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Any new parent is more than aware that giving solid foods to their baby is a significant step, one that can be quite scary as well. As delicious as vegetables and fruits sound, changing a baby's diet to solids is not an easy decision, and should always be accompanied by the substantial and extensive reading. It is important to understand the benefits of switching to solids, how to identify the risk of food allergies, and also how to develop healthy eating habits.
That's the reason why in this article, I will explore the reasons for which you might want to switch from breast milk or powder to solid foods, and the appropriate time to take this course of action, but most importantly, I will outline some essential tips parents will be interested in!
Three signs that your baby is ready for their first food
1. Their sitting position
People speak a lot about body language, and when it comes to babies, the cues don't change too much. Logically, you need to make sure that your child can stay in an upright sitting position and hold their head steady. Of course, it does depend on your baby's rate of development, but you need to ask yourself questions like "can my baby hold his head up?", or "can my child sit in a chair?"
2. Eye, mouth and hands coordination
Another sign is your baby’s ability to coordinate their eyes, hands, and mouth so he or she can look at the food, pick it up and place it in their mouth, all by themselves. For example, if you feed your infant and he or she pushes the food out of his mouth, he might not have the ability to push the meal to the back of his mouth to swallow it.
That’s something to remember, and also, the fact that until that point, your baby has not had anything thicker than breast milk. That’s why you can try to either thicken up or dilute the food for the first few times.
3. How to judge their ability to swallow foods
Although not scientifically proven, once babies double their birth weight, usually around 6 months old and weigh about 13 pounds or more, they should be ready for solid foods. As mentioned earlier, start small, as your baby might not know what to do at first. There is also a possibility that he or she will reject the food. That's also normal.
One potential solution is to start off by giving your infant a little breast milk or formula, and then to switch to tiny half spoons of food, and finish with more breast milk or formula. This is just a little way to trick your baby, and then you may be able to increase the amount of food gradually, with just a teaspoonful or two to start.
However, one thing to remember is not to make your baby eat if she or he cries or turns away when you feed them. Starting solid foods is a gradual process, a learning curve, thus just keep your ground and don't forget that each baby is unique.
Which food should I give my baby first?
Important nutrients you should include
When your child is growing up, you need to make sure that they get as much iron and zinc as possible. Usually present in pureed meats or iron-fortified cereals, these foods provide a lot of nutrients that are vital to healthy development. Also, watch out for any adverse reactions — such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting — to avoid any potential allergies. If your doctor recommends supplements, don't forget that artificial milk is fortified with nutrients and that you don't want to over-stimulate your baby's body.
Baby cereal basics
Unless your baby's doctor asks you to, you shouldn’t add cereal to his bottle, because this could create a choking hazard, or alternatively, it may lead to excessive weight gain. It's safer to either use a food processor to blend the cereal into a paste or feed them to your baby, a few at a time, under constant supervision. Either way, use a spoon because like that you can control portions and your infant's rate of chewing.
Incorporating vegetables and fruits to your baby's diet
If you've looked up tips for feeding your baby before, then you might be aware that some parents recommend starting with vegetables instead of fruits. If you're scratching your head wondering why, it is because some parents think this will stop their babies from developing a sweet tooth. The bad news is that much like adults, babies also have a preference for sweets, so it won't make a difference with which you start of.
For example, your child's first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables like sweet potato, regular potato, carrot, apple or pear. You can also try different fruits such as peach or melon; however remember to leave 3 to 5 days in between trying new food, just in case there are adverse reactions.
Introducing your baby to finger food
Checkout 10 great finger foods video by baby center
Although it may take some time, by 8 months to 10 months, most little ones can take small portions of finely chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits and vegetables, pasta and dry cereal, or even well-cooked meats. When coming close to the age of 1, your baby will require 3 meals per day, in addition to a couple of snacks. Finger foods are a great option for your baby to learn to eat and chew by himself, for example bits of soft ripe banana or avocado.
Can your baby drink juice?
Although juice could seem like a healthy and obvious solution, it doesn't contain as many nutrients and is not overall as valuable as your baby eating a whole fruit. Besides, juice may be a leading cause of diarrhea or tooth decay, and it may also negatively curve your baby's appetite.
