Starting solids can be such a confusing but at the same time enjoyable development for babies. And mothers often wonder when to start solids and what to feed their babies as first solids. So, let’s talk about that – solids with a baby.
When Do I Start?
It’s surprising and sad to me that there are still pediatricians recommending parents to start their babies on solids at 4 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk as the sole source of nutrition for babies for at least the first 6 months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
There are many reasons to wait on solids until at least 6 months – and this includes both breastfed and formula fed babies. One of them is the increased risk of obesity for babies that start solids before 6 months. And another reason being the increased risk of allergies, constipation, colic, and stomach irritations since a baby’s gut is not complete until sometime between 4-6 months.
Even at 6 months of age, a baby may or may not be ready for solids. Instead of going by the age of your child, consider instead looking for signs that your baby is ready for solids.
Signs that your baby is ready for solids include –
- Excellent head control
- Able to sit up
- Interest in the foods you are eating (this is more than just watching you eat, but includes reaching for your food and not easily distracted from what you are eating)
- Has pincher grip
Do I Start with Rice Cereal?
To this I would answer — why? Rice cereal is a highly processed food that has such a bland taste, can make babies constipated and in itself has little nutrients (that’s why store-bought baby rice cereal is processed to include added nutrients). It’s also a grain which are the hardest for a baby’s body to digest until about 1 year of age.
If you’ve been nursing, your baby is used to delicious flavors from the foods that you eat. Why not keep your baby’s gourmet palate fulfilled by starting solids using the same kinds of foods you currently eat?
Some ideas for first foods
- Sweet Potato
- Green beans
How Do I Prepare the Foods?
If you’re starting solids (vs. babyled feeding) you’ll mash or puree what you’re able to or you’ll steam and puree what can’t be eaten raw while still being soft enough to mash. Here are some resources for recipes for feeding your baby:
The 4 Day Rule
Most pediatricians and experts in baby feeding recommend waiting 4 days between new foods when beginning baby on solids. The reason for this is for you to be able to monitor how your baby is responding to the new food. In this way you can learn if your baby has an allergy or intolerance to a food. While we personally didn’t follow the 4 day rule (we didn’t since allergies to foods in our family are rare), I do think it’s a wise way of starting your baby on solids. And if you're concerned about food allergies, there's the option of Food Sensitivity Test Kits at EverlyWell.com, which I've personally used.
Finally, before beginning solids it’s recommend you take a Infant CPR/First Aid class so you can be prepared for any emergency. Of course, be sure to discuss what you will do with your pediatrician.
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