When your baby is growing, every day seems to hold new milestones and new adventures. When she sees you and smiles; when she rolls over; when she reaches for objects; when she can hold a toy in her hand. Surely no other parent ever had such an accomplished, amazing child as you do!
When she has good head control and can sit well when supported, you know she’s ready to begin reaching for a new milestone: eating solid foods. Until now, your child has received all the nutrition she needs through formula or breast milk. As she grows, she needs more to keep her healthy and satisfied. How can you start incorporating the food she needs into her diet?
Is Baby Ready?
This is an important question, and though doctors, experts, and books have plenty of advice, you are really the only one who can answer it. In general, though, you will know your baby is ready to start solid foods when she can control her head and sit up while supported or on her own. In addition, look for her to:
- Lose the extrusion reflex. If you have tried solids a bit too early, you’re familiar with this: it is the natural impulse babies have to push food out of their mouths with their tongues.
- Make chewing motions. This is like practicing, and it indicates that she can move food to the back of her mouth and swallow it.
- Gain weight. A good indication that your baby is ready for solids is when her birth weight doubles and she is at least four months old
- Be hungry. She’ll want more and more, even if she’s still getting up to 10 feedings of formula or breast milk a day.
- Watch you eat. As she’s ready, she’ll express curiosity and interest in what you are eating. She’ll follow your fork to your mouth, and may make chewing motions while doing so.
Remember, your baby should be at least four months before you start solids. Before then, her mouth, tongue, and digestive system have not developed sufficiently to allow her to eat. Some experts recommend delaying until six months to allow for her intestines, swallowing reflex, and other digestive operations to mature.
Many parents start their child on a single-grain cereal, like rice or wheat, because it is easy to digest, can be mixed with formula or breast milk, and it is bland. Remember, your child has never eaten a carrot, an apple, or a banana. These are exotic tastes! Another benefit of cereal is that it helps your baby get used to the mechanics of eating and the texture of food without having to worry about specific tastes. As she learns more about eating, you can introduce other flavors.
That being said, you can certainly start with pureed goodies, including squash, sweet potatoes, bananas, peaches, applesauce, or pears if you prefer. You may have heard that feeding your child fruits will cause her to develop a taste for sweets, but there is no medical evidence to support this. It does not matter which foods are introduced first.
Regardless of whether you choose a vegetable or a cereal, mix it with enough formula or breast milk to make it semi-liquid. As your baby gets used to eating, you will increase the thickness of the food. For now, runny is good! It also makes a mess, so be prepared.
Don’t feed your baby when she is hungry and cranky. Take the edge off her hunger with formula or breast milk, and then introduce the food with a soft-tipped spoon. For the first few feedings, the goal isn’t as much to eat as it is to experiment. She will not end up taking much in, but she will begin to get used to the idea, and you will gradually increase intake. Because this solid food is not your baby’s main source of nutrition, make sure that feeding time is mellow and calm. When your baby turns her head away, keeps trying to grab the spoon to play, won’t open her mouth, or leans back, she is probably done with eating for now.
Do not push your child to eat; she will become resistant this time and next time. Babies run on their own schedule. Even if she only takes a bite or two, praise her and consider it a job well done by yourself.
Image by LizMarie_AK on Flickr’s Creative Commons.
Pinkchic18 is a fashion lover with a special love for party planning. You can see more of her work on the Baby Gifts & Gift Baskets Parenting Advice Blog.