By Eirian Hallinan
You’ve been noticing that other moms in your baby group have started their babies on solid foods and wonder if you should do the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for approximately 6 months and then introducing solids gradually. But how gradually should you do this? And how do you know that your baby is indeed ready to make the switch to solids since not all babies are the same? And what should you feed them? The following will tell you everything you need to know.
Signs Your Baby is ready
Before the age of six months, your baby will start to give you clues that he or she is ready to give solids a try. The most important one is mastering using their tongue properly; no longer pushing food out with the tongue, but instead using it to help swallow food. Along with proper tongue coordination, other signs include:
- Being able to sit upright, holding up his/her head
- Showing an interest in things around them, including your food
- Appearing hungry even after consuming their full-day’s amount of milk or formula
What to Feed Your Baby
Introducing your baby to a wide variety of different foods and textures is encouraged by the AAP. It’s been found that babies often need to try a food as many as 15 times before they’ll accept it, so don’t be quick to give up on a particular food just because your baby doesn’t want it the first time around.
After the six months of breastfeeding, you can begin to introduce foods into your baby’s diet while still breastfeeding. Research has found that continuing breastfeeding until at least the age of 1 year has several health long-lasting health benefits. You can continue to nurse of bottle-feed your baby breast milk first thing in the morning, before or after meals, and again at bedtime, slowly tapering it down over the coming months.
Single-ingredient foods are recommended, along with waiting a few days to introduce a new food so that it will be easier to pinpoint the cause of a reaction should your baby develop diarrhea, vomiting, or a rash after eating a food for the first time.
Things that you can feed your baby include:
- Fortified single-grain cereals. These are often the first food introduced to babies. The cereal should be mixed according to package directions, using breastmilk or formula to ensure the right consistency and nutritional value.
- Pureed foods. Pureed fruits, vegetables, and legumes are easy to make and nutritional. Pureed meats are also an option. Again, stick to single ingredient purees at first.
- Finely-chopped foods. At around 8 to 10 months, your baby should be able to handle finely-chopped foods. These can include things like soft-cooked vegetables, soft fruits, cheese, and pasta. Special baby crackers and dry cereal are also great options.
By the time your baby is nearing 12 months; it’s time to offer them three meals a day and snacks. You can begin feeding them the same foods that you eat, but chopped or mashed appropriately. If you’re unsure about portion size; a meal the size of your baby’s fist is a good guideline to follow.
In order to get your baby into a proper eating routine, it’s important to take away distractions so that your baby can focus on eating during meal time. Spending a little time soothing your baby before meal time can help them settle and focus on eating. Even if your baby doesn’t appear to be hungry, you should still sit them down for a meal at consistent times to help them get on and maintain a routine. Eventually, your baby will get used to getting hungry and eating at those times.
Turn off the television and any other distractions when it’s time to eat. This won’t just help your baby focus on eating, but also learn to recognize when they’re full—something that will be beneficial to their health all through their lives.