Congratulations, your little baby isn’t so little anymore! It’s time to introduce them to the exciting new world of food. For a first time (or even second time) mom, this new stage can have you asking alot of questions. We are going to dive right in and answer the most commonly asked questions about starting your baby on “big people” food. Hang on--it’s gonna get a little messy!
What Should I Know About Food Allergies?
First things first. Food allergies can be serious, and while most babies don’t adversely react to food, it’s still important to pay attention to signs of a reaction. If your baby is struggling to breathe, call 911 immediately.
A good rule of thumb is to offer the same, single ingredient baby food for 3-5 days and look for signs of a rash, hives, or breathing issues. If your baby shows no signs, then you can move on to the next food.
If your child has severe eczema, it could be a tell-tale sign that they are allergic to peanuts, too. Always talk to your doctor before introducing a peanut product if you have any concerns. There is safe testing available that can prevent an emergency situation.
Also, babies should not be given eggs or honey before 12 months old as some babies may be allergic to eggs, and honey can cause food poisoning due to Botulism.
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Ready For Solid Food?
Can Your Baby:
Hold their head up? If your baby can sit up in their high chair with good head control, this is a sign they are ready to eat food.
Can your baby open their mouth when food comes their way? If your baby seems eager for food, then they are ready to try.
Can your baby move food from their mouth into their throat? Before 4 months of age, babies have a reflex that pushes food out of their mouth. But if your baby can take a bite of puree and swallow it, they are ready to begin eating solid food.
Is your baby old enough? Generally when a baby is over 13 pounds (double their birth weight) they are ready for food. This usually happens around 4 months of age.
Which Foods Should I Give My Baby First?
Most parents start out giving their baby iron fortified cereal mixed with a little formula or breastmilk. This is the best way to get your baby to accept solid foods easier since the taste will be familiar. (Make sure the cereal is made for babies, not adults.) Another favorite food to begin with is unsweetened applesauce.
Supermarkets today have a wider variety of baby pureed foods that are fresher and more organic than in decades past. They also taste better to the extent that even adults can eat them and not gag. But some moms choose to puree their own food for several reasons:
You can control the amount of sugar intake.
There are no hidden ingredients or preservatives.
Food is fresher, which means it is more nutrient dense.
Pureing the food you eat also encourages a wider variety for a baby’s taste pallet. If the baby eats what the rest of the family does, they will be less likely to be picky.
Whichever method you decide to feed your baby, (store bought or homemade) be sure that you include foods that are high in iron and zinc as these are minerals “little people” need the most.
A great way to get a baby excited for solids is by letting them sit on your lap while you eat. They can watch you eat and learn from your example. Offer them a taste off your plate by simply dabbing some mashed potatoes on your finger or a little ketchup or a little yogurt. This won’t be enough for any nourishment, but it will excite their taste palate and make them feel included at meal time. By letting them taste what you’re eating they will be more receptive to the solid food experience. Remember that eating is a social experience for all humans, so make it fun and inclusive!
When Can I Give My Baby Finger Foods?
Your baby should be eating about 4 oz of solid food at each meal, three times a day before you offer finger foods. (This is about the size of a small jar of baby food.) When your baby can sit up and put their hands to their mouth to feed themselves, they are old enough for finger food.
Choking is always a risk with small children (and even adults!) Always make sure food is soft and cut into small pieces. A good “first food” to train your baby on finger foods are “puff” pellets sold in the baby food aisle at your supermarket. They are made in such a way that they melt in a baby’s mouth and it’s very difficult to choke as they are first starting out.
Other great food ideas are cooked peas, well cooked and diced chicken, soft pasta, and mashed sweet potato.
What Changes Happen When My Baby Starts Eating Solids?
The biggest change you will notice is that your baby’s stools will start to firm up. They will also change in color and it is normal to see undigested food pass through. Remember your baby’s digestive system is still developing, so it is normal to have a wide variety of dirty diapers. If you begin to see blood, mucus, or if your baby becomes severely constipated, seek medical help immediately.
What Should My Baby Drink?
Unless you live in a very hot climate, babies do not need extra water since they get enough hydration from breastmilk and formula.You can offer water when your baby begins to start solid foods, but no more than 8 ounces a day. Sometimes doctors recommend 1-2 ounces of prune juice to babies who are prone to constipation, but a baby should not have more than 4 ounces of juice (other than under the supervision of a doctor) before 12 months old. Juice can cause tooth decay in babies and it is high in sugar. If you are giving your infant juice, offer them 100% fruit juice.
Encourage Good Eating Habits.
It’s never too early to set an example for good eating habits. Eating meals on time, cleaning up your messes,washing your hands before and after, learning to drink from a cup--these are all great things to incorporate into meal time with your baby.
Feeding your baby is going to be messy, fun, and memorable and far from pretty. Encourage good eating habits from the start--offer them plastic silverware and encourage them to hold it. Some babies will comically grab their food, put it onto the spoon and then into their mouth, totally unaware that it defeats the purpose of a spoon! Even though they seem adorable and silly, eating time is a wonderful way to encourage fine motor and social skills.
Try to keep meal times consistent. If possible, do it with the whole family without the distraction of the TV on in the background. Meals are extremely social events for all humans, so take this time out of your day to play with your baby, talk to them about their food, give them infant spoons and forks, and make some memories!