When should we introduce our baby to solid foods?
Introducing babies to solid foods can be both an exciting and overwhelming time for parents. Learn more about best practices, including baby-led weaning, from CareNectar expert Crystal Morgan.
When do you recommend starting babies on solid foods? Can we do a mix of solids and purees, and can you recommend some healthy options? And do you recommend we supplement with breastmilk?
You present some very good questions related to introducing solid foods and knowing the best time to do so. This topic can be quite overwhelming for many parents, as over time, recommendations for introducing solid foods have changed over time, leaving parents with unanswered questions and increasing levels of confusion.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, however many pediatricians will give you the green light as early as 4 months of age. It is important to remember that solid foods are considered complementary and breast milk or formula should continue to be the main source of nutrition during the first year of life.
There are some developmental milestones that should be achieved to help make the introduction to solids a positive experience for all involved. Waiting the recommended time of 6 months for exclusively breastfed infants and 4 to 6 months for formula-fed infants is important, but there are also other factors to consider.
- Does your baby show an interest in feeding?
- Do they reach for food when others are eating?
- Can they pick up objects with their first finger and thumb?
- Are they able to hold their head up or sit for short periods of time with or without assistance?
- Has their tongue-thrust reflex (sticking their tongue out as to push something out of the mouth) disappeared?
Displaying some of these behaviors and meeting the recommended age based on their primary feeding source are both key.
Additionally, baby-led weaning is a new method of introducing solid foods that allow babies to explore food while becoming familiar with different tastes, textures, colors, and smells. It is also a great opportunity for them to engage in mealtime with other family members and creates strong oral motor function that is needed for chewing and swallowing. Choking is a concern for parents, but baby-led weaning is a method of feeding that helps babies learn to use their gag reflex appropriately and bring food up before choking can occur. The basic concepts of baby-led weaning include:
- Allowing to choose which foods to eat
- Offering small amounts of water with meals in a soft open cup
- Offering utensils for self-feeding for soft or pureed foods
- Scheduling meals during family meal time
- Learning to eat when hungry and stop when full
- Unrestricted mealtime
Choosing which foods to start with first is totally up to you! There is no research to indicate that parents must start with cereal, fruits, or vegetables in any specific order or that starting with one will affect how the others are tolerated. The same goes for offering pureed foods over finger foods. Small amounts should be offered first as to not overwhelm your baby. You should initially offer one new food a week to help identify any allergic reactions or problematic foods. There are a ton of organic baby foods on the market for you to choose from that provide foods without genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and this information should be provided on the label. If you are concerned with additive ingredients you can always give making your own baby food a shot using the ingredients of your choice!
Here is a great website for information on baby-led weaning, introducing solid foods and recipes that may be helpful for you: http://www.solidstarts.com. I hope you find this information helpful and you have a smooth transition with introducing solids!
Meet The Expert
Crystal is a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Family Nurse Practitioner with more than 18 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in Labor and Delivery, Postpartum, and Newborn Nursery. She is passionate about all things related to women’s health and maternal child including breastfeeding education and support, and health and wellness promotion. Learn more and contact her at: toughtittylactation.com