A Nutritionist’s Guide To Starting Solids

Starting solid food with your baby is one of the messiest, but most exciting adventures of parenthood! Get ready to witness those first adorable bites, the hilarious facial expressions, and yes, even the occasional food flinging.

But hold on – starting solids isn’t just about filling tiny tummies. It’s a whole sensory experience, a journey of exploration and discovery for your little one. In this blog post, we’re going to tackle all the burning questions and concerns you might have about this delicious milestone.

Let’s dive in!

When Is Your Baby Ready For Solid Foods?

There’s a common misconception floating around – even among some pediatricians – that babies should start eating solid foods between 4-6 months of age. But let’s debunk that myth right here and now.

Age shouldn’t be the main cue for introducing solids to your little one. Every baby is a unique little human, and it’s their individual milestones and cues that truly matter.

So, what should you look out for? Here’s my checklist of readiness signs that tell me your baby is ready to start experiencing solid foods:

  • Sitting Up: Is your baby able to sit up on their own (or even with a little support?)
  • Head Support: Is your baby able to hold their head up on their own? Do they have control over their head and neck movements? We don’t want them to still be little bobble heads.
  • Interested In Food: Keep an eye out for those curious glances as you munch on your meal. If your little one’s giving your plate the eye, they might be ready to join the dinner table.
  • Hand-to-Mouth Coordination: Is your baby treating their toys like appetizers, bringing everything within arm’s reach straight to their mouth? That’s a clear sign they’re getting ready for the real deal.

Now, here’s the kicker: while most babies hit these milestones around the 6-month mark, there’s no need to rush things. My own munchkin didn’t tick all the boxes until she was almost 7 months old. Remember, you know your baby best, so trust your instincts.

Oh, and a quick word of caution: not all pediatricians are nutrition gurus. Some may still be stuck in the rice cereal era, recommending it to 4-month-olds without checking for those readiness signs.

It’s always good to have a chat with a nutritionist or your pediatrician, but don’t hesitate to advocate for what you believe is best for your little one.

When it comes to starting your baby on solid foods, there are a few different approaches you can take: baby-led weaning (BLW), spoon-feeding (also known as purees), or a mix of both.

Let’s break it down:

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW): This one’s becoming more popular with time (and my personal favorite). With BLW, you’re basically letting your baby take the wheel. You offer them age-appropriate finger foods, and they’re in charge of getting it to their mouth – hence the nickname “self-led feeding.”

Spoon-Feeding (Purees): The more traditional method. This is what usually comes to mind when we think of introducing solids. You scoop up some pureed baby food and guide it into your baby’s mouth with a spoon. You’re in charge of feeding time in this scenario.

Hybrid Approach: You don’t have to stick with just one method! A hybrid approach means you mix it up. Sometimes you let your baby explore with finger foods, and other times you spoon-feed them purees. Flexibility is the name of the game here.

Now, here’s the thing, there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Each approach has its own list of pros and cons. I suggest doing a bit of research or having a chat with a nutritionist or pediatrician to figure out which path suits your babe best.

Confession time…with my first kiddo, I went for the hybrid approach. Even though I’m a nutritionist specializing in maternal and child nutrition, I was a bit nervous about diving straight into whole foods. Starting with purees and gradually introducing textures felt like what worked best for us.

But by the time I had baby #2, I was feeling like a seasoned pro. Baby-led weaning all the way! It’s all about finding your groove and doing what feels right for you and your little one.

Which Foods Should My Baby Try First?

So, you’ve decided your little one is ready for solids and you’ve picked your approach – now what? The big question: what should you actually feed your baby first?

Regardless of whether you’re spoon-feeding or using the BLW approach, the golden rule is to start simple with single-ingredient foods that aren’t likely to cause allergies.

If you’re grabbing jars of baby food at the store, aim for those labeled as Stage 1. If you’re making your own baby food or going the BLW route, just stick to one food at a time.

Here are some go-to starter foods I always recommend:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash

Feel free to jazz up your homemade baby food or BLW finger foods with herbs and spices! Except for salt, because your little one’s kidneys are still developing. Adding herbs and spices not only makes mealtime more exciting but also helps your baby explore new flavors and smells.

But hold up – let’s talk about allergens. It’s smart to steer clear of potential troublemakers for baby’s first bites, including dairy, eggs, peanuts (and peanut butter), tree nuts (nut butter), shellfish, fish, wheat, and soy.

Research suggests that introducing allergenic foods early on can actually reduce the risk of food allergies down the road. But don’t rush into it. I usually recommend waiting until around the end of the first week or even into weeks 2 or 3 before you introduce the first potential allergen.

For example, I often suggest a tiny taste of yogurt on day 7 of solids. But, if your baby has a milk allergy or there’s a history of allergies in the family, you might want to play it differently. Always chat with a nutritionist or pediatrician when it comes to introducing potential allergens – especially if there’s a family history.

Progressing Beyond Basic Solids for Your Baby

Now that we’ve covered the basics of starting solids, let’s talk about how to level up your baby’s solid food game as they grow. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

If you’re all about the purees, it’s time to add a little texture by the time your baby hits around 8 months. Just make sure the chunks are sift enough that you can squish it between your fingers. You can also start offering finger foods, as well.

On the flip side, if you’re rocking the baby-led weaning approach, it’s all about mixing it up with different textures. Think oatmeal for breakfast, sweet potato sticks for lunch, avocado toast for snack time, and maybe even some steak or chicken drumsticks for dinner.

Variety is key. Keep offering your little one a smorgasbord of different foods. As they get older and become seasoned eaters, feel free to mix it up even more by serving multiple foods at once or combining different purees.

And here’s a little nugget of wisdom…the amount of food your baby eats isn’t the be-all and end-all. Seriously, don’t stress if they’re not polishing off their plate like a mini foodie.

As long as they’re showing interest, playing around with their food, and maybe even sneaking a taste or two, they’re doing just fine. Remember, breast milk or formula is still their main source of nutrition until around 10 months old.

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