3 Top tips for introducing baby to solids
Everyone seems to get tons of different recommendations about how to start their baby on solid foods -- your abuela says one thing and the pediatrician says something completely different. It can get super-confusing.
However, there are some basics you should consider so that you can make informed choices. The more you know, the more confident you'll be about what you're doing. And to be honest, starting your baby on solids is not as complicated as it may seem. Read on for our top tips for introducing your baby to solid foods.
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When to start. The general rule of thumb is to wait to start solids until your baby is somewhere between four and six months old, with more and more pediatricians suggesting waiting until closer to six months. A baby's digestive tract isn't mature enough for solids before then, and starting too early could cause discomfort and there is also a risk of aspiration -- even if it's just rice cereal. And don't let anyone tell you starting solids will make your baby sleep better -- there is absolutely no evidence of that. All that being said, it is completely up to you whether to start on the earlier end of the range or later. If your baby can hold his head up well, sit with support, and is showing interest in what you're eating, he's probably ready to start.
How to Start. You'll want to start off slowly to minimize the risk of stomach discomfort and allergic reactions. One tablespoon of a thin, watery puree, one time per day is enough to begin with. It's a great idea to offer this serving in the morning, so that you'll have the whole day to keep an eye out for an allergic reaction. You should always wait at least three days before offering another variety of food. That way, if there is a reaction, you'll be able to pinpoint what caused it. Once your baby is gobbling up that one tablespoon with regularity, you can increase to two tablespoons and so on. Eventually -- around when your baby is eating about four tablespoons at once -- you can add in a second meal, and then a third, but this is a process that should take several months.
What to start with. There are a lot of theories about what to start with and none of them are really wrong. If you start your baby closer to four months, you'll want to start with very thin purees and/or rice cereal. However, you absolutely do not need to introduce any grain at all in the beginning. Baby cereals can cause gas and constipation, and that may be something you don't want to deal with at an early age. Some of the best starter foods are avocado, sweet potato and banana, mashed or pureed very finely and mixed with breastmilk or formula to achieve a thin texture. You can continue to feed purees -- increasing the thickness accordingly -- for as long as you like. If you're starting closer to six months of age, you can actually safely begin with finger foods, purees or a combination of both. If you choose to introduce finger foods from the start, you'll just want to cut up tiny pieces of the same foods you would have pureed -- just make sure fruits are very ripe and vegetables are soft cooked.
What you should know. Breastmilk or formula will remain your baby's top source of nutrients until one year of age, so there is absolutely no pressure to introduce solids at an early age or to feed your child more "grown-up" foods. It's best to stick to fruit, vegetable and grain combinations for at least the first few months. Once your baby is seven to nine months old, you can start introducing things like yogurt, beans, eggs and meat -- just be sure to check with your pediatrician first. At this time, you can also start adding some herbs and spices to his food, which will help expand his palate. Cinnamon, ginger, chile powder, garlic, etc. are all tasty and safe. Just stay away from added salt and sugar, it's not necessary for a baby.
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