Introducing solid foods to your baby is a big step. The first thing is that you aren’t replacing breast milk with solid food. Solids won’t provide the complete nutrition that infants need.
A baby eating solid food is like entering into a transitional period. And, they will rely on breast milk for nutritional needs. However, you can train your baby to learn to eat solid food and how to accept new textures and flavors.
Between 4 and 6 months, babies are ready to start solids. Giving your baby the first taste of “real” food is a major milestone. So, before you start training your baby to take that first bite, it is important to know a few things.
- The Pros or Cons of Sending 3-Month-Old Infants to Daycare
- Pedialyte for Babies: When and How to Drink It, very important
- 10 Awesome Learning Activities for Toddlers and Parents?
- Why Affirmations And Meditation Can Help New Moms and Dads
- Best Places to Buy Baby Earrings in 2022: The Best Stores for Quality and Style
When is your baby ready to eat solid food?
Many experts believe that you shouldn’t train your baby to eat solids until their head becomes steady and they can sit upright in an infant feeding chair. Babies have to stay upright so that they can swallow food well without choking.
Apart from that, you can have success if your baby –
- Show signs about getting curious about foods
- Develops the habit of shifting food to the back of their mouth with the help of tongue
But, what about the baby’s age?
Pediatric organizations for decades have emphasized the fact that babies should be breastfed until 6 months after birth. After that, parents can train their infant to get started with solids. Recent studies have shown that babies who were introduced to solids between ages 4 and 6 months, lower the risk of developing allergies.
Moreover, introducing infants to a variety of foods during this period can help them to try different foods as they grow.
So, why not start solid food even earlier? Babies less than 4 months are susceptible to choking. Moreover, babies may respond to the new food and drink breast milk less. Furthermore, researchers suggest that starting solid food before 4 months might increase the risk of allergies.
If you get the safety precautions for your baby right and provided them with purees, you can train your baby to eat solid food after 4 months. Also, starting between 4 and 6 months reduces the chances of developing allergies for your child.
However, it isn’t clear whether there might be implications if you wait for at least 6 months and train your baby to eat a variety of nutritious, safe, finger foods.
Training your baby to eat solid foods:
Now that you have understood about the right time to introduce solids to your baby, next comes how you can train your baby to eat solid food. Keep in mind that babies who observe adults eating food and enjoying it develop a keen interest in eating foods. This is how you can introduce solid food to your baby.
- Know the right time – When you are breastfeeding, you can try solids whenever the supply of your milk is the lowest. For example, early evening or late afternoon. Offer your baby formula or breast milk in small quantities and then introduce the solids. One meal a day is what you should start with. And, increase gradually.
- Keep track of your baby’s mood – With these feedings in place, it might be challenging for your baby. Therefore, observe whether your baby is alert and cheerful to open their mouth for a spoon full of food. If the baby is getting sleepy or cranky, they might want to stick with either breast or formula milk.
- Don’t rush into things – When it comes to babies, eating food won’t get faster. You may be surprised to see that a little spoonful into the mouth takes much time to consume. So, give yourself and your baby plenty of time when it comes to feeding them.
- Sit tight – Holding your baby on your arms or lap while trying to give them an unfamiliar substance to eat should be the perfect recipe for a disaster. A feeding seat or a high chair is a must before your baby takes a bite.
Let them practice sitting on chairs for a few days so that they could be comfortable. Fasten the safety straps so that they can’t move with ease. However, if your baby can’t sit upright, it is better to postpone the idea of introducing solids for some time.
- Get the right spoon – You can skip the regular stainless spoon for now and use the plastic or silicone ones that are easier on the gums. Have a few of them around because you may need them to avoid power struggles. One will be used to feed the baby, one for the baby to hand, and the rest will be used if one lands on the floor.
- Introduce the food to your baby – A small introduction of the food before you attempt to put it on the mouth is a good practice. Give your baby a chance to rub, mash, and squish the food. They may even taste it. The good thing is that your baby will get familiar with the food whenever you offer them in a spoon.
- Smoothen the process – For your baby, adapting to spoon-feeding and new textures comes as a surprise. Hence, make the transition a smooth one. You can start by giving your baby about a quarter teaspoon of food. Also, place the food on the tip of their tongue.
If there are no issues, place the next one a little further inside the mouth. Gradually, your little one will get accustomed to spoon-feeding and will open their mouth as soon as the spoon approaches after some time.
- Don’t avoid rejection – It is common for babies to reject new food items many times when they are starting with. So, don’t push the spoon harder if your baby doesn’t open their mouth when the spoon approaches them. Instead, try the same thing again on the following day.
