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The initial days of introducing solids to your little one can be quite a journey and at times a task to meet. Adding to the excitement of it all, it does require some tricks that you must have up your sleeves, making the experience worth every minute.
To help you, here is a blog post including everything you need to know about certain timelines, recommendations to enhance the little one’s menu, and safety measures with a simple baby food chart – you might want to print it at home.
By the time your baby is 4 to 6 months old, we’re sure you probably have the breastfeeding and/or formula drill down to an art. But, don’t get too comfortable with it, they need to get ready for the “real” food.
Read on to know everything about starting solids for your baby including tips to help master mealtime.
When Can Babies Start Eating Baby Food?
According to UNICEF, parents should start with solids for their babies anytime between 4 and 6 months, however, it also depends on your baby. How?
Here are some of the signs to understand if the little one is ready for solid baby food:
- They can independently sit upright and can hold their head up
- They are often quite curious and look around at everything around them—especially when you are having your meals
- Have lost their tongue-thrust reflex that automatically pushes the food out of their mouth
- They seem to be hungry even after a full day’s milk portion, that is, 8-10 breastfeedings or 32 ounces of formula
Note – You must not be in a rush to feed the solids to your baby to meet the milestone. Some babies start with solids between 5 and 6 months instead of 4 months, so it depends on the kind of development and growth of the baby.
Baby’s First Food: Introducing Solids to Babies
The AAP recommends that kids have exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then baby food + breastfeeding till they turn one year old. As an alternative, you can also give formula instead of breast milk.
Following this, try to slowly introduce solids to help the little ones get used to the “chew” and “swallow” of the food for the much-needed nutritional benefit.
When in the initial days, start by giving them the breast or bottle-feed first thing in the morning, before or after meals, and at bedtime. You might also want to experiment to find what works best for the infant. For example, are they big drinkers? (drinks the whole bottle before a meal). If yes, you must then feed them the solids first and then the bottle/breastfeed. On the other hand, if they are moderate drinkers, try the other way around.
Here are a few expectations that you must follow:
- For those up to 9 months of age, feed about 20 to 28 ounces of formula daily or breastmilk every 3 to 4 hours
- If 9 to 12 months, try to feed 16 to 24 ounces of formula or breast milk every 4 to 5 hours
Once they get used to it and begin to understand the concept of chewing and swallowing, usually between 6 and 9 months, this should be your cue to start on a routine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even if they aren’t hungry, the process will help them get into the meal schedule.
The required meal structure that a baby should have is:
- At 4 to 6 months they must have at least two meals, each of 2 – 4 tablespoons
- At 7 to 12 months, three meals a day, each equivalent to the size of the baby’s fist
When your baby gets used to the solid feeds, you can expect them to like peas and carrots one day and the other days they could be inclined to breast or bottle feed. The idea is to make sure to have a fair balance between it all to ensure proper nutritional intake for the baby.
Baby’s First Food: Age-wise Expectations
First things first, there are no hard and fast rules for the intake of a baby’s first foods. However, it is crucial to make sure they have a variety of options to choose from, such as fruits, meats, and vegetables to help the baby get used to different tastes.
For a better understanding, there are some suggestions to help you spread different tastes as per their age:
1) 4 to 6 Months: (Single-grain Cereals)
Understanding the level of iron rich food stored in the Utero drops post-birth, the baby reaches an all-time low source at around 9 months of age. This is why single-grain cereals are best to feed as they are fortified with iron, making them an ideal early food. You may want to combine a teaspoon of single-grain cereal with 4-5 teaspoons of breast milk/formula to feed.
Sure, at first most of the cereal grains might end up everywhere other than their mouth, but the major point is to help them get used to this different type of consuming food. It could get a little sloppy and frustrating, but it is crucial to follow the process to help the baby’s development.
However, be cautious to not overfeed the baby or force them to continue if they shake their head “no”, turn away, or refuse to open their mouth. Also, if they seem to be completely uninterested in the cereal, it’s ok to wait for a week until the next try.
