When moms have started to recover from the birth, settled down with feeding and begun to get themselves and their babies into a routine, their thoughts will no doubt turn to changing things up a bit and moving forward.
Usually this takes the form of thinking about solids. What foods should you start baby off on? How old should your little one be before you try solids? And when will I have the time to make my baby beautiful organic free-range meals from scratch?
There are many places to find this kind of information and you will be showered with information from friends and relatives who have been there and done that before. Your baby's doctor, and any other healthcare professionals involved in his care will have plenty of advice specific to your child and your situation, but who will tell you the silly things that will help you out, save you time, and prevent you dropping an entire month's wages on fancy equipment you will use once, put at the back of the cupboard and eventually try to sell on Craigslist?
The team at BabyGaga that’s who.
This post rounds up a number of practical hints and tips as well as a hefty handful of safety advice on the whats, whys, whens, and wheres of moving your baby from all milk to solids. We didn’t include the who because, well, we figured you could probably work that one out for yourself and if you can’t, don’t start your baby on solids without a responsible adult present.
15 Safety First
The World Health Organization advises that for optimal health benefits you should exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months. This isn't always possible or favorable, and for many reasons, parents may choose to bottle feed from birth or switch to formula at any point in the first six months.
Medical advice is that if you are thinking of beginning your child's journey to solid food, it would be safe at some point between four and six months, depending on your child's developmental stage.
So don’t think in terms of your child's age, wait until your baby can sit up unaided, she has lost the tongue thrust reflex that pushes food out of her mouth, she is developing a pincer grasp and she is putting things in her mouth and gumming them.
It is also advisable to learn how to perform the baby Heimlich maneuver, just in case your child should choke.
14 Let Your Baby Be Your Guide
It is natural to want to see your baby grow and develop, and moving to solids is an exciting milestone to reach. This can lead to parents attempting to try their baby on solids before their child is ready and this can result in an upset for both parent and child. Trying to force solids on a baby before they are ready may be counterproductive and set up negativity around the process for both of you.
Once your baby is developmentally ready, look for signs that he is interested in what you are eating and in family mealtimes. If your little one is reaching up and trying to grab food you are holding, this is a great sign that now would be a good time to try them on some food of their own.
If the first time you try he does not seem interested, leave it for a few days before trying again.
13 Choose The Right Time
If you work outside of the home, don’t try to squeeze the first taste of solids in between getting in from work and bath time. Choose a day off where you will be more relaxed and won’t be in any hurry to try the process and clear up afterward.
If you are based at home, the principle is the same. Choose a day and time where you can plan ahead and put aside an hour or so for you to give the first taste of solids in a relaxed atmosphere.
Advice differs on which point you should choose during a regular breast or formula feed to introduce the first food, and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. By offering solids before your baby's milk, you may have a greater chance of them taking the food because they are hungry, or your little one might be so hungry that trying to give solids only upsets him.
By waiting until the end of a feed, you will have a calmer baby but one who may be full and not wish to try solids. I have always found it best to try mid-feed when the first wave of hunger has been sated, but he is not full yet.
12 Don’t Buy Lots Of Equipment
It is tempting to rush out and buy all the bells and whistles to begin feeding solids. A fancy high chair that converts into a small chair, lots of bibs and bowls and fancy coordinated cutlery sets, and floor covers. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the grinders, the mashers, the processors, the baby food containers and the freezer bags you will want to stock up on.
The thing is, you and your baby will grow into a routine of feeding that changes as time goes on and as a consequence what you need for successful feedings will change, too.
You can begin feeding your child in their car seat or a baby chair, as long as your little one can sit upright when you are feeding them. You’ll only be feeding once a day to start with, so you only need one spoon and one bowl. Choose items that are designed for feeding a baby with, spoons that are rounded and soft and a shallow dish that allows you to quickly scoop the semi-liquid food to your baby's mouth.
11 You Don’t Need Homemade
Just as there is a general pressure to breastfeed your baby because it is considered the healthiest, most natural way to feed, you might feel pressured into making your own baby foods at home.
While it is nice to have the time, skills, and patience to make large batches of fresh, organic baby food, it is not always either possible or a desirable thing to do for you on a personal level.
If this is the case, don’t sweat it. By giving your child specially prepared baby food that you have purchased you are not in anyway letting your baby down. In fact, by choosing purchased foods and being more relaxed, you are doing the best thing possible for both you and your child.
When your little one is slightly older and taking soft foods if you want to have homemade dinners for them, you can dish up a little of the family meal and carefully refrigerate it until the next day. If you do this be careful to dish up your baby's portion before you add salt, sugars or spices.
10 Drop Cloths Are Your Friend
If there is one thing I have learned through weaning five children to solids, it is that learning to eat food is messy. There is no getting away from it, where there are babies and food there is a mess.
No matter where in your house you choose to feed your little one you will want to cover up the floor and have any easy way of cleaning up afterward. The absolute best option is to spoon those sloppy new solids into your baby's mouth in a room with an uncarpeted floor. This prevents anything nasty soaking into a carpet, rug or soft furnishings because you would not believe the stench of milky baby cereal that has dripped unseen onto a rug and dried.
If you use a floor covering that can be dropped straight in the washing machine, clean-up is much easier than with a plastic wipeable mat which you have to get on your hands and knees to clean.
9 Choose Your Bibs Wisely
It is cute to have all of those items with “Daddy's Little Princess” or “My auntie went to Disneyland, and all I got was this lousy bib” printed on the front, but you might want to keep them for soaking up teething dribbles or for preventing an errant up-chuck spoiling their best clothes before you leave the house.
