Thinking of starting solids with your baby? It's an exciting milestone, but conflicting advice can make it confusing. Start with nutrient-dense foods that compliment your milk and build up to wholesome, nourishing meals that your child thrives on.
Starting Solid Foods
Experts agree that breastmilk is sufficient for your child throughout the first year and there's no need to rush starting solids, even if you're going to use organic baby food and ingredients.
There's definite pressure to feed babies solids earlier due to outdated advice and traditions, but your milk is great for your baby even past his or her first birthday. Eating a rich, nourishing diet yourself means you'll make rich milk to compliment your baby's first solid foods.
You decide the right time to start solids. Some “solid readiness” signs aren't actually a sign that your baby wants or needs solids. All babies grab and mouth things; it doesn't mean that they need food.
If your baby thrusts his or her tongue out when you try and put food in, it's a good sign that it's too early for starting solids. This tongue thrusting reflex is a defense mechanism to protect your baby. If you feed your baby a solid and it causes a lot of spitting up, or if it passes through the stool undigested, your baby may not be ready for solids yet.
Signs of Readiness
Many organizations advocate that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months – that means no supplemental juice or solids until that time. The World Health Organization, Health Canada, and the US Department of Health and Human Services are among some of these organizations.
Waiting to start solids gives your baby a longer period of enhanced immune protection, protection from allergies, and it gives your baby's digestive system time to mature.
Here are some of the commonly listed guidelines for starting solids:
- Your baby can sit up without support.
- Your baby no longer has the tongue thrust reflex (see above)
- Your baby should be able to chew.
- Curiosity about your food (remember that babies are curious about everything).
- Gaining weight. Your baby should have doubled his or her birth weight, or be close to it.
- Your baby should be around six months old.
How to Start
Nutrient dense solids such as banana, avocado, and sweet potato are ideal starter foods. These foods are relatively mild, most babies love them, and they have a lot of nutritional value. Some parents start their babies on cooked egg yolk (wait until after the first birthday for the egg white). Egg yolk is a nutrient dense food that many babies like.
Once baby is doing well with these easy foods, pureed meats add plenty of iron and protein to your baby's diet. Add droplets of butter or coconut oil and a little salt to your baby's food – your baby needs the fat to digest nutrients in the solids and sodium is essential for life (and flavor – as Dr. Greene says, your baby deserves flavor).
Many guides and baby food companies suggest starting solids with a rice or grain cereal. But, most “baby cereals” are highly refined and contain little nutritional value. The grains are impossible for your baby to digest. Skip the cereals.
Begin introducing your baby to new foods 3-4 days apart, so you can watch for reactions to the food.
There are some foods that should wait until after your baby's first birthday. As was already mentioned, wait on egg whites. Wait on berries, citrus, nuts, soy, shellfish, and tomatoes.
Some experts recommend waiting on all seafood. If you choose to introduce fish before your baby's first birthday, watch carefully for reactions. Dairy is also something you may want to wait as long as possible on. Choose a cultured dairy product, such as yogurt or kefir, before introducing milk. These cultured products are okay around 9 months.
Making Your Own Baby Food
Making your own baby food is beneficial because you to choose exactly what ingredients your baby has in his or her meal. You get to use the freshest ingredients, and you can choose organic as much as possible.
Making your own baby food is also relatively easy, despite what you may have been told. You don't need many supplies to get started. A few clean ice cube trays and a small food processor will work. If your baby is older when he or she starts solids you may not even need to use those. You can also buy baby food grinders and trays for freezing baby food.