If you do want to give your baby juice, wait until he is at least 6 months or older. Moreover, make sure the juice is 100 % natural fruit juice, ideally homemade.
How often and how much (e.g. feeding patterns)
1. From 4 to 6 months
It is vital to keep nursing around that age. In addition, around that age your baby will start to learn to use a cup, so make sure to give him or her a few sips or water one or two times a day (no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours).
2. From 6 to 7 months
You can start introducing your baby to solids food, however only once a day, at most. Sometimes parents only offer solids every few days, however always remember to keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula, too. One important advice I can offer is NOT to give them whole cow's' milk until they are one year old.
3. From 7 to 9 months
Around that age, your baby will probably eat around three meals a day. These meals will be a mixture of mashed vegetables and fruits, or soft finger foods.
4. From 9 to 12 months
Considering that your baby will be eating three meals a day, in addition to breast milk or powder, you can now also add some healthy snacks to the mix (e.g. toast, rice cakes, vegetable sticks). Nonetheless, I would recommend aiming that no more than 25% of your baby's calories come from solids by the age of 12 months.
What changes can I expect after my baby starts solids?
Solid food also brings about a change in your baby's stool color and odor. A small warning: because of having used milk or formula up to that point, you will probably be "greeted" by some strong smells, in comparison to the mild scents you are probably used to already. Moreover, when your baby starts eating solid foods, the stools will probably vary in color. For example, peas, broccoli, and other green vegetables may turn the stool into a deep-green color, whereas beets may make it red.
What are the signs of a food allergy?
1. How to recognize highly allergenic foods
Once upon a time, parents were being told to initially avoid highly allergenic foods such as eggs, fish, peanuts, and nuts. Nowadays, however, there has been no evidence of a link between these foods and allergies. What evidence does suggest though is that high-risk children who regularly consumed peanut protein (e.g. peanut butter or snacks containing peanut butter) were 70 to 86 % less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Thus, there may be a strong link between introducing allergenic foods - fed to children which were around 4 to 6 months- and not developing food allergies later in life.
2. Off-limit foods
As mentioned earlier, certain foods are not appropriate for babies. For example, I mentioned not giving cow’s milk or honey before the age of 1. This is because cow's milk is not the right source of iron your baby needs, whereas honey might contain spores which can lead to infant botulism. Moreover, it won't come as the surprise that foods that present themselves as a choking hazard are a no-no.
More specifically, don't offer your baby big chunks of meat or cheese, raw vegetables or grapes, unless you've already cut them up into smaller pieces. Also, don't feed your baby seeds and nuts, because I choke on those quite often and I'm an adult!
3. What extensive research has told us about solids for babies
According to research, parents should follow the rule of “complementary
feeding." This means that all infants should start receiving foods in addition to breastmilk, but
only after they are at least 6 months or older.
The food should be highly nutritious, meaning that it should be equal in some vitamins and minerals it contains in comparison to milk. Additionally, babies should be given what research defines as “appropriate” foods, meaning foods which have the right texture, consistency, and adequate quantity.
Great tips for starting solid foods
1. Encourage adventurous eating
Like I've mentioned before, there is no reason to stick to bland and boring foods. Also, just because you don't like a particular food, it doesn't mean your baby won't, so don't cross off any food off his menu simply because you don't like it. The more foods you combine, the more you'll be able to make sure your little one gets different nutrients and vitamins.
Additionally, if your baby doesn't seem enthused by a particular time of food, don't push it. You can always try again at another time, but everything has to be done naturally. For example, he might not like carrots, or he may change his mind and end up loving them. You'll never know until you try!
2. Know the choking hazards
Needless to say that as you try different foods, you will start to realize what is or isn't a choking hazard. Now I know this is a touchy subject, and you want to avoid any such risks to begin with, but you will never be a bad mom or a bad dad just because you've experimented with different healthy foods which are ideal for a healthy baby diet.
3. Watch for constipation
This is not rocket science, and you probably already know that your baby's stool will change when his diet will. Although a bit extreme or temporary, constipation may be a hurdle you will encounter. For example, if your baby is not having the same amount of bowel movements, or if his stools become harder and drier, you may choose to consult his doctor. As a result of that, the recommendation might be to switch to high-fiber diets (e.g. prunes, pears) which will help with constipation. It may take a bit of time, but things should go back to normal once those foods take effect.