No matter how good your washing machine and your laundry liquid are, you will never get anything properly clean again once it has been used for a couple of feeds involving your child sucking on their bib with a mouthful of carrot.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have the nice stuff too, just don’t use them if you want things kept nice, and buy plenty of cheap and cheerful bibs for day to day use.
Some people prefer the plastic molded bibs, and these are perfect for older kids who drop big mouthfuls of semi-chewed food everywhere but for smaller babies they can be big and cumbersome. It comes down to a case of personal reference.
8 Introduce New Foods First
Once you have both started to get into your stride with a basic baby cereal or a single fruit or veg, you will want to begin introducing new foods to the mix.
When you are ready to offer a new food, get a batch ready of the single food your child has accepted up until now and a small amount of the new food you would like them to try. Give this new food at the beginning of the solids section of the feed and give your little one time to explore the different taste. Your child might reject the new food at first but try once or twice, and give them ample opportunity to experience the fresh taste.
Whether your child likes the new foodstuff or not you can then follow-up with the food she has already tried and enjoyed. This will ensure the feed finishes on a positive note.
7 Avoid The Sweet Stuff
There are plenty of naturally occurring sugars in both fruits and vegetables, so there is no need at all to add any sugars to your baby's food. While we are naturally drawn to sweeter tastes, this can be satisfied easily with some mashed carrot or almost any kind of fruit, without encouraging a taste for artificially sweetened foods.
As well as being unnecessary, empty calories which can help fill your child up while providing them with no nutrition, developing a taste for sugary foods can set your child up for a number of health issues later in life. The same goes for any kind of artificial sweetener - it develops a taste for sweet without anything good to accompany it.
Finally, don’t use honey to sweeten just because it is unprocessed. It has the same effects as sugar and should never be given to children under the age of one because of the risk of botulism.
6 Have Patience
There is no rush for your child to be eating solid foods. Some days might go smoothly with your little one greedily eating up those spoonfuls of cereal faster than you can pour them down their throat. The next day they might refuse to even open their mouth, especially if they are feeling unwell or teething.
This is nothing to worry about at all, and you will only get worked up if you worry and fret about it. At this stage, as long as your baby is taking their milk and is happy in every other way, missing a day or two of first solids is no big deal at all.
Likewise, if she does not like a particular food the first time you offer it, wait a couple of days and try again. Encouraging your baby to try a wide variety of foods is an excellent way of setting up healthy habits for life.
5 Change Texture Not Taste
When you and the family have moved on to the stage where your youngest kiddo is eating what you are eating, you can take your food and mash it up with a spoon.
The important thing to remember here is to take out the portion of food for your baby before you begin to alter the taste with salt and pepper or other spices. Salt and spices can have a terrible effect on your baby's health, even in the tiniest amounts and you do not want to risk either an immediate or a long-term health issue for your child.
The other tip is for when you are moving up to food that is more solid than puree, use a fruit or vegetable that your child is already fond of so all they are experiencing is a change of texture and not a new taste at the same time.
4 Bottles Are For Milk
It may be tempting before you begin solids, to try putting a little baby cereal into your child's bottle of milk to fill them up and perhaps have them settle down better for a longer night's sleep, but don’t.
Multiple medical studies have shown that there is no evidence to show that babies who have drunk a bottle of milk with cereal in it sleep any longer than babies who have not. They have also shown that babies who lay down to sleep after having had cereal in a bottle have gas in the night and a higher occurrence of ear infections.
Finally, you will be teaching your baby to rely on having a full stomach to go to sleep, and this is not necessary. By setting up this pattern, you are setting up problems for when your child is older and will need to have a full belly before you can put them down in the night.
3 Skip The Tasteless White Cereals
Many sources now recommend starting your baby off on solids with something other than a rice-based baby cereal. In fact, it is perfectly OK to skip the cereals all together and begin your little one's food adventure with something easily mashed like avocado banana, or cooked carrots.
The reason you may not want to give something like a rice cereal is that they are often highly processed and contain little more than a high carbohydrate, low protein substance that, even when fortified with vitamins and minerals, has very little nutrition available for your baby's stomach to absorb.
Also, when the grain is processed to make the baby cereal the germ, the bran is removed so that it will last a lot longer on the supermarket shelf. In fact, if you buy a box of baby cereal from the store, it might have been manufactured before your baby was even born.
2 Leave Time Between New Foods
Just as you would not like to go out to a different restaurant every night and be forced to eat wildly different foods you had never experienced before, your baby will probably not take well to constant new tastes.
Leave a few days at least between introducing new foods, it will give your little one time to adjust to this exciting new experience, and it will also allow you to notice if the new food has any detrimental effects.
If your baby suddenly becomes very gassy, has loose stools or appears to have some kind of other adverse reaction to a foodstuff, it is relatively easy to recognize what has had this effect if you have only given him one new item this week. If you offer something new every day, it can be tough to work out if the food had caused the problem and if so, which food it was.
1 Be A Good Role Model
The best thing you can do for your baby, in any area, is to act as a good role model. If you are eating a broad range of foods with differing tastes, then it is likely you will raise a child that will do the same.
If you serve your little one mashed carrots and refuse to eat them yourself, that baby is going to wonder why she should eat them while you don’t and is likely to refuse to eat them, too. If you do not eat fruits and vegetables neither will your child, and if you eat large amounts of processed foods, sweetened foods and the like, so will she.
Take this opportunity for you both, and the entire family if necessary, to embark on healthier eating habits. It will benefit your body, mind, and wallet. Your healthcare professional will be more than happy to help you if you feel out of your depth.
Sources: WebMd.com, MayoClinic.org, MotherAndBaby.co.uk, WHO.int, LLLI.org