- Imitate things – Children tend to follow whatever they see in front of their eyes. So, if they find you opening your mouth wide opened imitating to taste the food from the spoon, they might get interested in the food and eat them.
However, remember to make a movement to your lips and relish to fake the situation properly.
- Know when to stop – Stop feeding your baby at the moment when your baby makes some kind of gesture such as a clenched mouth or turning head. It indicates that your baby is not willing to eat. Forcing your baby to eat more isn’t recommended at all.
- Don’t bother about the portions – If most of the food that you served your baby with ends up on the floor or didn’t eat, it is not a matter of concern. Keep in your mind that it is a part of experimentation and these things will happen.
Training your baby to eat solids is more about having the experience rather than making them eat by any means. A major portion of your baby’s nutrition for the first year still comes from breast milk or formula milk.
What should be the perfect first food for your baby?
If you live in the US, you have heard experts recommend giving your baby pureed unseasoned rice mixed with either breast or formula milk. In general, parents are advised to mix rice cereal to thin consistency for their baby.
While this is good and works fine, there are no studies that show rice is the only best choice. Even if you look at how people fed their babies across the world, you can find out that rice is one of the many foods that can be fed to a baby.
In agricultural societies, for example, parents feed their babies with a pureed mash of carb-rich staples available to them such as oats, corn, millet, or even rice and are mixed with animal milk. Traditional hunters provide their babies with mashed-up meat, fish, and animal fat.
These days, medical organizations have become savvy of all these things and they accept the fact that babies should start eating solids in the form of different pureed foods. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that pureed meats can be treated as the first foods for babies who are breastfed.
Meats have rich sources of iron and it becomes important for your baby because iron stores get depleted in babies after some time. Other foods might include sweet potatoes, peaches, pears, apples, and bananas.
However, emphasize more on pureed foods rather than sticky pastes, globs, or chunks. That’s because they can cause choking hazards for your baby.
How can you avoid choking hazards?
If you are feeding your baby who is 6 months old or up, and like to introduce finger foods, here are some guidelines that you should follow strictly.
- Test the food before giving it to your baby. Ensure that they are soft and your baby can mash them with their tongue
- Foods that can form a crumb inside the mouth should be avoided at any cost
- Ensure that your baby is sitting upright while you are feeding and not leaning back
- Never leave your baby unattended during the meal
- Don’t put whole foods into your baby’s mouth. The baby should do that whenever they think they are in control of the situation
Adding spices to your baby’s food:
Several experiments have shown that babies enjoy certain flavors like garlic. So, it is evident that there is no good reason to restrict infants to bland, flavorless foods. Infants experience different types of flavors even before they are born from the foods that their mothers eat.
Even breast milk has some kind of food flavors. Moreover, in different regions of the world, the first food for babies is pureed versions of food that their parents eat. However, it doesn’t mean that you can go on adding spices recklessly to your baby’s food.
In reality, babies encounter flavors in a bit different way compared to adults. And, they have a lower tolerance for spicy irritants and bitter flavors. Apart from that, many available spices might be contaminated with lead. While it might be overwhelming for you to add a bit of flavor to your baby’s food, learn about the sources of those spices.
Studies have proved that babies like flavors that came from their mother’s diet. Therefore, if spices such as cinnamon, cumin, or garlic, are part of what you eat daily, your baby might appreciate those flavors.
How can you tell if your baby is full?
Because your baby’s appetite doesn’t stay the same and it varies from one feeding to another, you can’t tell when they are full. However, you can look for certain signs that indicate your baby is done eating.
- Starts to play with the spoon
- Turns their head away from the food
- Leans back in the feeding chair
- Refuses to open their mouth when offered the next bite. Sometimes they close their mouth because their mouth might be full. So, give your baby time to swallow
How many times a day should you feed your baby with solids?
When you are starting, feed your baby with solid food once a day. Two times a day is what you should feed your baby when they are around 6 to 7 months old. And, when they are around 8 to 9 months old, you can give them solid foods three times a day.
However, certain foods are unsafe for babies and you should watch out for them. For example, honey can cause botulism in your baby. Also, your baby should wait for their first birthday to try soy milk or cow’s milk.
What should you do if your baby rejects new foods?
It is normal for your baby to push back the spoon, turn away from food, or reject food sometimes. While it is important to respect these signs by not giving them more food, you should never give up entirely. Instead, try again on the following day and look for changes. Most of the time, babies need repeated tastings to develop a liking for that specific food.
If all these things seem complicated, there is nothing to worry about. Training your baby to eat solid food is easier if you follow the right path. Remember that you are building a strong foundation for your baby’s healthy eating lifestyle.