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The Ultimate Guide to Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby

One of the most exciting things about being a new mom is celebrating all of your child's firsts.

Their first bite of solid food, their first steps, and their first words are all milestones that you will be proud of, but they can also be a scary time for you as their parent, especially introducing solid food to your baby.

This article will dive into some of the questions that you may be wondering about introducing solid food to your baby.

We will take a look at the timing, the types of food that you should try first, and some of the foods that you should avoid for a while.

Transitioning to solid foods can be challenging, so we will also discuss how to deal with a picky eater and any allergic reactions that may arise.

Let's begin by addressing the concerns that you may have, and building your confidence in transitioning your baby to solid foods from there.

When Should My Baby First Try Solid Foods?

Every child matures at a different rate, but when it comes to trying solid foods for the first time, you want to make sure that their little bodies are able to digest the food without any issues.

An infant does not have the ability to break down most solid foods in their digestive systems.

Formula and your breast milk can be digested easily, but it takes at least four months for the enzymes that allow your baby to digest solid food to develop. In some children, it can take as long as six months.

According to the Department of Health, your baby will be able to get all of the nutrients that they need without solid foods until they are six months old.

If you are unsure about feeding your baby solid foods, it is best to check with your doctor to see what they recommend.

How Do I know that My Baby is Ready for Solid Foods?

Since the age of your child does not really determine if they are ready for solid food or not, there are some other signs that you can look for.

The first sign is that your baby can sit up on their own for a long period of time without wobbling their head or falling over.

You should also look for:

  • Your baby to act like they are eating with you at meal time. They may try to recreate the motions that you make as you eat, or they may grab for food that you have on your plate.
  • Your baby to weigh about double their birth weight.
  • Your infant to be putting things in their mouth and chewing on them.
  • Your youngster to still be hungry after being fed breast milk or formula.
  • Your munchkin to open their mouth when a spoon full of food is near them.

Which Foods are Best to Start?

Your baby is not going to eat a lot at first, so it is important that you do not become discouraged.

At this point, they will be getting a lot of their nutrition from the breast milk or the formula still.

Make sure to give them a little at a time, to make sure that they can handle the solid food that you decide to give them.

There is not a specific type of food that is best to start with, but you want to start with something that is healthy for them. You are trying to make sure that they still get the nutrients that they need to grow.

Vegetables and fruits are often suggested, but sometimes infant cereal might be recommended by your doctor.

The food that you start with needs to be relatively runny so that it can be digested easily. This could be rice and oat cereal, orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots, and soft fruits like bananas, peaches, applesauce, and pears.

Some people feel that vegetables should be fed to a baby before fruits so that they do not want to eat sweet food all of the time. There is no evidence that feeding a baby fruit first will cause them to hate vegetables later in life.

Most pediatricians will help you choose the food that is right for your child.

When Can I Introduce Other Foods?

As your baby becomes familiar with their starting foods, you can begin introducing them to new options.

Iron is going to start decreasing in your baby's body, so try out iron rich infant cereals and pureed proteins between six and eight months of age.

This can include actual pureed chicken, or it can include legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and even edamame. Simply make sure that the food is pureed completely before feeding it to them.

At eight to 10 months of age, you can begin giving your child a bit of soft cheese.

Try to stick to cheeses that are easy to digest like cottage cheese; even unsweetened yogurt may be enjoyed. At this point, your child is most likely ready to begin with a few small finger foods.

Try giving them some cheerios, pieces of pasta that do not have sauce on them, or even a small bite of scrambled eggs. The food that you give them should be mostly soft so that they do not have issues chewing them.

When your baby hits the 10 to 12 month range, they will be cutting teeth, which means that they can eat more types of food. Their fruits and vegetables no longer need to be pureed; instead, they can simply be cut into small bite-sized pieces that they can easily handle.

The same goes with chicken, fish, and other proteins: just make sure that there are no bones in the tiny pieces that you give to them. You can also start mixing flavors at this age, which allows you to introduce macaroni and cheese to them.

Be Aware of Allergic Reactions and Digestion Issues

If you are a parent, one of the scariest things that you could experience is finding out that your child is allergic to something that you feed them.

Sadly, the only way that you will know that your youngster has this allergy is to feed the food to them

.If allergies already exist in your family, then you should take extra precautions when introducing new foods to your baby. If you have a peanut allergy, the chance of your child having some type of allergy is increased.

However, it will not necessarily be the same allergy that you have. They may have an allergic reaction to milk.

