Starting Solid Foods Too Early
There are many misconceptions that come along with the decision to feed an infant solid foods before 6 months of age- a common belief being that feeding solid foods such as cereal will make an infant sleep through the night. In reality however, sleeping through the night is actually associated with mental development, not the fullness of an infant. Feeding an infant solid foods before 6 months may increase the risk of choking, food allergies, gastric discomfort, and becoming overweight or obese later in life.
How To Start Introducing Solids
Solid foods can be introduced in any order as long as they are iron-rich and the food is the right texture. Look for signs that your baby’s ready for solids.
There is no clear recommendation about the best time of day to offer first solids. But it can be helpful to give your baby solids after a milk feed, mid-morning, so if they’re unsettled, it’s less likely to impact their night-time sleep.
If you find your baby loves solid foods so much that they’re cutting back on their breastfeeds or bottle feeds, reduce the amount of solids you’re offering. Milk is still an important source of nutrition for the first 9 to 12 months of life.
Ultimate Guide To Baby Led Weaning
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Learn the basics of how to do the feeding approach known as baby led weaning and the best first foods for baby to make starting solids easy and fun. Plus: Learn why its perfectly okay to use a combined approach of blw and purees.
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Q When Should Babies Be Introduced To Common Food Allergens
A. The best way to deal with common food allergens, such as peanut products, eggs, soy and fish, is to introduce them to your child early: around 4 to 6 months. Feel free to offer these foods to your child if:
- Its not a choking risk.
- Its pureed and soft.
- Your child doesnt have a strong family history of food allergies or allergy-prone conditions, such as severe asthma.
- Your child doesnt have severe eczema or other allergic tendencies.
The only foods on the no-fly list? Honey and cows milk until age 1 .
We dont recommend honey, especially unpasteurized, because of the risk of botulism, explains Dr. Prabhakaran. Breast milk is the best choice for your baby until they are one year old. And even though formula is made with cows milk protein, it is fortified with more vitamins and iron than cows milk.
If you have any concerns, check with your childs pediatrician before introducing potential allergens. They can help assess your childs risk and come up with a plan to see if your baby can safely enjoy these foods.
When Is A Baby Ready To Start Solid Foods
Experts agree that you shouldnt start until your baby can hold his or her head steady, and can sit upright in a high chair or infant feeding seat.
Babies need to stay vertical so they can swallow well and avoid choking.
In addition, youll have more success if you wait until
- your baby shows signs of being curious about food, and
- your baby is developing the ability to transfer food to the back of the mouth with his or her tongue.
What about a babys age? How old should a baby be?
For decades, pediatric organizations have recommended that babies breastfeed exclusively until 6 months postpartum. Then parents are advised to begin introducing solids.
But recent research suggests at least one advantage for babies who start between 4 and 6 months: Exposure to foods during this time frame might help lower a babys risk of developing allergies .
Its also possible that introducing a variety of foods between 4-6 months could help make children more willing to try new foods as they get older.
Why not start solids even earlier? Experts warn against this because babies younger than 4 months are at higher risk of choking. In addition, babies may respond to the introduction of solids by drinking less of the breast milk or formula they need to thrive.
Finally, studies suggest that starting solids before 4 months doesnt reduce the risk of allergies , and some researchers worry that it might actually increase the risk.
How Do I Prevent Choking When Introducing Solids
Here’s what to do to prevent choking when solid food is on the menu:
- Stay close. At this point, eating should be a spectator sport, with you closely watching every bite your baby takes.
- Start small. Cut food into pieces tiny enough that your baby can swallow them whole if she doesn’t spend any time gumming them .
- Get bigger slowly. As your baby gets used to eating pieces of soft, solid food , gradually move up from minced to chopped to small cubes.
- Keep the portions baby-sized. Place only one or two chunks at a time on the plate or tray so she doesn’t stuff in more than she can handle.
- Stay seated. Not you, but baby. Offer finger foods to your baby only when she’s sitting down not crawling, cruising or toddling around. Eating on the run isn’t just bad manners it’s unsafe for the inexperienced eater.
You also shouldn’t give your baby foods that won’t dissolve in the mouth, can’t be mashed with the gums or can be easily sucked into the windpipe.
