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The Complete Guide on How and When to Introduce Solid Food to Your Baby

Published on 28th March 2021 by Tessa Robinson

You should continue breastfeeding your newborn until they’re six months old. Babies are ready for solid food by the time they’re four months, but that doesn’t mean you can jump straight into the process.

Solid food should complement breastfeeding or formula feeding at first. Babies stop using their tongues to push food away during this time. They finally develop that sense of coordination that enables them to swallow. But how do you know when and how to introduce solid food to your baby?

When Should Your Baby Consume Solid Food?

Keep an eye out for the signs. Here are a few:

  • Your baby can now hold its head in a steady, upright position.
  • Your baby can sit with support.
  • They are mouthing everything they can get their hands on!
  • They’re showing an interest in the food you eat.

If your child is at this stage, it’s time to supplement their diet with solid meals. Babies tend to eat solids right around six months old. Allow them to pick what to eat. It’s called the baby-led weaning (BLW) process, and the recipes for BLW are super easy to make.

How to Get Started

While continuing to breastfeed or formula-feed your child, introduce single-ingredient foods into their diet. These meals shouldn’t contain sugar or salt. Try this every three or four days. You’ll be able to detect if your child has any adverse reactions.

Incorporate important nutrients. Make sure to add iron and zinc to your child’s diet. You can find them in pureed meats or single-grain cereals. More importantly, add veggies and fruits. Pureed vegetables and fruits without sugar or salt are easily digested by your baby.

By the time they’re eight months old, you can offer them finely chopped finger goods. These include soft fruits or vegetables. You can add pasta, cheese, or meat too. But, again, pay attention to what they like. Allow them to develop a good relationship with food.

Avoid feeding your child potentially allergenic foods. These include:

  • Egg
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans
  • Wheat

Delaying these won’t prevent any potential allergic reactions. It’s simply safer to avoid. However, it’s recommended to introduce foods that contain peanuts early to decrease the risk of peanut allergies. Then, if your baby doesn’t face any reaction, you can gradually increase the amount they intake.

Pro-tip: Don’t dive into juices yet. Wait till your baby is at least one year old before giving them juice. Juice isn’t as valuable as whole fruits. Too much of it can lead to weight problems. Moreover, it can contribute to tooth decay.

What if Your Child Refuses Their First Feeding?

That’s okay! Don’t forget this is an entirely new experience for them. They’re being confronted with a myriad of new textures and tastes. If your child refuses the feeding, it’s okay.

Don’t force it on them. Things can get messy. It’s important to keep your baby and the room clean while feeding.

Try again a few days later. The problem shouldn’t persist. If it does, consult a healthcare provider. They’ll help you detect any other issue.

Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby

Most mothers are recommended to continue breastfeeding until their baby is six months old. Formula-feeding is also an excellent alternative for mothers who can’t breastfeed.

Introducing solids to your child is more about getting them to chew and swallow. The nutritional benefits come later. Give your child a bottle the first thing in the morning. Then, try feeding them a single-ingredient meal.

Experiment to find out what works for them. Once your little one becomes familiar with eating, they’ll become more interested in food. Get them into a routine.

Make them sit during mealtimes. They’ll get accustomed to the schedule. However, make sure you’re not forcing your child to eat. If they’re not interested, let them be.

You should feed them a couple of tablespoons of every meal by the time they’re six months old. Then, as they grow older, you can increase their portions.

Don’t worry if your child is more interested in peas than milk some days. It’s normal to be this way while transitioning into solid meals. Other days, they won’t want to do anything but nurse. Be patient. The change will be eventual but absolute.

What Your Baby’s First Solid Foods Should Look Like

Again, there are no hard and fast rules with solid foods. Just make sure to incorporate a variety of fruits, veggies, and meats. Your baby should get used to different flavor profiles. Here’s what you can introduce them to.

When They’re 4 to 6 Months Old

Invest in single-grain cereals. Cereals fortified with iron are the ideal pick for babies this age. Combine the cereal with formula milk for easy consumption.