As you can probably tell, there are many things to consider when switching to a solid-based diet. In terms of the actual feeding, you will need a stable and comfortable place to feed your baby, preferably at the same height as you. Although this may also turn into a perfect opportunity for your little one to throw some food at you, the high chair will make sure your baby is an upright position, which will make it easier for him to swallow.
Do I still need to give my baby breast milk or formula?
The importance of breast milk
If you've ever spoken to a pediatrician, then you know that breastmilk is the most nutritious food you can ever give your baby. That being said, it should come as no surprise that when switching to solids, it is still important that you keep the milk or formula as the staple diet.
The reason for that is that the milk will provide the vast majority of the calories needed by your baby, in addition to the nutritious benefits that follow. Containing protein, vitamins, iron and much more, milk is easy to digest, and for better or for worse, solid food will never be able to replace the nutrients that breast milk will provide during the first year or feeding.
What do I need to make homemade baby food?
1. Essentials from the baby store
It's not hard to imagine what you will need when making your baby food. More specifically, you will benefit from having a food processor, baby food grinder, or a blender, anything that will make it easier to puree vegetables and fruits.
2. What foods you can freeze or store
To be perfectly honest, there is no reason for which you should not be refrigerating or freezing extra portions. If you can do it for your food, then you should be able to do it for your baby. Provided that you won’t keep it for an unreasonable number of days, your homemade food should still be fresh, nutritious and safe!
How can I help my child develop healthy eating habits?
1.The importance of encouraging family meals
A highchair is an excellent way to integrate your baby's meal into your meal. This will mean he will be part of the family dinners, and you will be able to both eat and feed him at the same time. Moreover, once everything is done and dusted, you will need to clean up the table regardless, and in this way, you will be able to tidy up everything at the same time.
2. Research findings on the topic
I have done extensive research on the subject, and according to these studies, having dinner as a family, on a regular basis, can have positive effects on the development of children. Sometimes it may be difficult to achieve this, but try, as much as possible, to have everyone sat down at the dinner table while feeding your baby.
Another piece of advice from researchers: don't ever feel like you have to stick to bland or boring baby foods; why not get ideas for more adventurous options to give your infant (integrate them step by step), or learn how to make your baby food. Like this, you will know what goes into your baby's food, giving you some incredible piece of mind. Encourage family meals from the first feeding. When you can, the whole family should eat together.
3. What if your baby rejects all solids?
This may surprise you, but it's quite normal for your baby to refuse solids when first trying them out, or even afterward. Clearly, the taste of milk and solid food is entirely different, and it also requires hand, eye, and mouth coordination. Frankly, each baby is different, meaning that they may not be ready for this step. If that is the case, don't force your baby; just continue nursing until they are willing.
Can feeding time be easier?
1. Show and tell
To entice the reluctant eater to eat, why not try modeling enjoyment? One way to do this is to feed yourself in front of your baby, but in a more in-your-face way. For example, remember a time when you were trying to make your husband jealous while eating chocolate or ice-cream. Vocalizations like "yum" or "mmm...so good" should do the trick.
2. “Open mouth, insert spoon.”
This little trick requires that your baby is hungry and also in the mood for facial gestures. As you closely look at your beautiful little one, try engaging them by opening your mouth (in the hopes that they will mimic your behavior), and once that happens just put the spoon in. However, if you feel that your baby is not interested at all in solid foods, have him or her next to you while you eat. By watching you, you will first of all bond, and second of all, you will create interest in the behavior you exhibit (feeding yourself).
3. Dress for the occasion
This is something you should be expecting, and any new mom or dad will be ready to tell you their feeding stories. Since you're working on a feeding routine, you should expect to see some mess. Of course, not all kids are the same, and sometimes it's better just to feed them while they're undressed. It's easier to wash them (which needs to be done anyway) rather than washing all those clothes. And don’t forget the bib! The pocket ones are the best, since they catch spills, but don’t be discouraged from trying out other things!
4. Try different gadgets
You've just entered the trial and error territory: as mentioned above, some babies are messy and will probably try to push away any plates, so why not look for baby bowls and plates with suction-cup bottoms? Besides, if your little one tends to grab your spoon, or gets distracted by it, give him a spare one, and like that you will probably be able to keep yours.