As and when the little one gets used to the runny cereal, thicken the portion with less breast milk and more cereal.
2) 4 to 8 Months: (Pureed Veggies, Meats, and Fruits)
“Feeding fruits prior vegetables can cause a lifelong preference towards sweet foods,” well, we don’t know if it’s actually true with the lack of research to back it up, it is up to you to choose what you prefer. Wish to start with bananas and not carrots or pureed chicken for that matter, it’s truly an individual’s preference – idea is to start with either.
Adding to this, AAP also believes that its best to introduce allergenic foods too at this early stage as it can help reduce the risk of developing a food allergy. These could be peanuts, dairy, or eggs.
3) 6 to 8 Months: (Single-ingredient Finger Foods)
Irrespective of the fact of your beginnings with purees or solid finger foods, most infants enjoy the experience of self-feeding. Either way, make sure to avoid hard or raw foods like apple slices or carrot sticks as they could cause a choking hazard. Always cross-check and pick foods that are soft enough to mash using a gentle pressure between the thumb and the forefinger.
As for the shape, it does matter! There can be no better way to lure younger babies to start eating solids other than being cut in exciting shapes. Adding on, offer foods that can be picked with their whole palms for easy and safe chewing, be it mashed potatoes or a wedge of avocado to handle.
Be cautious, avoid adding salt or sugar in the solid foods for babies, it’s always best for them to get used to the food without any added seasonings.
4) 9 to 12 Months: Ground, Chopped, or Mashed Foods
Once the baby settles with soft solids, slowly introduce them to more textured finger foods, such as yogurt, mashed bananas, cottage cheese, and mashed sweet potatoes. A little more addition of iron is never too bad, you might also, at this stage, introduce pureed meats like chicken, beef, and turkey.
Baby’s First Food: Solid Foods To Avoid
Listed below are a few food kinds that you must avoid when planning your solid food chart for your baby:
- Honey – This can cause botulism, a serious illness in case it’s introduced in the early stages
- Cow’s milk – It is best to stick with breast milk and formula since it is a primary source of beverage until they are one year old.
- Hard Foods – You must at all costs avoid chunky and hard solids for your baby in the initial stages as they could cause a choking hazard. These include nuts, raisins, seeds, hard candy, grapes, hard raw vegetables, peanut butter, popcorn, and hot dogs.
Baby’s First Food: Baby Food Chart for Starting Solids
Baby’s First Food: Managing Their Mealtime - Final Words
Here’s how you can manage the baby’s mealtime:
1) Creating A Routine
A baby would need some time off to focus while eating, therefore, especially in the initial days, start with a routine. This could include helping them wash their hands, soothe them, and make them sit to eat. It is also necessary to maintain calm during their mealtime, even if this means turning the TV off or eliminating any kind of loud music. This helps them become conscious of eating and would focus on learning and recognizing when they are full.
2) Solids Take Time
Let alone them learning to literally consume solids, keep in mind that solids take time, even true with grown-ups. Therefore, make sure to keep a calm environment and make the baby feel comfortable with the new sensations. Such as, what it feels like to take a spoon to their mouth and the textures of different foods.
3) Being Well Prepared For Mess
You cannot expect the baby to pick their food from the plate and put it right back – It’s A Baby!
Be prepared for messes with them flinging the food everywhere, especially if practicing baby-led weaning. Nevertheless, it is common and doesn’t have to be disliked, but encourage them for each developmental progress.
4) Watch Out For Allergies
Keeping a close eye on allergies, it is best to give your child only one kind of food for about three or four days before you skip to the other. While doing so, it is best to keep a chart of the kinds of solids and see if there are any signs of an allergic reaction or intolerance, such as a rash, wheezing, hives, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas, or blood in their stools. If any of these happen, make sure to call your pediatrician and go to the ER, because this is serious.