Aug 28 , 2020
Making decisions about your baby’s diet isn’t always smooth sailing. After around six months of formula and breastfeeding, you’ll need to figure out how to get your baby to eat brand new food, how to enrich their diet with loads of nutrients, and so on. Asking for advice from experts and fellow parents can also be quite daunting since not everyone shares the same opinions on solid feeding. Some parents might recommend starting out with fruits and veggies, while others might suggest store-bought baby cereals as a safer option. It’s safe to say that solid feeding requires a lot of trial and error to perfect!
When Is My Baby Ready for Solid Food?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents introduce solid food to babies when they are around 4 to 6 months old. Of course, each and every baby is unique. Some babies can become ready for solids early, while others might have to wait a bit longer. Watch for these signs to find out whether or not your baby is ready to begin eating solid food:
- Your baby can hold his head up. If your baby can sit in a high chair without needing too much support for a long time, he might be ready to try eating solids. On the other hand, if your baby can’t hold his head up on his own for too long, you might want to wait a bit longer.
- They should more interest in food. Try to see if your baby shows eagerness towards food. If your baby becomes hungry between feedings, and if they become very enthusiastic about mealtime, they’re probably ready to try solid food.
- He doesn’t spit out food. Babies need time to adjust to food thicker than breast milk or formula. If your baby isn’t swallowing cereal or other similar food, he might not be ready for solids yet. You can dilute food to make them easier for him to swallow or try feeding solids again after one or two weeks.
- Has he grown big enough? Babies usually become ready for solid food when they weigh twice their birth weight. Your baby might be ready for new food if he weighs 13 pounds or more. If he weighs less, you might want to wait a bit longer.
Common Solid Feeding Mistakes to Avoid
Because parents have to deal with so many challenges and conflicting opinions during this important milestone, mistakes are bound to happen. However, you don’t have to worry about perfecting the art of feeding solids to your little one. Make mealtimes easier for you and your little one by avoiding these common solid feeding mistakes.
1. Starting Solids Too Early or Too Late
Giving even tiny bits of solid food too early or too late isn’t a great idea. When you introduce solid food to babies younger than 4 months, you may end up exposing their digestive and immune systems against allergens that they aren’t ready to handle. Introducing solid food too early has also been known to increase the risk of childhood obesity and gastrointestinal disease in kids. It’s much safer to wait for the signs that your baby is ready for a new diet or to perhaps hold off solids until your baby turns 6 months old.
On the other hand, introducing solid food way too late isn’t a great idea either. Waiting too long to start solid feeding makes it difficult for your child to adjust to new food textures and flavors, thus putting them at risk of feeding problems and low nutrition. Another disadvantage of late solid feeding is that it significantly hinders essential growth and puts kids at risk of developing food allergies.
To avoid complications with your child’s nutrition and eating habits, always remember to stick to the 4-6 month rule. You can also introduce solids at 6 months to avoid any complications with early solid feeding.
2. Not Introducing Varied Textures and Flavors
It’s perfectly okay to feed soft cereals and purees during the beginning stages of solid feeding. These make a great gateway to solid food since they’re really easy to eat and digest. However, it’s also important to introduce your baby to a wide variety of flavors and textures later on.
Babies who have been exposed to varied food are less likely to become picky eaters in the future. Enhancing a baby’s diet with varied food also provides them with all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.
When planning meals for your little eater, choose food that’s rich in nutrients like iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin D. Iron-fortified whole grains, meat, and cereal make wonderful food choices. It’s also good to introduce common food allergens, such as nuts and eggs, to reduce any risk of your baby developing food allergies later in life.
One food choice to avoid is sugar. Babies don’t need any refined sugar in their diet, so try not to feed sugary snacks to your baby during the first two years of their life. Introducing sugar too early may put your little one at risk of feeding problems, childhood obesity, and various other health problems.
3. Cleaning Up During Meals
Babies and little kids learn mainly through touch and exploration. Give your baby the chance to smell, touch, and play around with his food during mealtime. That way, he gets to have fun learning all about different textures and smells. Your baby will also get to practice handling food with his fingers, hands, and mouth. Sure, it’s messy, but it’s a precious learning experience like no other.
4. Not Communicating With Your Baby
Just because babies can’t talk yet doesn’t mean they’re incapable of expressing their feelings. When introducing solids to your baby, pay attention to their body language. Your baby will let you know when he’s full by shaking his head or simply showing disinterest in eating. When this occurs, give your baby time to build up an appetite again. Forcing your baby to eat when he’s full may result in overeating or problems with self-regulation.
5. Making Your Baby Eat Alone
Babies are social creatures. They learn and grow by spending valuable time with other people. Your baby won't get to learn how to eat or become exposed to varied flavors and food textures if they're made to eat by themselves. Eating separately may also make your baby associate mealtime with isolation, which could translate into feeding problems later on.