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Introducing baby to solids is often a confusing topic for parents. Parents often wonder when their baby should start, how to introduce solids, and what kinds of foods are best? Plus, the recommendations or “rules” for solids have changed from generation to generation. Your baby’s grandmother may insist you follow guidelines that were standard when she was a new mother, but are no longer recommended. Ideas about which foods should be introduced first could be different across different cultures. Every baby develops at his or her own pace, so while one baby isn’t ready yet for solids, another baby at the same age may easily be able to put down that mashed banana. Here are some common questions and concerns parents may have about introducing solids.
When to introduce solids? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods around 6 months of age. Introducing solids before the age of 4 months is associated with increased weight gain and obesity in infancy and early childhood. The baby’s digestive system is also more mature at 6 months. Around 6 months, the baby’s gut closes, and they start to produce antibodies on their own. Introducing solids before this time increases the risk of illness and food reactions.
Every baby develops at their own pace. Your baby needs to be developmentally ready for solids. It is ok to wait to introduce solids if your baby needs a little more development time. Your baby should be able to have head control and sit upright to swallow well. They should lose the reflex where the baby reflexively uses the tongue to push food out of the mouth. Your baby’s 6 month checkup is a good time to discuss your baby’s readiness and introduction to solid food with the pediatrician.
What foods do I introduce? In the US, it was customary to start baby on infant cereal due to the fact that parents would introduce them early and they could easily mix them in the bottle. The current thought is to start baby on fully cooked meats and vegetables, because they are not processed and are more nutrient dense. You can feed your baby pureed vegetables, meats, and fruits. Try making your own baby food by steaming vegetables or simmer meats in broth before pureeing. Be sure to discuss with your pediatrician if there are any foods to avoid specific to your baby.
How much food will my baby eat? A baby just starting on solids may only eat 1-2 tablespoons of food. Don’t worry if your baby refuses new food. It can take 10-15 tries over several months for your baby to accept a new food. You just need to offer a spoonful each time. It’s important to let your baby try different foods and expose them to a wide variety of flavors and textures. They are more likely to eat foods they see the rest of the family and their peers eating.
Does my baby need less breastmilk? Continue breastfeeding your baby when introducing solids. First solids are meant to complement your breastmilk, not to replace it. As your baby gets older, you may find that they will decrease the frequency of nursing as they take in more solids.
These are just a few of the many questions parents have about introducing solids. Parents may also wonder about how to prevent food allergies and what are the signs of a food allergy. Or they may wonder what time of day is best and how many times a day to offer solids. They may want to know what the feeding and nutrition differences are between a 6 month old baby and a 12 month old baby.
Our Private Infant Nutrition Classes with Consultation by a Registered Dietitian. The package includes a private 40 minute online class to prepare you for introducing solids to your baby (while supporting your breastfeeding goals), and 20 minutes of consultation to address your unique questions and concerns. Important resources such as Sample Menu Plans with Meal planning cheat-sheet, and a Quick-Start Guide to feeding your baby (pamphlet/booklet) are also included. To sign up for this class, you can visit our online schedule or contact our Healthy Horizons Breastfeeding Centers.
“Infant-Food-and-Feeding.” Infant Food and Feeding, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018, www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx.
“Working Together: Breastfeeding and Solid Foods.” HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018, www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/pages/Working-Together-Breastfeeding-and-Solid-Foods.aspx.