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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 figure out the best first foods for a baby, 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 first 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 a baby’s first foods including tips to help master mealtime.
When Can You Start a Baby’s First Foods?
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.
- They 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 breastfeeding 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.
First Foods for a Baby: The Hows and Whens Explained
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.
But What If My Baby Refuses To Eat First Foods?
Oh, babies always refuse food and we need to keep in mind that they are learning. You’re trying something different. It is completely normal for babies to reject that taste from time to time. In fact, science teaches us that sometimes babies need to taste some things multiple times before they are comfortable with them. So it’s very vital that guardians not lose trust or feel like the child, whenever they’ve dismissed a food that it’s dismissed for eternity. Everything things we can manage as guardians are to unwind and attempt once more.
Should You Let Your Baby Reach For Their First Food Themself of Spoon-feed?
Babies can be fed by using a spoon or very clean hands. Washing your hands and making sure that everything you use to feed the baby is as clean as possible is really important. Once more, the one thing we need to recollect is that children are learning and they’re exceptionally intrigued by their food, so taking care of infants actually should be a touch of compromise.
For parents to comprehend the signals that babies are sending, part of feeding babies includes listening to and watching for their cues. Since similarly as they can’t take care of themselves, they additionally can’t converse with us and let us know when they’re abhorring something very however much we’d like them to or when their bellies are full. Since they are unable to communicate verbally, they communicate through a variety of cues.
When they get a little bit older, they also want to start touching their food and putting food in their mouths. That can begin as early as nine months to one year of age. Babies should have some control over how they interact with their food, even though we have some control over what we give them.
Age-wise Expectations for a Baby’s First Solid Food
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, here are some suggestions to help you spread different tastes according to their age:
1. Single-grain Cereals are The Best First Foods for a Baby at 4 to 6 Months
The baby reaches an all-time low source at around 9 months of age as the iron levels in-utero drop post-birth. 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 4-5 teaspoons of breast milk/formula and a teaspoon of single-grain cereal 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 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.
When the little one gets used to the runny cereal, thicken the portion with less breast milk and more cereal.
2. Pureed Veggies, Meats, and Fruits are Some Finger-licking Baby First Food at 4 to 8 Months
“Feeding fruits as the first baby foods before vegetables can cause a lifelong preference towards sweet foods,” well, we don’t know if it’s 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 – it is okay 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. Single-ingredient Finger Foods are The Top Choice of First Foods for a Baby at 6 to 8 Months Old
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 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. In addition, offer foods that can be picked up with their whole palms for easy and safe chewing, be it mashed potatoes or a wedge of avocado to handle.
Be cautious and avoid adding salt or sugar to solid foods for babies, it’s always best for them to get used to the food without any added seasonings.
4. Ground, Chopped, or Mashed Foods are The Best Baby First Foods at 9 to 12 Months Old
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 iron is never too bad, you might also, at this stage, introduce pureed meats like chicken, beef, and turkey.
Which Baby’s First Food Should You Avoid?
Listed below are a few foods 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 this could cause a choking hazard. These include nuts, raisins, seeds, hard candy, grapes, hard raw vegetables, peanut butter (since it is thick and sticky), popcorn, and hot dogs.
Baby’s First Food Chart for Starting Solids
A Final Word on Managing a Baby’s First Food Timetable
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, soothing them, and making 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 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 encourages them through 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.