If you’re reading this article, congratulations to you and your little one for moving towards a new milestone! At this point you’ve probably got your breastfeeding or bottle feeding down to a tee but know that your baby is ready to move towards solid foods. This usually happens around 4 to 6 months and the transition may seem intimidating, especially for first time parents. You may not know where to start or how to wean your baby off an entirely liquid diet or how you can maintain a balance between liquids and solids. Today we’ll be sharing our favorite baby safe starter foods as well as tips on the transition from a liquid to a mixed diet (all from the minds of board certified pediatricians).
Making the transition from breastmilk to solid foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tells us that your baby can start eating solids from 4 to 6 months old, but the timing really depends on your child. Some babies are happy to wait longer while some may have an earlier start. Here are just a few tell-tale signs that your little one is ready for solids:
- They can sit up right and hold their head up
- Their curiosity is growing and they’re looking at everything around them (especially the food you eat!)
- They’ve lost the tongue thrust reflex where they automatically push food out of their mouth
- They still seem fussy or hungry after full feedings (about 8 to 10 breast feedings or 32 ounces of formula)
If your baby is around 4 to 6 months old but hasn’t displayed the above behaviors, don’t fret! Each baby moves at their own pace and it’s always better to wait than to start early. In fact, experts say that you should not be feeding your baby solids before they are 4 months old. Now when your baby displays the signs we’ve mentioned, they’re probably ready for more hearty feedings but remember that the introduction of solids is just that, an introduction and that a majority of their calories and nutrients should still come from breastmilk or formula. It’s important that you still give your baby breastmilk or formula in the mornings, before or after mealtimes and before bedtime.
Now for our favorite starter foods, when you’re first making that transition it’s best to introduce your baby to single grain cereals. Start with a small portion by mixing one teaspoon of single-grain cereal with 4 to 5 teaspoons of breastmilk or formula. A baby’s iron levels start dropping after birth with an all time low around 9 months old and that is why an iron-fortified single grain cereal is most recommended as an early food. At this stage most of the cereal will wind up on your baby’s chin or the table of their highchair and this is totally normal. Don’t force them to eat if they shake their head or refuse to open up after the first mouthful, give it a break and try again in a week. Once your little one has gotten used to the cereal you can move onto thicker consistencies by using less breast milk or more cereal.
From 4 to 8 months we recommend pureed fruits, veggies and meats. The choice is yours whether you decide to first introduce them to pureed apples or carrots or even pureed chicken! The AAP believes that introducing allergenic foods early can reduce the risk of developing a food allergy. If your family has a strong history of food allergies then it is best to talk to your pediatrician about the best and safest ways to introduce these kinds of foods.
At 6 to 8 months your baby is ready for single ingredient finger foods. This may be the point where you start baby led weaning as the little ones are often curious about self feeding at this time! Don’t offer up any hard or solid foods just yet, avoiding things like carrot sticks and apple slices. Rather start with foods that are soft enough to mash between your fingers like cooked peas, small pieces of banana, rice puffs or pieces of avocado. The shapes of these foods matter too! Younger babies tend to pick up food with their palms so a wedge of avocado or a mound of mashed potatoes is much easier to handle. At this point no salt or sugar should be added to these foods, it’s best that your baby learns to enjoy these foods without added sodium or sweetener.
At 9 to 12 months your child is most likely ready to transition towards finger foods with more texture, things like yogurt, hummus, cottage cheese, bananas and mashed sweet potatoes. At this age their iron levels are quite low so it’s good to introduce iron-rich foods like spinach, broccoli and even pureed meats like turkey, chicken and beef.
Some foods to avoid are honey (it can cause botulism), cows milk as a drink – stick with breastmilk or formula as a drink until they reach 1 year old although it’s fine to use cows milk in cooking or baking. And finally, avoid choking hazards and stay away from foods like nuts, seeds, raisins, grapes, hot dogs and hard raw vegetables.
It can feel intimidating trying to remember all the information and responsibilities that come with raising a baby. First time moms may feel lost and overwhelmed, but they don’t have to be. We’ve built a host of resource blogs to help you help your baby and even help yourself on this journey of parenthood. And for our local Texans, we’ve got yours and baby’s backs! Looking for a reliable McKinney pediatrician? Give our office a call today to schedule an appointment and provide your child with the exceptional care they deserve