Find this little trick for feeding a baby in video below:
5. Avoid food fights
I've said it before, and I will repeat it: there is absolutely no reason to force feed your baby. If your baby is resisting eating solids, take a hint! Either they are tired of the same food, or maybe needs a day off solids. Sometimes you may just have to skip solid foods for a day or two and then try again.
6. Change the menu once in awhile
The reality is that we all get bored of having the same things over and over again, and so do babies. If your infant refuses to eat what they once believed to be their favorite food, it may just be time to have a wider variety.
15 Best Solid Foods To Introduce
There is no surprise that babies go bananas for this fruit. Because of their sweetness and smooth consistency, ripe bananas resemble the mother's milk, which makes it familiar territory for babies. This means that this nutritious food is one of the best ones to serve when first starting off solid foods. However, don’t serve any green bananas; instead just let them ripe. After peeling, cut and mash them with a fork. This fruit makes for the perfect on-the-go snack, as it’s so easy to make.
Cereals are highly nutritious, especially those made out of soybeans, just because they contain as much as 35 % protein. Additionally, cereal which is specially made for babies is fortified with minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, along with B-vitamins and iron. Additionally, once you've tried cereals and are convinced that your baby is not allergic to them, you can try integrating fruit into the cereals, to obtain various desired consistencies.
Applesauce is an ideal first fruit because of its low content of citric acid. However this doesn't mean that it doesn't cause allergic reasons in some babies, so keep an eye out for any changes. What I love about applesauce is how quickly you can combine it with other nutritious foods such as cereals or even other fruits.
Amongst fruits which are perfect for your baby's digestion, you can rely on pears. Featuring a mild flavor which is not over-empowering for babies, they are high in potassium and vitamins A and C. And there you have it, another flavor to choose from (pear sauce), just in case your infant doesn't really like or is allergic to applesauce.
All our moms insisted that carrots will help improve our night vision. There is some truth to that because carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A and beta carotene, which contribute to maintaining good eyesight. You can cook carrots in a variety of ways, and you can add spices, salt or butter to improve their taste.
Mashed or pureed, beans will still be a good source of iron, calcium, B vitamins and fiber.
7. Sweet Potatoes
The good thing about sweet potatoes is their high content of vitamin B-6, which then uses your body like a machine capable of using carbohydrates, protein, and fat in a way that improves healthy skin and circulation. And all you have to do in order to get those benefits is to wash and peel the potatoes before cooking and then steam, blend, or boil them until tender.
8. Winter Squash
Babies usually love winter squash because of its flavor, texture, and color. Just like with sweet potatoes, you can easily cook this vegetable (even in the microwave) without it losing its nutrients. When it comes to cooking, you can cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and bake it. Alternatively, you can steam both halves or blend them until you reach the consistency you know your baby will love.
Babies need a lot of iron, zinc, and copper, and eggs have all of that. They are also rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12.
10. California Avocados
source: I live to eat
According to research, California avocados are an ideal solid food for babies. Because of its rich and creamy consistency, this sodium and cholesterol-free option is an excellent choice for parents who know the best ingredients. Avocados are unbelievably nutritious, containing over 20 vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, folate, and fiber. Additionally, this amazing and natural option contains more potassium than 45 other fruits, making it vital for your baby's healthy development.
Pasta is loaded with carbohydrates, and this helps give your baby the energy they need to play and explore.
Swede - otherwise known as rutabagas- is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. Additionally, swede contains fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Anyone who has ever tried lentils knows about their miraculous benefits. Featuring the ability to lower cholesterol and help maintain a healthy heart, this staple food is a good source of protein for your baby.
Tofu is an excellent source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1, in addition to having a lot of protein.
Meat (e.g. chicken and fish) is an excellent source of protein, however, if you are looking for vegetarian options, you can rely on tofu and its nutritious health benefits.
By now you should be knowledgeable about the process of eating, and the importance of your baby being able to sit up, eat from a spoon, resting between bites, and when to stop feeding your baby altogether. These early experiences will eventually form into habits, meaning that it's vital to shaping your infant's behavior from a very young age. Additionally, remember to offer a good variety of healthy foods that are rich in nutrients and vitamins, and don't overfeed! All babies differ in their preferences and readiness for solids, therefore listen to your baby, and always consult your doctor.