Starting Solid Foods with Baby

The introduction of solid foods into your baby’s diet can be an exciting time! Like with many milestones with baby, it is fun to experience something new together and enjoyable to see baby’s reaction to the experience. However it can also be a somewhat confusing time as well. Unlike physical milestones, such as rolling over, crawling, or cruising, that are driven by baby’s own development, feeding baby relies on a external source (parent or caregiver) to guide the process.

How do I know my baby is ready for solid foods?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and La Leche League all recommend an exclusive breast milk diet until a baby is at least six months old. However there is no “magic age” as to when to start solids. Optimally the process of introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet, will be initiated by following their own readiness cues. Some readiness indicators include:

  • able to sit up well by him/herself
  • has develop a pincer grasp
  • increased frequency in breastfeeding (unrelated to other factors such as teething or illness)
  • seeming less satisfied or satiated by breast milk
  • has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex

One common misconception is that when a baby starts grabbing at other’s food he/she is ready to start eating food. Grabbing at objects is more of a physical and cognitive milestone, than an expression of nutritional need. Around five to six months old babies become more adept at using their hands and become more engaged and curious about their environment. Additionally one important way babies explore their environment is through their senses which includes putting objects in their mouth. When my first son was about six months old he grabbed a piece of food out of my hand and put it into his mouth. A well meaning family member said “get that baby some food…he’s hungry”.  And I remember thinking “but he’d grab a dirty sock out of my hand and put that into his mouth too”.  🙂

What do I feed my baby?

Just as it is important for young children and adults to eat whole foods, it is equally important for babies to eat whole foods! While jars of commercially made baby food can be convenient in a pinch, you might reconsider reducing or perhaps eliminating them from your baby’s diet all together. They are heavily processed resulting in a depletion of valuable vitamins and nutrients as well as flavor. Additionally they are expensive and produce an excess amount of packaging. A mashed avocado or banana can be a simple, nutritious and delicious first food to “prepare” for your baby. Steam, pureed carrots or sweet potato are another great option. Or if the readiness indicators as listed above are present, you might consider skipping pureed foods all together and go straight into finger foods, encouraging baby to self feed. Sticking with low-allergen whole foods in their purest form as possible (no added spices, flavoring, etc) will be easiest for baby to digest as their gut/body gets accustom to new foods. Also it is generally recommended to go slow and only introduce one or two new foods at a time so any possible food reactions can be easily detected.

How does introducing solids effect breastfeeding?

One important factor to consider is that the introduction of solids is the very beginning of the weaning process. This is one reason why delaying solids is a common practice among breastfeeding mothers. Another common practice is to breastfeed baby right before giving him/her food to ensure he/she is still getting a bulk of their nutritional needs met through breast milk. Another consideration to be aware of is the potential impact of introducing solid foods on a mother’s milk supply and/or menses. For some women the introduction of solids into baby’s diet initiates ovulation, particularly if baby is suddenly nursing less frequent or efficiently. Generally the transition to solids begins with more exploration of foods rather than actual consumption of food in quantities that would replace a nursing session. Gradually over time solid food will replace the nutrients and calories in breast milk.

Most importantly try to keep meals with baby stress free and fun for the whole family. Not only are you establishing important life-long patterns of eating for baby, you are also teaching him/her the social fundamentals of foods.

What was your baby’s first food experience like? Any tips to share when it comes to transitioning to solids? Would love to hear from you! 🙂

-Sarah

Tags: academy of pediatrics, american academy of pediatrics, breast milk, cues, feeding baby, introducing solid foods, la leche league, milestones, milk diet, when to start solids, world health organization

2 Responses to “Starting Solid Foods with Baby”

  1. Jill says:

    We use a loose form of ‘baby led weaning’, which means there is very little mashing. My 2nd baby is almost 8 months old and is finally sitting well on her own. This is our key milestone, she will start with 1/3 of a banana as soon as we get her high chair cleaned up! While you have to be attentive to a baby learning to eat, it’s less so than while spoon feeding goop– i.e. the baby feeds his/herself. A banana, split into 3rds along the natural seam (push on the end of a banana with a fingertip and you’ll see what I mean), is the perfect size for baby to hold in their fist and gnaw! You get to sit back and enjoy the fun, not get frustrated when baby spits stuff out that you ‘paid dearly for’… Unless by baby really mashed something horribly, whatever she didn’t eat, we did, and we’ll do it again. Your baby’s fingers aren’t all that dirty, and there is basically zero waste. A whole sweet potato will feed your baby for a LONG time, and you don’t even have to freeze it! Just bake it whole and cut into spears or cut it into spears and roast with other veggies in a pan and serve! So easy!