Introducing Baby's First Solids
Wanting your baby to exceed expectations and milestones is a natural parenting instinct, but raising a child is not a competitive sport. Although it is easy to be side-tracked remember that your baby’s health, safety, and well-being should always be your primary focus.
For the new mother boasting that her two-month old is already eating solids, it’s a hollow victory. There are no sound medical or nutritional reasons for your baby to be fed anything but breastmilk or formula for the first six months of life. In fact, this eagerness—a helpful suggestion or even insistence for your baby to progress to solids—could be doing your child a great disservice.
The reality is that the infant digestive tract isn’t fully developed yet and stomach upset, severe pain, and even more serious consequences can result from a too early introduction to solid foods. Additionally, at this young age a baby’s resistance to bacteria is low and pathogens can be easily introduced by unsterile utensils, cooking equipment, and even the food itself.
Breastmilk or commercial formula will provide sufficient nourishment and should be the primary food offered up to one year of age. However, when you feel it’s time to start solids—usually recommended by your healthcare provider somewhere between the fourth and sixth month—your baby is typically curious and happy to give new tastes and textures a try. Many babies may not be interested yet, so after a few tries don’t worry if you need to wait a few weeks to try again.
Signs that your baby isn’t ready for solids include coughing, sputtering, and pushing the food right back out of their mouth. All babies will eventually reach a developmental stage when extra calories are needed, and they are usually quick to let you know as they often make a grab for what you’re eating! Your baby’s time for solids will come.
There is some debate of what first foods should be offered. Many physicians will recommend infant cereals, while others will suggest simple, soft, pureed, or mashed vegetables and fruits. Experiment and settle on what works best for you and your baby. Banana, avocado, potatoes, and carrots are usually the easiest fruits and vegetables to introduce first. However, if you’re choosing to start with cereal, usually rice cereal is the best choice. Mix in your breastmilk or formula to dilute initial feeds, as finding the right consistency is usually a challenge. The familiar taste and smell may also help your baby to accept and relate to this new food.
Never attempt to feed your baby cereal from a bottle.
Cereals are intended as a supplement to normal intake of milk, and giving it to your baby this way can be a choking hazard. If your baby won’t take food from a spoon, try using your finger—you don’t need to offer much, a teaspoon or two is all that you need to start. Or let your baby discover how to feed themselves; a method called baby-led weaning.
The individual requirement for solid foods will vary. A good rule is to watch your child’s milk consumption. If there’s formula being left in the bottle or breastfeeding times are being cut short, it may mean your baby is being satisfied with too much solid food. Remember, for the first year, breastmilk or formula is the most important food for your baby.
Variety in the diet isn’t yet important and your baby will probably be content with the same foods at each meal. Selecting new tastes and textures will keep them interested, but be prepared for your baby to accept some with relish and others with rejection. It may take several attempts for your baby to finally accept a spoonful! You can also allow adequate time between introducing different foods, usually feeding one at a time over the course of several days before introducing another. This way, if your baby develops a sensitivity or an allergic reaction, it’s easier to identify the culprit!
Just remember to try and relax about the whole introduction to solids. A new parent, alone in the house with a first baby can sometimes blow things out of proportion when your baby rejects a meal or a new food. Try something else. Text a friend. Call your mother. Remember, no baby deliberately starves themselves. If you’re truly concerned, consult your doctor. Be patient and use gentle persistence. The ultimate goal is to have fun and open your baby up to the world of food. No matter how you introduce solids, one thing is guaranteed—you can expect a mess!
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified birth and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.