According to Web MD, about 90 percent of the allergies that parents see are:

  • Wheat
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Peanut
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts

Make sure to introduce these specific foods gradually so that you are aware of what is in your child's system.

If they experience swelling, a rash, not being able to hold their food down, or any difficulty breathing, then make sure to contact your pediatrician to see how severe the reaction is and to help you find a way to deal with your child's allergic reaction.

You will also need to make sure that your baby is able to digest the solid food that you are introducing into their diet properly.

Constipation is normal, but it should be short lived. Their stool may also look and smell different for the first few days, especially as they are getting used to digesting solid foods.

Follow a Family Routine

Mealtimes are important for a child. They create a social time where they can learn how to make conversation with others.

It gives them a great start on creating a relationship with other family members as well.

Developing these skills early can help your child appreciate this time that you spend together as they grow up, so make sure to always eat with your child.

Create a schedule for your family's meal times that coincides with when your baby will be getting hungry.

When your child is about nine months old, they should be having three well balanced meals a day. If your youngster is an early riser, give them a bottle until the rest of the family is ready for breakfast.

A good time for this is around 8am.

Lunch should be at noon, but if they become hungry before that, you can nurse them of give them a bottle around 10am. An afternoon snack around 2pm will typically consist of a bottle, and then dinner should be around 5pm for most families.

Before bed, another bottle can be given to your baby.

Once you create a schedule, try to stick to it. This will help your baby know when to expect food.

Some babies may want a feeding in the middle of the night.

This is normal, but if this happens, don't be discouraged if they eat less during the day.

How Much Should My Baby Eat?

When you start giving your baby solid food, you should start with very little at a time.

Just a few teaspoons will be sufficient, and if they are still hungry, you can increase the amount that you are feeding them.

Make sure that you give their new digestive system time to adapt to each new food. You can introduce a new vegetable or fruit option to them every four to five days.

Don't force your baby to eat food that they do not want; simply wait and try again later so that meal time is something they enjoy, not dread.

How Can I Tell When My Baby is Full?

Listen to your baby; they will let you know that they have had enough to eat.

They will not eat the same amount each time you feed them, so look for signs that they have had enough to eat.

Some babies will lean back or turn their head from the food when they have had enough, refusing the bite that you are trying to feed them.

Others may start grabbing the spoon and playing with their food.

A Good High Chair and Other Necessities

When you select a highchair for your baby, you need to choose one that allows them to sit at a 90 degree angle.

Allowing them to eat in a reclining position can be dangerous for them. They are just learning to eat, so if a piece of food manages to get to the back of their throat, they could easily choke on it.

The chair is not the only consideration that you will want to make.

Small children like to throw things, so having a plastic bowl or dish to serve them out of will help you protect your dishes. Also, consider a plastic spoon that will be soft on their gums.

Don't forget bibs and wipes to clean your baby when they are done eating.

Homemade Baby Food Vs Store Bought

Baby food that you purchase at the store is designed with a shelf life.

This means that even though the food is not packed with preservatives, they still are present. The food is designed to be heated to make sure that it is not contaminated in any way.

Heating the food this way also reduces the amount of vitamins and minerals that are in the food, which means that your baby is not getting the nutrition that you think they are. The taste of the food is also reduced, and artificial flavor is added to the food.

Why would you want to feed this to your baby?

Let them taste the pureed fruits and vegetables without the additives. It is far more nutritious, which helps children grow.

You get to decide what your baby will eat, so you can keep salt and sugar out of the equation and only give them healthy food options.

Making your own baby food is much less expensive than purchasing jar after jar of baby food. You can effectively puree the food that the rest of your family is eating for your baby.

Just make sure that it is something that their tender tummies can handle.

Should I Season My Baby's Food?

Babies can have spices around seven months, but you do not want to give them too much seasoning.

Specifically, refrain from salting their food too much. If you give them sweet potatoes, a little cinnamon will be fine.

Simply make sure to wipe their mouth off well when they are done eating so that no irritation occurs.

Baby Food Recipes to Try

Of course you can give your baby one type of food at a time, but when they are ready, you can experiment by combining flavors. Here are a few to try:

  • Strawberry, pear, and cinnamon
  • Banana and cantaloupe
  • Apple, peach, strawberry, and blueberry
  • Avocado, banana, and pineapple
  • Pumpkin, spinach, and ricotta
  • White bean, sweet potato, and carrot
  • Butternut squash and apple
  • Mango, kale, and ginger
  • Braised beef and sweet potato
  • Chicken, carrots, and apple

Storing Homemade Baby Food

Baby food that you purchase in the store does not typically need to be refrigerated until it is opened, but when you make your own baby food, it should be kept in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Remember, your baby is not going to eat a lot of food at once, so you do not need to make fresh food every day.