Don’t be deterred when most cereal ends up on your child’s chin. The goal is to get them used to the idea of eating. It’s a sloppy process, but you will get used to it.

Also, if your baby turns away, it’s okay. Don’t force them to eat if they don’t want to. If they’re uninterested in cereal now, try again a week later. You can thicken the cereal once they get used to the runny texture.

When They’re 6 to 8 Months Old

It’s time to bring out the fruits and veggies! Puree all types of fruits and vegetables for your kid. You can even puree some chicken once they’re used to the different flavors. Just avoid allergenic foods and you’re good to go.

Children tend to experiment with self-feeding. Place finger foods in front of them. Apple slices or carrot sticks are a good bet. Make sure they’re soft, though. They pass the test if you can mash them with your thumbs.

When They’re 9 to 12 Months Old

Your child should transition away from smooth purees now. They’ve evolved! Try to add more texture to their meals. Add chopped, ground, or mashed meals. Yogurt, mashed bananas, or potatoes are great choices. They need more iron at this point too. So, you can get them pureed meats as well.

Preparing Baby Meals at Home

It’s best not to give your baby solid foods before they’re four months old as there are certain risks associated with it. Home-made food isn’t always ideal for kids. They haven’t developed the necessary skills to swallow yet.

Moreover, food like spinach, beets, beans, or squash aren’t things they’ll be comfortable with from the get-go. This is because these vegetables have a lot of nitrate in them. So, stick to the food items recommended above.

Here are some tips you can follow while preparing meals for your baby. Let’s get started.

  1. Mix cereals with breastmilk or formula for a smoother consistency. The same applies to cooked grains. Add more liquid content so your baby can easily swallow the meals.
  2. Puree everything until it’s smooth. No matter what you’re giving your baby, always puree it!
  3. Cook hard fruits and vegetables before serving them. For example, you can boil carrots and cool them before giving them to your baby. Then, they should be able to mash them with ease.
  4. Test the food items first. You should be able to mash the meals with a fork.
  5. If you’re serving meat, make sure to remove all the fat, skin, and bones.
  6. Get rid of all the seeds and hard pits from fruits. Make sure they’re cut into small pieces before serving. Thin slices are more manageable for babies to consume.

What to Avoid

It’s best to avoid certain foods. Honey causes infant botulism. So don’t introduce honey early.

You should also avoid cow’s milk. Instead, breast milk or formula should be your go-to, especially if your child is under one year. Most importantly, any food that can lead to choking should be avoided. This includes nuts, seeds, grapes, hard veggies, and more.

Managing Mealtimes for Your Baby

The first piece of advice for you is to create a routine. Your child can’t eat without focus. So, start getting them into a routine. Wash their hands, calm them down, and settle them down to eat.

Adding solids to their diet will take time. Allow them to feel comfortable with the new sensations. Give them utensils. Or just let them feel the tastes and textures of different food items.

Don’t worry about the grimaces. It’s natural. More importantly, brace yourself for the mess. That’s inevitable. Your baby will fling food everywhere, especially during BLW. This mess doesn’t indicate distaste. It’s just them learning motor skills.

How can you ensure your baby is eating properly? Talk to them. Help them through the process. Be patient and ignore the mess. Here are some tips.

1. Allow Them to Stay Seated

If your baby can sit without support, invest in a highchair. This should have a robust and stable base and a buckle.

2. Don’t Discourage Exploration

Let your kids play with their food. It’s okay. Children are messy. Allow them to get used to the unfamiliar textures.

3. Introduce Utensils Early

Your baby’s dexterity will improve as they learn how to eat better. This time is ideal for introducing utensils. They’ll master it in no time!

Final Thoughts

Introducing solid foods to your baby could be a tricky process. The key is to be patient. If your baby turns away from the food, let them be. However, it’s essential to know when to call it quits. Most importantly, enjoy the process. It may be a sloppy, gooey mess, but it’s a small sacrifice for your child’s health!

Hope this guide on how and when to introduce solid foods to your baby helps you to transition smoothly from a liquid- to a solid-based

Category: Babies, Parents, Toddlers

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