daily servings of fortified cereal in your baby’s diet, it will help ensure that he is getting enough iron.
3. Wait a few days between introducing new foods
Giving your baby 2 - 3 days between trying new food gives you time to watch for food allergy symptoms, and if those symptoms should appear, you will know that they are likely intolerant to the new food. Food allergy symptoms may include diarrhea, rashes, and vomiting. Foods like egg whites, fish and shellfish, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, citrus, and berries are more likely to cause food allergies. Also, if you have a history of food allergies in your family, talk to your pediatrician about the timing of introduction of high allergy foods. Avoid honey until the first birthday, since honey can be contaminated with spores, and the risk of botulism is greatest in infants.
4. Start low
Start with one solid meal per day, a tablespoon or two at first. As your baby starts to show more interest in food, gradually increase the amount offered and the number of meals up to three solid meals per day. Your baby should decide how fast and how much food to eat. This comes naturally when your baby eats finger foods. If you are spoon-feeding, be sure to relax with your baby and enjoy the meal together. Wait for your baby’s signs that he wants more before pushing the spoon into his mouth.
5. More importantly: know what to do if your baby starts choking.
Learn the baby Heimlich maneuver. At this age, any number of things in your house and the world, including food, can be choking hazards, and you should be ready. Avoid giving your baby foods that are small and firm such as raisins, popcorn, and nuts.
We hope these tips help you as your embark on your baby's food adventure! If you're beginning this process, don't forget to speak to your pediatrician for advice before starting your baby on solid foods because every baby is different and unique!