A Guide to Starting Solids

It is so endearing to watch an infant enjoying his first experiences at eating solid food. Starting solids can be a fun experience for you both as baby makes faces at the new tastes and textures, and you struggle to keep food from getting smeared everywhere!

If you are a first time parent, you may find the start of this new phase daunting, having little idea about the right time and place to start, what to prepare and how much you should feed your baby at a time.

Starting solids need not be a chore, once you make yourself aware of what to look out for and make sure what you feed is appropriate for the age and development of your baby.

Starting Solids for My Baby--When to Do It

Back in the old days, it was the norm to start on solid food for a baby after he was only a few weeks old. Now we know that this is not best practice, as your baby’s digestive system may be unprepared for this dramatic intrusion. Actually for most of the babies, when they are between 4 to 6 months old, developmentally speaking, they are ready to get start on solids.

Age alone should not be the determinant of when to start solid food. There are other milestones that are indicators of readiness, such as:

  • The baby does not seem to be satisfied even after being fed his normal amount of formula or milk. He may fuss when the bottle becomes empty or require more frequent feedings.
  • The baby shows interest when you are eating and may try to reach out for food on your plate.
  • The baby has gained control of his mouth and throat muscles so that minimal food dribbles out.
  • The baby has control of his neck and back muscles to the extent that he can sit up while you support.
  • The baby is twice as heavy as when he was born.

Starting Solids for My Baby--How to Do It

1.      Consider Different Food Texture

Your baby is used to a liquid diet, so first foods should be made soft by mashing or pureeing. As your baby becomes used to the new experience, you may eliminate pureeing so he can learn how to handle lumps. Try to give baby different foods according to his respond. A variety of textures can help your baby learn how to chew, and this process will develop his muscles he will use for speech as well.

2.      Try with Different Food Types

Your baby will welcome all new experiences, so do not agonize over looking for ‘special’ foods.  The order in which foods is started is not of particular importance either, but make sure and include these in his new diet: cereals, minced white meats and fish, cooked veggies, legumes and fruit.While there is no hard and fast rule about mixing foods, you may choose to introduce one at a time so that if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, it can be readily identified and avoided.

3.      Use a General Approach

You can use an approach that best fits in with your general family preferences.

It is important thoughto make sure that at feeding time, both you andthe baby are relaxed. Again, there is no absolute need to puree or almost liquefy the food that baby eats if you start with something really soft. Just remember to increase hardness gradually. Ensure a designated place for meals, preferably a highchair, and use a baby spoon to feed. Your baby can also drink cool boiled water from a cup when he is 12 months or older.When the baby has had enough, he will show no interests in the food. You need to look for these signs and avoid pushing him to eat if he is full.

Once baby has become used to the more solid texture, you should introduce finger foods as he is developing the art of grasping smaller objects. He would be quite amused to attempt to feed himself with a spoon as well. At this point, you can offer him samples of your household foods, as long as they are not spicy or particularly sweet or salty.

Keep in mind that your baby may not be interested in eating every time you offer him a meal or snack. He will, in time, develop a routine of his own.

Smart Tips on Starting Solids for Your Baby

Our own experience is that babies can make quite a mess at mealtimes. It is a learning experience for them, and they are eager to see how food reacts to different actions they apply to it–it is quite entertaining for the baby.

1.    Introduce Solids When the Baby Is Hungry

When your baby gets his first sample of something other than his normal milk or formula, he is mystified. For this reason, introduce a new solid when he is just getting hungry; when he is full, he would not likely be interested.

2.    Feed with the Right Tool

The spoon that you use to feed your baby should have a soft tipand be designed for this specific purpose, to protect his gums. Alternatively, you may use your finger initially. You can also consider getting some baby gadgets from the store. Suction-bottomed bowls and platesare preferred so that he cannot push them off the feeding table.

3.    Watch Your Baby’s Reaction

Look out for cues that indicate whether baby is happy with his meal. Observe whether he smiles when being fed withsolid food; if yes, you can be assured that he is ready and likes this experience. Chances are that if the food comes back up, his tongue-thrust reflex is undeveloped, meaning he is not ready for solid, and you should try again in a couple weeks.

4.    Avoid Highly Allergenic Foods

To avoid the risk of allergic reactionsin the past, babies were not fed nuts, fish and eggs. However, recent studies show that there is no direct connection between food allergies and introducing these foods during early childhood. Therefore, you can feed these foods individually. Also, you can look at family history to determine risk of allergies. Remember if your baby shows any allergic reactions, you should stop that kind of food and take him to see a doctor right away.

5.    Prevent Choking

Do not leave your baby unattended while he eats. Avoid offering hard or tough bits of food like whole nuts or chunks of raw carrots until he is about three years old.

6.    More Helpful Tips

  • Lead by example. If baby resists the solid, talk to him and let him see you eat and enjoy the food. Exaggerate the effect of the food like “wow, it tastes so good!” so that your baby will get into a similar spirit.
  • Vary the menu. Babies like variety just as adults do, and may become uninterested in the same food if it’s been provided all the time
  • Discourage food fights. If baby fights against eating, try again in a few days. He will not starve.