Introducing solids is a fun and exciting time for mother and child, but it isn't easy to figure out when you should do that and how you should do that. You may have a grandmother who says, "He's already two months old and you haven't started feeding him cereal? How do you expect him to grow?!" On the other hand, many urge for a later start. The thing is, this is a decision that you as the parent need to decide. If you have questions, you should ask your doctor.
- Decide if your baby is ready. This is often a hard thing to figure out. However, your baby should be at least four months old. If you wait till he or she is six months, you may be making it less likely for your baby to have an allergic reaction. Other signs can indicate that your baby is ready:
- The ability to hold food in her mouth, and then push the food to the back of the mouth and swallow
- Holding his own head, sitting well while being supported
- Making chewing motions
- Begin with cereal. It is important that your baby's first food is baby cereal. This is the least likely food to cause an allergic reaction. In fact, rice cereal is the best option because it is easiest to digest. Start with just a teaspoon or so of cereal in a tablespoon of formula, breast milk or water. It will be very runny, but this is how you want to start. Over the next few days, slowly increase the amount of cereal you are offering and you can begin to make it thicker. Give it a few weeks before worrying about adding more foods. At this point your baby will be getting most of his or her nutrients from breast milk or formula, so you don't need to worry about whether or not he is getting enough.
- Add vegetables and fruits. After your child has mastered cereal, then you will want to start giving a few teaspoons of pureed or strained fruits and vegetables. Put a few spoonfuls into a small bowl and feed your baby from that, rather than the whole batch or the whole jar. Scooping it from the jar or the batch can cause bacterial growth. It is often recommended that you start with green veggies, so as not to cause your child to be more interested in the sweeter fruits and vegetables. However, it is completely up to you.
- Wait before trying a new food. You should wait at least three days (and a week is even better) before trying a new food. This way, if your child has an allergic reaction such as vomiting, diarrhea, a bloated belly, or extra fussiness, you will know the reason. Then you can talk to your doctor about the issue and pinpoint the ingredient that may be causing it.
- Introduce them again. Often the flavor and texture is something that takes a baby awhile to get used to. You may have to introduce a food again and again before it is accepted. It is important not to give up, because teaching your baby to like a wide range of foods now will help you in the future. This doesn't mean that you should try and force your baby to eat a food that they turn away from, but rather that you should try again at another time.
- Add meats and other proteins. You can add pureed meats, yogurt, and cottage cheese. The method will be the same and you may have to introduce these foods several times.
- Increase the number of servings. In the beginning you will start with just one serving of cereal. Over time you will make it two servings. However, by the time your baby is around a year old, she should be eating three meals a day of solid foods and should be continuing with breast milk or formula.
- Start adding table scraps. Soon your baby will be good at chewing and good at taking foods. At this time you can add table scraps, small pieces of soft foods.
You will watch your child chew better and better. You will see them have an easier time with the foods that they are given. This can make it easy for you to decide to add harder pieces of food to their diet. But be careful. Make sure that all foods are small, so that if the baby struggles to chew it, there isn't a choking hazard.
It is also important to note that some foods are not recommended till a baby reaches at least a year old, and sometimes later. These include milk, strawberries, nuts, honey, shell fish, and egg whites. These foods can cause issues. Honey, for instance, can cause botulism. The other foods are high risk for allergy. It is also important to note that if you or a member of your family has a lot of allergies, your baby may too. It is a good thing to talk to your doctor about it if that is the case.
Feeding solids to your baby doesn't have to be hard and can be a fun and exciting thing to do. Take a little time and make sure you watch your baby. Make sure they are chewing and swallowing as they should be, and that they are doing well with the foods that you introduce. If you start solids and your baby doesn't seem ready, that's okay -- try again in a few weeks. Every baby is different, so you have to watch your baby. No one can tell you what your baby needs better than you!