How to Start Solids
When my babies were embarking on starting solids, the recommendations for doing so were very different. At the time, the starting time frame was earlier, there were strict warnings about foods that could cause allergic reaction and therefore to avoid, and the method for feeding was focused on using the spoon.
Most of the information was siphoned through the pediatrician because the internet was non-existent as a source of information.
Today, you have a myriad of resources. From the world wide web and books, to doctors and dietitians, and more – the information you need to start solids successfully is out there…but it can be sooo confusing.
Why It’s Important to Start Solids
Starting solids, or complementary foods, is an enormously important stage in your baby’s first year of life. It sets the stage for future flavor preferences, appetite regulation, nutritional status, healthy growth and development, feeding skills, and more.
Did you know?
Flavor preferences are started in the uterus, as amniotic fluid contains flavors based on your pregnancy diet. If you breastfeed your baby, your diet and the flavors it contains get passed to your baby through breastmilk.
Starting solids is the next stage of flavor introduction, continuing the evolution of your baby’s palate to accept and like a variety of foods.
Your baby learns a lot about his appetite and how to regulate it through the feeding experience. The approach and style you use for feeding your baby can influence how well your baby learns to regulate his eating, as well as how responsive you are to his feeding cues.
The nutrients your baby receives throughout the first two years of life helps your baby develop a healthy body and brain. We are learning that nutrients and nutrition are keys to future intelligence, immunity, and overall health.
Learning to eat solid food is an important skill that transcends language development, food preferences, and a healthy relationship with food.
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Timing is Everything
Most babies are ready to start solids at 6 months. However, it’s important to note that some babies will show signs of readiness earlier, and some later. It’s key to know where your baby is at when it comes to his signs of readiness and follow his lead.
Much research has described the benefits of waiting until 6 months, including a lower risk for obesity and food allergies, for example. Other research has described the downsides of waiting too long to start, including feeding problems and language delays.
It’s important to get the timing right, and only your baby can tell you that.
Key Nutrients You Don’t Want to Miss
Starting solids and selecting first foods for your baby takes some consideration and knowledge. For example, do you begin with avocado, sweet potato and banana? Some parents do, and this concerns me, because there is no robust source of iron in any of these foods.
Other parents may shy away from nut butters or fish in the first year. Another mistake! Babies need to be exposed to these foods to help them build a defense against them as an allergen, while also getting the high quality fats these foods offer.
There are key nutrients that are incredibly important for your baby in the first year—for both brain and body– and you need to understand what they are, and how to get them from food.
The Best Method of Feeding
Today, there is so much opinion on which method to use to feed your baby. Do you go with the old method of spoon-feeding? Do you venture into the new and popular Baby Led Weaning? Or do you mix it up?
To me, it doesn’t matter which method you use. In fact, I am not convinced it’s the method that matters. I think it has more to do with knowing your baby, knowing his nutritional needs, and determining how you will deliver those in the most nurturing, responsive way.
In other words, you can be successful with the spoon, baby-led weaning or combining both spoon and self-feeding methods.
However, you won’t be successful if you start with these methods for the wrong reasons: because it’s popular, or because everyone else is doing it.
I’ve seen babies be overfed with the spoon. I’ve seen babies be underfed with self-feeding approaches like baby-led weaning.
The chosen method isn’t bad.
It’s that parents aren’t fully informed of the considerations and safeguards associated with the method they have chosen.
No matter when, how or which path you choose for starting your baby on solids, you still need a foundation of information for success. You’ll need to understand when to start, what your baby needs in terms of nutrients and food, and how to be responsive and nurturing with feeding.
Resources that Can Help
If you’re feeling a little lost, I’ve got two resources that can help:
The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids , a new e-book I wrote to help moms like you navigate the important decisions around starting solids. And my co-authored book, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, designed to get parents started and supported throughout childhood with food, feeding and childhood development insight.
What is the most confusing aspect of starting solids with your baby?