MARCH 20, 2021
When To Start Solids For Your Baby
Introducing solids is an exciting milestone for your baby and you. It is a big step and one of the many firsts in their first year and yes, also a messy one. The journey from being just breastfed or formula-fed to solids can be sometimes challenging but nevertheless exciting because a whole world of flavors and textures awaits your little one.
By the time your baby turns 4 months old, you would have mastered the art of breastfeeding or formula but don’t get too comfortable because very soon they would want to start trying what you are eating.
Encourage your baby to try new food and different textures, and yes, a whole lot of it will end up on the table, floor, or the bib in the beginning but that’s absolutely fine. It is all part of the process. So, here is everything you need to know about introducing solids to your baby - the when, how, why, and everything in between about solids for babies.
When To Introduce Solids
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most babies are ready to start solids between 4 to 6 months old. But like with everything else when it comes to babies, you can decide whether or not to start solids based on your baby’s development.
As parents, we are sometimes too eager to start our baby on the solids journey but remember that starting solids too soon may not be the right thing for your baby. Firstly, a baby’s digestive system is underdeveloped and lacks many digestive enzymes that are important for breaking down solid foods. Moreover, babies get all the nutrition they need in those early months from breast milk or formula alone. Some studies show that starting solids early in formula-fed babies may also lead to obesity later on.
On the other hand, waiting too long can make them more resistant to change and the introduction to new textures and flavors. Habits are harder to change once they become a little older, that’s why anywhere between 4 and 6 months is the ideal time to jump on the solid bandwagon!
Signs That Your Baby Is Ready For Solids
There are some signs that can help you decide if your baby is ready to start solids. Yes, you should always consult your pediatrician but you can look for these signs and then approach your doctor.
- Your Baby Can Sit and Hold Their Head Well - If your baby can sit properly when propped and can hold their head, then it is a good sign to start solids. Chunkier food should be avoided until they are able to sit well alone.
- Tongue Thrust Reflex - Check if your baby still has the tongue-thrust reflex. Simply thin a baby-appropriate food with a little bit of breastmilk or formula and place it in their mouth with a baby spoon or finger. If the food comes right back out, then they are not ready for solids yet.
- Your Baby Shows Interest In Your Food - If your baby tries to grab what you are eating or watches you excitedly on the dinner table, then it is a sign that your munchkin is ready for big baby food.
- Your Baby Can Open Mouth Wide Open - A simple sign to look for is if your little bub can open their mouth wide enough to be fed by a spoon.
How To Introduce Solids To Babies
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends you exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby for 6 months and then provide supplemental breastfeeding until they turn a year old.
The idea behind starting solids initially is to get your baby familiar with chewing and swallowing foods.
When you begin introducing solids, you will have to first experiment with what works for you and your baby best. But remember to give breast or formula milk to your baby first thing in the morning and before or after meals as well as before bedtime. You will have to figure out what your baby finds better - milk before or after the meal.
Once your little one gets comfortable with food and the whole concept of eating, start creating a routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ideally, by 6 to 9 months your little one will show interest in mealtime and that’s exactly when you want to start creating this routine. Some days they might not even be hungry but it is important to make them sit in the highchair and offer them food. If they refuse, don’t force them (babies know when they are hungry) and just move on. Eating on a schedule will teach them about mealtime and also create a routine, which is very important when it comes to babies.
The expert recommended quantities are two meals of two to four tablespoons at 4 to 6 months and by the time they are 7 to 12 months old, you can give them three meals the size of your baby’s fist.
Even at this tiny age, there will be days where you would face some resistance but it is all part of the process. There would be days when they might prefer the carrot puree more than breastmilk or some days they might just want to nurse. It is absolutely normal as your baby grows and becomes more independent. But no matter what, remember they still need their normal amount of breast milk or formula every day.
Quick and Easy Early Baby Food Ideas
When it comes to your baby’s first foods, there is no rulebook. All you need to make sure is to include lots of fruits, vegetables, and meats to get your baby to experiment with different flavors, textures, and tastes.
But here are a few quick and easy recipes and meal suggestions.
Pitcure source: www.raisingveggielovers.com
Single grain cereals or iron-rich ones like brown rice, barley, or oats make great early food for your baby. As your baby grows, so does their need for iron, and introducing cereals as one of the early foods is a great way to include iron in their diet.
Start by combining one teaspoon of cereal with four to five tablespoons of breast or formula milk. The idea is to keep it runny enough for your baby to swallow. Once they get used to the runny cereal, you can start thickening it by adding more cereal and less milk.
- Pureed Veggies
You can start with pureed veggies between 4 to 8 months old. Babies get attracted to colors easily. So to get them interested in their food start with pureed carrots or sweet potatoes or even beetroots. The bright color and mild flavors of these vegetables might make it more likely for your baby to try them. You can move on to greener vegetables like peas and beans a little later. If your baby rejects it, then try again tomorrow or the day after. Perseverance and patience are key when you introduce solids.
- Pureed Fruits
While you may have heard that fruits are high in sugar and not the best thing to start your baby's solid journey with, it's not true at all. Finely mashed bananas, peaches, or baby applesauce are great fruits, to begin with.
If you want to include healthy fats in their diet and introduce them to creamy textures, then mashed or pureed avocado is just perfect. Loaded with healthy fats and an amazing texture.
Once they turn 9 to 12 months old, you can move to finger foods with textures like cheese, yogurt, or pureed meats like beef, chicken, and turkey.
And yes, avoid choking hazard foods like nuts, raisins, grapes, popcorn, hard candy peanut butter, and seeds in the first year.
Does all of this sound too hard? Don’t worry, take a breath! Babies are much easier to please than adults, just remember that. Just focus on creating a routine and a calm space for their mealtime. You can serve their food warm or cold and don’t worry about adding spices or sugar or salt. Even something as simple as mashed potato is a whole new flavor to them so let them enjoy simple things for now!