Feeding a baby their first solid food is a big milestone. It’s fun, it’s messy, and it’s downright entertaining. For me, though, it was also kind of scary. I felt unprepared and overwhelmed – there was so much I felt like I needed to learn and I had no idea where to start. However, I knew that the longer I waited the harder it would be – so I put on my big girl pants and picked up the baby spoon.
Through trial and error, hours of internet research, doctor recommendations, and helpful advice from friends and family; this is what I’ve learned. For all the Mama’s struggling like I did, please know it’s not as hard as you think it is!
When Should I Feed My Baby?
The most common recommendation is to introduce solids at about 6 months. However, you can start as early as 4 months if your baby is showing the right signs.
Your baby should be able to sit up and support their head fully. This doesn’t mean they have to be able to sit unassisted; it means that if you place them in a high chair, they aren’t flopping over like a fish. If they can’t sit up straight, they’re going to have a hard time swallowing their food – just like you would if you tried to eat a burger with your neck bent at a 45 degree angle.
If your baby is interested in your food, that’s another good sign they might be ready for some of their own. My daughter was totally mesmerized by me and my hubby at meal times, and would even reach for our food sometimes. I feel like she was taking mental notes on how to chew and swallow (probably not, but it’s fun to imagine).
If you’re starting your babe on foods before 6 months, it’s a good idea to run it by your doctor first. They can give you some good tips on what to start with, and give you a quick lesson on what kinds of nutrients your wee one needs.
What Should I Feed My Baby?
Many people choose to start with baby cereal. It’s high in iron and easy to digest – both very important things to consider when feeding baby. It also has a very mild flavor, which will likely be less of a shock to your baby. However, baby cereal can really back up your baby’s guts. High iron foods are good, but they can cause constipation. So, if you’re going to start with baby cereal make sure to introduce a high fiber food as well. I gave my daughter rice cereal twice a day for over a week. By the end of that week she was screaming and crying whenever she had to poop. It sucked!
High fiber foods ended her constipation pretty quick, and they tasted a lot better than the mush that is baby cereal. Many high fiber foods that are safe for babies start with a P – prunes, pears, peaches, peas, and plums. Apples, beans, and avocado are also really great for keeping your baby regular. All of these foods will need to be cooked before they are pureed, with the exception of avocado.
Other foods that our baby seems to really like are sweet potato, butternut squash, and banana (which doesn’t need to be cooked). We usually mix up a couple different types of food so she gets a fruit and a vegetable together. And if we give her baby cereal, we ALWAYS mix it with a high fiber fruit like pear or peach.
We haven’t ventured into the meat territory yet, but it’s coming soon! Pureed meat sounds disgusting to me, but a lot of babies eat it and love it.
What About Allergies?
Believe it or not, it’s actually recommended that you introduce allergens to your baby sooner rather than later. This includes nut butters, soy, egg, dairy products, and even shellfish. Apparently, introducing these foods early on has been shown to reduce the likelihood of an allergy developing. Just be careful though – you should always wait at least 3 days between new common allergy foods. And always watch for signs of a reaction, even if the new food isn’t a common allergen!
Don’t be scared to introduce common allergy foods to your baby. In general, allergies take time and multiple exposures to develop. So the likelihood of your baby having a serious reaction right off the bat is VERY unlikely.
A Couple Of Other Tips
When I started my baby on solids, I didn’t have a lot of success for quite a while. It was literally weeks before she would eat more than a spoon or two, and I was frustrated. I eventually realized that I was feeding her at the wrong times. She wasn’t hungry at the time of day I chose, and she was also eating by herself. When we started feeding her with us at lunch and dinner, we had what seemed like instant success. She sits at the table with us and we all eat together – it’s fun and we get some good family time!
That being said, be patient with your baby. Just like anything else, eating solid food is a skill. Up until this point, they’ve only ever consumed liquid. The first few tries with solids are probably going to be fails, but it’s still fun and your baby will get the hang of it!
Also, feeding is MESSY. So, have a large bib on your babe and probably just nix the clothes. My baby was a naked eater for the first few weeks. Even now, a bath is often necessary after dinner for both myself and my child. There’s also a nice green splotch of pea puree on our ceiling that will probably stay forever.
Feeding your baby really is fun, even if you’re a worry-wart like myself. I don’t like to say this very often because I know how cliche it is, but enjoy it while it lasts! One day soon your kid will be wrinkling their nose at everything you make and whining for McDonald’s.