The transition to solid foods is a monumental milestone for your infant. Solid foods represent an entirely different world, a different planet even, as compared with breast milk.
This guide will prepare you for the interplanetary journey that lies ahead and will serve as your checklist before blastoff.
After reading, you’ll be ready for the adventure to solid food, and beyond!
How You’ll Know It’s Time for Solids
While every baby will be a little bit different, it is recommended to introduce infants to solid foods other than breast milk around six months.
Introducing solid foods should initially be a complement to breast milk. It is recommended to continue feeding your baby breast milk, up to a maximum of 32 ounces each day.
As you begin introducing solid foods, your little one will start to phase out the amount of breast milk, little by little.
Eating solid foods is a natural part of infant development. As such, infants will typically begin showing you some signs that they’re ready to explore this big, alien world.
Here are some of the common signs that indicate it may be time for solids.
- Head and neck control – Good posture is essential for eating. If your child can sit with little or no support, they are at a lower risk for choking on solids.
- Leaning In – If your child opens their mouth and leans forward when offering food, this is a good sign that it’s time for solids.
- Mouthing – If your child is mouthing their hands or toys, this is another positive signal
- Food Direction – If your child can bring food towards the back of their mouth instead of pushing it out, this is another sign they may be ready.
Introduce New Foods Slowly
Begin introducing solid foods slowly; only one new food at a time. You should also be mindful to stick to single-ingredient foods, as opposed to a mix of new foods.
Introducing one new food at a time and in isolation will allow you to gauge whether or not your child has problems or allergies related to that specific item.
It is recommended to wait for 3 to 5 days between the introduction of each new food.
Planning Around Allergenic Foods
Food allergies are an intimidating thought for many parents. Some parents feel like avoiding common allergenic foods is the answer, but there is little evidence for this.
The research points to the contrary. Introducing these foods early on may help reduce the severity of eczema or allergy.
The most common allergenic foods are milk (cow’s), eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, sesame, and seafood.
It’s also important to know your family history when it comes to allergenic foods. It may be recommended in some cases to have an oral antihistamine nearby. Check with your family doctor if you have any concerns.
What Nutrients Does Your Infant Need?
Your baby will only need breast milk for their first four to six months. However, there are some key nutrients not contained within breast milk that are essential for their development.
Iron and zinc are two essential nutrients that your baby will need beginning around six months of age.
You can find iron and zinc in pureed meats along with single-grain, iron-fortified cereal. Be sure to double-check the nutritional information on the cereal you’re purchasing. You may even consider buying an infant-specific cereal.
Pureed fruits are essentially juices, right?
NO! Fruit juice is very different from pureed fruits. It doesn’t contain the same benefits as the whole fruit. Also, the sugar in juice can lead to tooth decay. It’s best to avoid giving juice to your little one until after their first year.
Make the Transition With Cereal and Puffs
Many parents wonder about the best way to make the transition to solid food. In the past, nutritionists placed more emphasis on introducing solid foods in a particular order.
Now, there’s less emphasis on the order, and many parents find that puff-based cereals are an easy first solid food.
One reason to start with cereal is that it can be easily mixed with formula or breast milk to create a more manageable texture for your child.
Another reason is that puffs are easy for infants to gum down. They’re sort of like a practice solid, getting them ready for the real food later down the line that they can’t simply dissolve into nonexistence.
Finally, feeding your little one cereal and puffs is another way to help them develop their fine motor skills. You should look for signs to ensure that your baby is ready for finger foods, such as grasping objects and bringing them towards their mouth.
Once your little one begins finger foods, puffs are a fun and relatively clean way to practice this new skill. Well, relatively clean until the puffs wind up crushed into fine dust and scattered around the kitchen!
A Quick, Soggy Cereal Recipe
Mayo Clinic recommends the following ratio – Mix 1 tablespoon of a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal with four tablespoons (60 milliliters) breast milk or formula.
Directions: Spoon feed using a smaller spoon and decrease the ratio of milk over time.
Beginning Finger Foods
Eating finger foods begins around 8 to 10 months. At this age, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods.
Here’s a sample list of some finger foods to try: Soft fruits, vegetables, pasta, cheese, well-cooked meat, baby crackers, and dry cereal.
With any finger food, you should always ensure the pieces are small enough and soft enough to be easily swallowed. Cereals and crackers can typically be gummed or softened with breast milk/formula.
Pre-check Your Knowledge Before Jumping In
Foods to Avoid
Juice, honey, or cow’s milk before their first year. Also, before four months, some vegetables should be avoided, including spinach, beets, carrots, green beans, and squash.
These foods may contain high levels of nitrates, which are dangerous for babies. While cereal is generally a “go” food, Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding cereals that only contain rice.
Foods to Eat with Caution
Hot dogs, large chunks of meat or cheese, grapes, raw vegetables, or large fruit chunks. These items must be cut up into small pieces.
Foods to Enjoy
Infant cereals, small pieces of meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts, and cheeses.
You’ll often hear the term “fortified” as it applies to infant cereals. Fortified refers to cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain that have vitamins added back to the grain.
Let the Countdown Begin!
You’ve reviewed your packing list, checked the boosters, and completed the go, no-go. The countdown is officially on!
Keep an eye out as your child begins to show signs that he or she is ready for solid foods and keep this blastoff checklist nearby until it’s time for launch day.