How To Start Babies On Solid Food: An Evidence
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Introducing solid foods to your baby is a messy, amusing, and sometimes frustrating business. How do you start?
The first thing to understand is the goal. You arent trying to replace your babys breast milk or formula intake with solid food.
Thats because solid foods dont provide the complete nutrition that young infants need. If young babies reduce their breast milk intake, and replace it with cereal or other baby foods, they are at risk for poor nutrition .
So when you introduce solids to your baby, you are entering a transitional period. Your baby will still rely on breast milk or formula for the bulk of his or her nutritional needs. But your baby will be learning about solid foods learning how to eat, and how to accept new flavors and textures.
And this understanding can keep you from becoming overly frustrated. Your baby doesnt have to empty a jar of baby food in order to make progress. Repeated tasting of foods and practice moving food around in the mouth is important progress by itself.
With that understanding in mind, what else does the evidence tell us about introducing solids to babies? Here are some common questions and answers.
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Reasons For Introducing Solid Foods Before 17 Weeks
The main reasons that women gave for introducing solids to their infants before 17 weeks were that their baby was hungry or big for their age , that their baby was old enough to start solids , that they used solids to settle the baby or help them sleep through the night and/or that the baby was showing interest in solids or were in some other way indicating they were ready for solids , for example by putting their hands or other objects in their mouth and chewing on them . Younger or primiparous mothers were no more likely to perceive their infant to be hungry than older or multiparous women .
Table 3 Main reasons for introducing solids before 17 weeks of age
What Does A Baby Led Weaning Meal Look Like For Months 7 And 8
Until a baby is closer to 9 months and is able to pick up smaller pieces of foods, but after they have gotten the hang of one food at a time, I try to offer 1-2 foods they can feed themselves and one puree. This offers them a chance to ingest more via the puree but still feed themselves a range of textures. You can do more or less food following the lead of the child.
TIP: My Baby Food Chart has loads of with ideas for blw foods and purees by month.
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How To Cut Foods For Blw
You generally want the food to be big enough that it would be difficult for baby to put the entire thing into their mouths. Here are some specifics:
- Foods that are roughly the size of a finger, so about a 4-inch stick.
- Foods that are easy for the baby to pick upthey cant pick up small pieces until closer to 9 months when they develop the ability to use their fingers in whats known as a pincer grasp.
- Foods that arent too slipperyso you can wash and leave some of the peel on fresh foods like bananas, avocado, kiwi, and mango.
TIP: You can also go even bigger if youre worried about size. Think half of a slice of bread or a big chunk of watermelon.
Carefully And Gradually Introduce Solid Foods For Baby
You should also note that feeding your baby with solid foods prior to 4 months of age might lead to digestive issues. Plus, once you get to the point where your child is ready, knowing which solid foods for baby are best and how to prepare them helps you to avoid any mishaps like choking or aspirating. Here are a few tips from Dr. Desiraju:
It is crucial to start feeding them one food at a time for three to five days. It helps you identify what works for your child and what does not.
- Start with small amounts like a teaspoon at a time.
- Wait until after breast or bottle feeding to give solid foods
- Introduce a single-grain cereal mixed with formula or breast milk
- Incorporate pureed vegetables, fruits, and meats one food at a time
- Wait a few days before trying a new food to check for allergies
- Refrain from giving your baby processed meats like hot dogs or cold cuts
Finally, if youre preparing your own baby food, youll need to remember to avoid honey , seeds, and fruit juices. On the other hand, you can also find some excellent, nutritious baby foods that are already pre-made. Either option would work well.
Sometimes when questioning when can my baby eat solid food, parents might get overly enthusiastic about sharing whats on their plate. Theres no need to worry. Your child will gain the right amount of nutrients from formula or breast milk while exploring the healthiest choices of solid foods.
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Best First Foods For Baby: Purees
Here are some of our favorite purees to start offering baby when theyre ready to start solids. Remember: Theres no evidence that says that you need to start with vegetables versus fruits, so go with something that tastes good to you. Start with single foods pureed smooth and offer just a little at a time on a spoon.
TIP: One of my favorite baby food companies is Amara Organic Baby Food, a company using a nutrient protection technology that makes organic purees just as good as homemade. I love how easy they are to use when I need a shortcut and that they have fun baby-led weaning recipes on the side of every box!