When you make their food, simply freeze the leftovers. Using an ice cube tray to freeze single serving sizes that you can easily thaw and give to your baby makes it easy, but you can also use resealable storage bags if you prefer.

Never store food in a plastic container, unless you are positive that it is BPA-free. Glass containers are preferred.

Baby food can be stored in a freezer for a month, so when your baby is ready to mix flavors, you can do so with ease.

When you are ready to thaw the food for your youngster, make sure that you do not thaw it on the counter top. It is best to thaw in the refrigerator or with hot water.

If they are ready to eat now, you can either heat the food on the stove or in the microwave to get it ready for your baby.

Foods to Avoid

Even though there are a lot of foods that your baby can eat, there are still some that you should wait to introduce to your baby.

These foods are not necessarily safe for your baby to eat before a certain point because they can cause an allergic reaction or the foods may be difficult for their digestive systems to handle.

Here are a few of the foods to avoid giving your baby:

  • Honey. Honey is a food that can cause your baby to get sick. Honey can produce botulism spores that can cause infant paralysis. Never give honey to a child who is under 12 months old.
  • Cow's milk. Cow's milk has a protein in it that your baby's digestive system will not be able to digest for the first 12 months of their life. Feeding milk to your baby can cause them to have kidney damage.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables. Raw foods are hard, which means that they are more difficult for your baby to swallow. Any small lump in the pureed food could pose as a choking hazard for your infant.
  • Peanut butter. This is a very sticky food that can get caught in the back of a baby's throat. Your baby could also be allergic to peanuts.
  • Seeds. A lot of fruits have small seeds that are hard to remove from the fruit when you puree it. Make sure that you always remove the seeds before giving these fruits to your child so that they do not choke.
  • Juice. Though juice tastes good, it is not necessary for a small child. Fruit juices are filled with sugar, which can delay the development of their teeth. In addition, too much of this juice can cause them to get the diarrhea. A little juice is fine, but do not give them more than four ounces a day until they are over a year old.
  • Caffeine is something that you were told to avoid while you were pregnant, so it only makes sense that you should not give it to your baby. Your baby's stomach is not able to handle the caffeine, so never give them soda, tea, or anything that contains caffeine that could irritate their tummy.

Getting a Picky Eater to Eat

Sometimes a baby will be hesitant to try new foods. It can be difficult to get them to eat, but there are methods that can help them focus.

  • Feed your baby in a room that is free of distractions. There are a lot of things that can easily draw their attention away from the food, so make sure to turn off the television and put their toys out of sight.
  • Get your baby a special meal set that draws their attention. If they seem to like cows or puppies, get a plate set that has their favorite animal on it.
  • Remember, eating solid food is new to your youngster, so they may need to have a bit of time between bites.
  • Allow your child to play with their food. There are even some utensils that are designed just for that purpose.
  • You can even bribe your child with a food that they really enjoy. Convince them to eat a few bites of the new food before giving them the food that the love. If you prefer, you can alternate bites, so that your baby will eat both foods.
  • Make eating fun for your child. You can act like the spoon is an airplane or a train and get them to giggle before taking a bit.
  • Don't make dinner time a long extensive process that looses your baby's attention. Limit it to a period of 30 minutes so that they do not become overly grumpy.
  • Always praise them when they eat a new food.
  • Babies learn by imitating, so the best way to get a baby to eat is to eat with them. If they see you enjoying the food, chances are that they will give it a try.

Wrapping Up

Feeding your baby solid food for the first time is a big milestone that you will be proud that your baby accomplished, but it can also be a trying time for you.

Follow these tips to make it a less stressful experience:

  • When your baby is eyeing food, they are ready to try it for themselves.
  • Start your baby on pureed fruits and vegetables. Infant cereal, bananas, and sweet potatoes are a good place to start.
  • Your baby will only eat a little at a time, so don't push them to eat more.
  • Be aware of foods that may give your baby an allergic reaction.
  • Only introduce one new food to your baby a week.
  • Homemade food is always more nutritious than store bought baby food.
Kate Trout
 

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place to learn all about practical parenting tips, baby care tricks, and healthy-living hacks for new and expecting moms.

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