Exciting, because your completely dependent milk devouring little cutie is about to take a huge step in the journey of life and start eating real food!
Terrifying, because as moms we have the natural instinct of worrying that they will choke on every single thing.
Eliminate the anxiety and raise a healthy, happy baby with these tips for introducing solid foods!
For some reason, I had it in my mind that you don’t start introducing solid foods until they are close to one year old.
Not the case!
When our pediatrician told us to start at 4 months old, I was shocked!
She explained that there are certain indicators that show your baby is ready to start their food journey!
They are as follows:
• Your baby has to be interested. NEVER FORCE YOUR BABY TO EAT. Do they intently watch your food as you move it from your plate to your mouth? Do they reach out to grab your food or fork? They’re interested.
• They need to have excellent head control. Your baby needs to be able to hold their head up without support because you will be feeding them either in your lap or in a high chair.
• Their tongue thrust reflex should be gone. This happens around the 4-6 month mark. Every baby is different, so this is an important one for introducing solids. If their tongue thrust reflex is still present, they will just push out anything that goes in their mouth with their tongue. Try again in a week or so if this is the case.
Avoid relying on pureed foods!
I know, this seems absolutely insane. Our biggest fear is them choking, so why not use pureed foods?! There is a fine line between choking and gagging.
Gagging and coughing food up is their way of learning their limits.
If they only have pureed foods, they never have to learn their limits and they will have no fears swallowing pieces that are too big for them in the future. I’m not suggesting giving them grapes or nuts or anything like that.
• Start with avocado. Not pureed avocado, but slightly mashed where it still has some chunks in it. Banana and sweet potatoes are good options as well, using the same concept. Food with soft chunks that are easy to break down teaches them to chew or mash chunks down to sizes that are easy to swallow.
They will gag when they accidentally swallow a piece that’s too big. That is completely normal and that is their way of learning their limits. Stand nearby and always watch them closely. Be safe, but allow them to learn.
They will benefit greatly in the long run and actually have a much lower risk of choking in the future.
To be clear, pureed foods aren’t bad to give them.
Just try not to depend solely on these items because it deprives your child of the early opportunity to safely learn to eat.
Breastfed babies might lack some iron compared to formula fed babies because
Introducing solids is not for nutritional value.
It is simply teaching your child how to safely and properly eat.
Their primary source of nutrition will still be milk. Trying different textures and flavors teach them to enjoy a variety of foods, so, later on, they are less likely to become picky eaters.
•Gradually increase the amount of food as your child shows you signs of wanting more. By the time they are about 8-9 months old, they should be enjoying a wide variety of different foods about 2-3 times a day.
Introduce the same kind of foods that you eat, such as similar flavors and spices.
In the near future, they should be eating the same meals that you and your family eat, so prepare their taste buds for those flavors!
Don’t give them a bunch of new foods all at once, however. Space each new food out by about 2-3 days. That way, if your child has an adverse reaction to that food you will know exactly what caused it.
This is a pretty controversial topic and very sensitive to a lot of people, which is why I’m not going to get too deep into it. Consult with your pediatrician for a recommendation for your child.
For me personally, it was recommended for us to introduce highly allergenic foods (peanut butter, eggs, shellfish, soy, and wheat) early on.
Previously, they would recommend waiting until the baby was 1-2 years old.
Newer studies show waiting that long does NOT decrease the risk of allergic reactions.
In fact, there are studies that show introducing those items EARLIER on DECREASES the chance of developing an allergy to those items.
Do your research and make a decision based on what you feel is right for your little one.
You decide the food and the frequency, they decide how much.
This is huge. I mean HUGE in raising a healthy child.
It is very important to allow our children to stop eating when they are full.
If they are hungry, they will eat. Trust me. They will not starve!
Forcing our kids to keep eating and always incentivizing “one more bite” has been linked to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
It has also been linked to obesity and emotional eating. Never incentivize eating more than they need.
That being said, kids can be very manipulative, especially when they get older. This is why it is very important to start early with these lessons.
Later down the road when they want to skip dinner and then complain about being hungry at 10 pm you’re going to have to be very firm in a cut off time for the kitchen.
“Kitchen is closed after 8 pm” is a good rule to have, but be prepared for a little heartbreak in the beginning. A crying toddler telling you they are starving will be hard to say no to.
However, after a few days of this (if it comes to that) they will quickly learn that they should be eating at dinner time. You must stick to your guns on this one for their benefit in the long run.
It will be hard, but parenting is hard. We deal with a lot of difficult situations for the betterment of our child. Stay strong!
The journey of introducing solid foods is a fun, exciting, and terrifying time, yet an extremely important and impactful one. Try to have fun and enjoy the learning process! Thank you so much for reading, and good luck!!!