Introducing Your Baby to Solid Food
Introducing your baby to solid food is an exciting milestone for parents but can also be a little daunting. There is so much information on the internet. Let us not forget the conflicting advice from doctors, friends, and well-intentioned family members about when and how to start your baby on solids. There are so many different opinions on what and when to feed your baby that it can be hard to know what's right for your little one. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
When should you start solids?
Typically, solid foods begin between four to six months. Talk to your pediatrician as they will be able to guide you about when to start solids foods. It's good to watch for your baby's cues as well. Is your baby staring at you when you are eating? That is a good sign that they are ready for their first meal! Remember it is good to eat with your baby so she can understand what is to come.
Establish a mealtime routine
I suggest having your baby eat in the same place in your house for every meal. Have a high chair set up and, of course, one that can be moved into a more formal eating space like your dining room and stick to it as much as possible. Consistency is essential, especially at the beginning. Your baby will understand that they are supposed to eat every time they sit in the high chair. If you sometimes feed them in the chair and sometimes feed them while playing on the floor - you will have a much harder time establishing meal expectations and may even get into toddler food battles down the road.
Give your baby plenty of opportunities
Eating healthy foods throughout the day can help establish good long-term eating. Try not to resort to sugary snacks or snacks in general – these can make lousy eating habits difficult to break later. Be patient and persevere. You can help your baby develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime!
Start with baby steps
Introduce one new food at a time to your baby and wait a few days before introducing another. When you choose a new food, feed it to them for breakfast, not dinner; this way, you can see if your baby has an allergic reaction or any food sensitivities. You won't be able to monitor an adverse food reaction if your baby is asleep! Stick with one food for three days, and then you can try or add another.
Let your baby explore food
Food exploration will help them learn what they like and don't like. If you sit in front of your child and try to convince her that what she is about to eat is great, she may not like that, which can feel overwhelming. Be a Zen food Master. It's good to eat meals together and, of course, feed your baby and interact with them while they are eating; make sure you are positive and don't panic if they do not like the food at first; it's new and may take a bit of time. You may want to learn more about "Baby-led Weaning," where a baby essentially skips purees and is encouraged to explore many foods and textures. Solid Starts is an excellent source of information on Baby-led weaning https://solidstarts.com/baby-led-weaning/. You can also do a combination of purees and finger food options.
It may take a while for your baby to get used to new foods, but eventually, they will. Try not to give up on food that they rejected before. You can try it in a few days or wait a bit longer. Just because your baby does not like food today does not mean they will not like it tomorrow! Their taste and interest in things are constantly changing. Teaching your child to be open about trying something they may not have enjoyed before is more important than them liking it. Focus on their ability to be open-minded.
Get creative with meals
There are plenty of recipes out there that are both healthy and delicious. When your baby starts feeding himself finger foods, read up about all the foods they can try at their age! It is so much fun. I used to slice and chop tiny pieces of banana for my children and serve them in a bowl with a fork. Stabbing a banana with a fork may be much more fun than it slipping through your fingers. Don't give up if your baby doesn't seem interested in eating - they'll get there in their own time!
Model good eating habits yourself
Eat slowly and mindfully as a family. Children learn from watching, and modeling good eating habits is vital. For example, if you feed your baby in her high chair, but you tend to stand up to eat while multi-tasking and cleaning the kitchen, your child cannot model healthy eating practices. Avoid feeding your child as she sits in front of the TV or iPad. This habit is very tricky as it is a hard one to break. If your baby eats while watching a screen, they will not learn how to eat without one and may get bored or too distracted if they are not given a show to watch. Babies can feed themselves too little or overfeed because they are unaware of what they put in their mouths and how much they have already eaten. You want to get your babies used to eating the way you want them to eat long-term.
Communicate with caregivers
Sometimes a Nanny, Grampy, or Mother-in-law will feed your baby one way, which is not how you want your baby to eat. For example, you want your baby to pick up finger foods, learn how to choose what they like, and feed themselves, but your MIL picks up every bite and puts it into your baby's mouth for them. Getting your caregivers on the same page as you when it comes to mealtime with your baby is essential. A kind and straightforward communication about your philosophy can help everyone be consistent and manage expectations.
It's never too early to start healthy eating habits for your little one. Introducing solid foods is a great way to get your baby on the right track. There are many different opinions about when and how to introduce solids, so I hope this guide provides you with some helpful information. Remember, it's always best to consult with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns. And finally, keep up the excellent work! Your baby will thank you later for all of those healthy meals.