When To Start Solids
Ultimately, your baby’s age and a conversation with your pediatrician should be what determines when you introduce solid foods into your little one’s diet. You might notice signs that your baby is ready for solid foods, such as strong head and neck control and the ability to sit up independently. However, these indicators do not replace a discussion with your baby’s doctor.
Once you decide to start your baby on solids, it’s common to have lots of questions, such as whether to start with baby cereal, which foods to introduce , and whether they should introduce juice too. Ask your pediatrician any questions you have about your baby’s nutrition and diet.
Recommended Reading: When Can I Introduce Solid Food To My Baby
How Should I Introduce My Child To Foods
Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.
Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.
Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.
Potentially allergenic foods include cows milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cows milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cows milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your childs doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.
What Is The Meaning Of Weaning
The Oxford English Dictionary defines weaning as to accustom to food other than its mothers milk. There is a second definition, which when talking about baby animals, is often conflated with the first: accustom to managing without something which they have become dependent on. In this context, removing the kitten permanently from the mother. This confusion is unfortunate as it suggests that kittens should be removed from their mothers when they start eating solid food. In fact, a kitten should remain with the mother at least a month after they have started eating solid food to ensure adequate socialization.
Early weaning, as in early separation from the mother, can result in behavioural problems. It can be a challenge in hand-reared kittens. However, here we discuss weaning in strictly the sense of introducing a kitten to solid food.
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What Are The Best Foods And Textures To Start With
Offer your baby healthy, nutritious foods which will support their growth and development. When they first start on solid foods, they won’t need much. One to 2 teaspoons is plenty until they learn what’s involved in coordinating their mouth to open, chew and swallow.
Start by offering your baby pureed foods that have a smooth and easy-to-swallow texture. Even though your baby won’t have teeth to chew and grind their food, they will still use their gums to ‘chew’. As they get older, they can eat foods with more texture. Chewing also helps with jaw and speech development.
You can try feeding your baby:
- iron-fortified cereals
- pureed or minced red or white meat, including fish
- cooked vegetables. Aim for white, orange, green and yellow vegetables in their diet each day.
- fruit, either cooked or mashed
- cooked and mashed egg
- dairy foods for example, unsweetened yoghurt and full-fat cheese
- wholegrain bread, cereal and pasta
As your baby grows, transition them from purees to mashed foods with lumps and textures. You can also serve minced or chopped food, then ‘finger foods’. These are foods that are cut into small pieces which babies can pick up and eat themselves.
Risks Of Weaning Too Soon Or Too Late
You should not give your baby solid foods before 17 weeks because:
- their kidneys are not mature enough to handle food and drinks other than milk
- their digestive systems are not yet developed enough to cope with solid foods
- breast milk or formula milk is all your baby needs until they are 6 months old
- introducing other foods or fluids can displace the essential nutrients supplied by breast or formula milk
- introducing solids too early can increase the risk of obesity in later life
- it can increase their risk of allergy
You should not wait later than 26 weeks because:
- your baby’s energy needs can no longer be met by either breast milk or formula milk alone
- iron stores from birth are used up by 6 months and their iron needs can no longer be met by milk alone
- it delays their opportunity to learn important skills, including self-feeding
- introducing different textures stimulates the development of muscles involved in speech
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What To Do About Dairy Products
It is absolutely OK to offer soft, milk-based foods from 6- to 12-months old. The only dairy product to avoid is whole milk, which does not offer the range of nutrients and iron that breast milk and formula have. It will take time for your baby to get enough nutrients from table foods and your child should continue receiving breast milk or formula during that time.
It is safe to give your child yogurt and cheese, as these can be great sources of protein. Typically, we recommend whole-fat yogurt, but non-dairy yogurts and cheeses are also OK.
Within a few months of starting solid foods, your babys daily diet should include a variety of foods, such as breast milk, formula, or both meats cereal vegetables fruits eggs and fish.
How Should I Prepare Food For My Child To Eat
At first, its easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Your child might cough, gag, or spit up. As your babys oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.
Some foods are potential choking hazards, so it is important to feed your child foods that are the right texture for his or her development. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always watch your child while he or she is eating.
Here are some tips for preparing foods:
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