Introducing solid foods
Introducing solid foods to your little one is an extremely exciting (and terrifying) time.
Exciting because your completely dependent milk devouring little peanut is about to take a huge step in the journey of becoming an actual person who will be eating real food. Awwww!
Terrifying because, well, as Mom’s we have the natural instinct of thinking they will choke on every single thing. Here’s what I learned and what worked extremely well for my now food loving baby:
- Start early! For some reason, I had it in my mind that a baby doesn’t start eating solids until they were close to one year old. Not the case! When our pediatrician told us to start when Liv was 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 obviously 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 puréed foods! I know, this seems absolutely insane. Our biggest fear is them choking, so why not start with puréed 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 puréed 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. Now I’m not suggesting giving them grapes or nuts or anything crazy like that. Start with avocado. Not pureed avocado mashed to a pulp, but slightly mashed where it still has some chunks in it. Banana and sweet potatoes are good to start with as well using the same concept. A 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. I also 100% recommend (demand, actually) that you get CPR certified. To be clear, puréed foods won’t hurt them. Just try not to depend solely on these items because it deprives your child the early opportunity to safely learn to swallow. Breastfed babies might lack some iron since formula is very iron-rich. Rice cereal and other items are great sources of iron so by all means, use these foods as well!
- Start slow. Introducing solids is not for nutritional value. It is simply teaching your little one how to properly and safely eat. Their primary source of nutrition will still be milk. Trying different textures and flavors just teach them to enjoy a variety of foods so later on they will be less likely to be 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 of age they should be enjoying a wide variety of different foods about 2-3 times per day. Be sure to introduce the same kind of foods you eat. Such as similar flavors and spices. In the near future, they should be eating the same meals as you and your family eat, so prepare their taste buds for those flavors! Also, don’t give them a bunch of new foods all at once. Try to space each new food out by about 2-3 days. That way, if your child has a reaction to that food you will know exactly what caused it.
- Allergies. This is a pretty controversial topic and very sensitive to a lot of people, which is why I’m not going to get into it too deeply. Consult with your pediatrician for their 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. Before, they would recommend waiting until the baby was 1-2 years old. Now, studies show that waiting that long does not decrease the risk of allergic reactions. In fact, there are studies that show that 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, which 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 heart break 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!
Phew! That was a lot of information! The journey of introducing solid foods is a fun, exciting, terrifying yet extremely important one. Try to have fun and enjoy the learning process! Thank you so much for reading, and good luck!!!
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