Beginning your baby on solid food is exciting! Little spoons, pink-lipped mouths covered in baby food, and the delighted giggles of a baby who loves mashed bananas are endearing to any adult with half of a heart. However, before you rush to begin feeding baby food to your little one, follow these tips to ensure a positive experience for both you and your baby.
1. Speak With Your Pediatrician First
When it comes to starting solids, it seems as if nearly everyone has a different opinion on the topic. Start at 4 months. Start at 6 months (advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics). Begin with fruits. Begin with veggies. Start with infant cereal. Skip the cereal.
The whole topic can be very confusing. Before you trade in your bottles and burp cloths for jars and bibs, have a chat with your trusted pediatrician. She should clarify her opinion on the following:
- The signs baby is ready for solids
- How much to feed at each meal
- How often to offer meals
- In what order solid foods should be offered
- Thoughts on offering baby juice
- Safety precautions you should follow
2. Feeding Baby Food Is Easier With the Right Equipment
Imagine this first-feeding disaster. Your fidgeting baby is poised on your lap while you try to get him to accept a big spoon with an unfamiliar food into his uncooperative, little mouth.
Avoid this scenario by following these guidelines:
- Several days before he starts solids, let him take the high chair out for a test drive. Allow him to become used to sitting in the chair, and be sure he can sit up with little support.
- Use a small plastic bowl and a plastic baby spoon, which is gentler on the gums than metal ones.
- To prevent spoon tug-of-war, give him a spoon of his own to play with during the meal. In the beginning, he’ll be lucky to get food into his mouth with his own spoon, so expect that you will need to do the bulk of the feeding.
3. Let Your Baby Play With His Food
Through the years, the words “Don’t play with your food!” have echoed in many a dining room. Though certainly an appropriate rule for older children, it is not so for babies getting used to solids. Don’t even think about trying to shove a spoon full of a new food into his mouth without first giving him time to experience what it is.
Place a little bit on his tray and allow him to play with his food. This will get him used to the smell, texture, and taste. And don’t worry- like everything else your baby gets into, it will eventually find its way into his mouth.
4. Start the Meal When Your Baby Is Happy and Slightly Hungry
Did you ever notice when you get overly hungry or tired, you feel uncooperative and grumpy? Or when you are full, food has no appeal? You can expect the same of your baby. Time the feeding so that your baby is happy, alert, and at just the right hunger level – not too hungry, not too full. You may wish to start the meal with just a small amount of infant formula or breastmilk to whet his appetite, and then move on to the main course.
5. Keep Introducing Rejected Foods
So you just unsuccessfully attempted to give your baby a meal of blended sweet potatoes. The result was either a closed mouth or a mouth that spewed orange goo at you. Do not assume that just because your baby rejected this food that it is a waste of time (and sweet potato). Try it again. Part of starting solids is simply getting your baby accustomed to different textures and flavors. In many cases, babies need to be offered a new food multiple times before they get a taste for it.
6. Be Mindful of Food Allergies
A rather serious aspect of first feedings is food allergies. Severe allergic reactions, such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling, can take effect within minutes or a few hours after ingestion. Less severe reactions can take several days to appear and might include eczema, diarrhea, or constipation. Because reactions can be delayed, it is important to wait 2 to 4 days before introducing another new food. Keeping a simple journal of your feedings may help uncover a pattern should problems arise. Additionally, if making your own baby food be sure to know what to watch for with nitrate poisoning.
Though it was once recommended that certain foods be delayed even longer for fear of developing allergies, that no longer is the case. For a more complete listing of the timing of certain solids, read When Can My Baby Eat …?”
7. Watch for Feeding Cues
You want your baby to learn to self-regulate his feeding. When babies are overfed, it teaches them to ignore their bodies’ signals, which can affect their weight and health. Your baby can’t speak up and say, “Enough with the puréed peas already!” And so it becomes essential to your child’s health that you note his subtle ways of communicating he has had enough. It is likely time to end the feeding if your baby turns his head away, clamps his mouth shut, grows fussy, or throws the food. This is his way of letting you know the show is over.