I remember hearing from our pediatrician, “You can start solids now with Patrick.” I remember asking, “Okay, I am a pediatric dietitian, but how do I really do this?” I had the book smarts but not the real life wisdom, yet.
Step 1: Be mindful of when to start solids. Follow your child’s feeding cues and developmental stage. Understand that when starting solids, they are not for nutrition but for baby’s development. Food provides a new taste, challenge (how do I swallow this stuff?!), and texture for them!
Step 2: Start each new food every 3 days. Spoon feed the solids versus providing them through a bottle.
We started with rice cereal because it is the most hypoallergenic cereal and contains added iron. There are other ideas of which food to start – the bottom line is to start each new food every 3 days. We mixed a couple tablespoons of rice cereal with breast milk and spoon fed our son. He was sitting in a propped seat (pumpkin seat) so he was at a 45 degree angle. It is a messy ordeal! Rice cereal everywhere! Pictures taken! After we were done ohhing and ahhing, he sat there with a toy while we ate our meal. He was officially a participant at mealtime.
- About 1-2 weeks later, we later provided the rice cereal at his “breakfast meal.” I nursed when he got up and then, later, we would eat breakfast (or he would have it at daycare).
- Our sons’ toys after meals became an empty sippy cup. Each played with it, threw it and eventually, put it to his mouth – mimicking us drinking. Later, we placed a little water in the cup and took the stopper out (making it free flow).This transition helped when they had to drink from a regular cup at daycare at 18 months. Speech Pathologists share that sucking on sippy cups work different muscles in the mouth and possibly contributes to speech challenges down the road.
- When we began to introduce other solids, we started with vegetables. It really doesn’t matter which food to start. Some say start with vegetables to become used to the flavors before introducing sweeter fruits. The important message is to start a new food every 3 days- easier to identify if an allergic reaction occurs. Open up the Stage 1 veggie or fruit jar and spoon out 1/3 of the container each day into a dish and repeat for 3 days. We provided our veggies at dinner time with the cereal. When we introduced fruits, we provided them at breakfast with the cereal.
- As our boys got older and hungrier, we increased the volume of cereal mixed with breast milk (or formula) and jars of baby foods (moving from Stage 1 to 2). We introduced at “lunch time” half a jar of fruit and half a jar of vegetable.
- Around 8-10 months, we introduced plain strained meats. The amount of iron and protein in 1 little jar of plain strained meats is equal to 3-4 jars of dinners. The dinner jars are made with fillers and sodium – check out the food labels! Our lunch and dinner meals then consisted of the plain strained meats with the fruit/vegetable and/or cereal. We chose to mix it all together – have you smelled baby food? The fruits added that natural sweetness!
- We knew when our boys were done with their meal: moving their hand to bat away the spoon or moving their face to the side (of course, food now on their cheek!). We had to watch so we could listen to their pre-word way of communicating!
- To help their pincer grasp (the thumb and fore finger picking up items) along we progressed to giving them finger foods, starting with Gerber Graduate Puffs or Cheerios. With our first son, I divided each Cheerio into thirds; the third son got whole Cheerios right away. The puffs are nice for starters because they dissolve in the baby’s mouth. I like Cheerios later for the extra nutrition.
- Beware of choking hazards: keep foods soft and as they are able to chew, keep foods small in sizes.
Foods that may cause Choking
- Whole Corn
- Whole Grapes
- Hot Dogs
- Meat Chunks, unless finely chopped
- Sausage Links
- Nuts, unless chopped fine
- Peanut Butter
- Popcorn, unless served with water to cleanse the palate
- Raisins, unless cooked
- Raw apples
- Raw vegetables
- Gum drops
- Hard Candy
- Jelly beans
Step 3: Eat with your child! Make meal time about trying new foods and talking with each other. With our busy lifestyles and technology, we lose out on talking. Plus, your baby loves to model you. If you wish for him or her to adopt healthy eating habits, this is the time to start teaching!
Step 4: Good luck and have fun!
Refer to one of my favorite handouts from Gerber on infant feeding. Remember to note your infant’s feeding and physical skills along with their cues in all feeding times. Introducing solids is more than just giving them food for the first time.