The first six months of your child’s life bring about new experiences every day. You have experienced your child’s first smiles and laughs. Now, it’s time to explore your child’s first foods through the transition to solids.
While it may be tempting to introduce solids to your child prior to four months of age, it is not recommended, as breastmilk and/or formula provide all the nutrients infants require for growth. In fact, most pediatricians recommend holding off on solids until closer to six months because the oral motor structures of young infants are not developed adequately enough to efficiently take solids from a spoon. Studies have also shown that introducing solids too early may lead to babies being overfed and overweight.
There are several indicators you can use to help determine if your baby is ready for the transition to solid food:
- Is your baby able to sit without requiring support.?
- Has your baby lost their “tongue thrust”? This is when the baby pushes the food right back out of the mouth rather than swallowing the food.
- Does your baby show an interest in food, such as leaning forward toward food, or opening his or her mouth?
If your little checks these three boxes, you’re all set to begin!
Introduce one new food to your baby at a time, beginning with infant rice cereal, graduating to vegetables, then fruit, and lastly meats. It’s also best to wait 3-5 days after introducing a food before moving to a new food. This can help ensure that you know which foods your baby may have an intolerance or allergy. This is also the reason it is recommended that you not mix foods into cereal or mix other foods together.
Many new parents enjoy making homemade baby foods. When doing so, it’s best to avoid adding sugar or salt to the food. Canned vegetables and fruits can contain large amounts of salt and sugar, and shouldn’t be used for your baby’s food. If using fresh fruit to make baby food, always make sure you wash and peel fruit well, and remove seeds or pits. Infants under the age of 12 months should not consume honey due to the risk of botulism.
As convenient as the pouches of veggies and fruits are, refrain from using these as much as possible. The same rule applies for infant feeders. Babies should be fed from a spoon so they can learn to eat from a spoon. Eating from pouches or infant feeders continues to promote a front-back tongue pattern, and not a tongue pattern that allows your baby to move food around his or her mouth. Plus, babies will often suck the pouches until they’re empty, instead of when your baby is full. This can promote overeating. Some of my favorite soft foods to offer include avocado, sweet potatoes, bananas, and pears.
Once your baby is a champ at eating pureed baby foods, finger foods can be introduced with supervision. Foods that can be gummed and dissolve easily in the mouth are best in the beginning. You can gradually introduce small pieces of soft fruits and vegetables, as long as you are observing closely for choking.
Some foods are considered choking hazards and should be avoided. The most common foods on that list are hotdogs, nuts, seeds, round candy, popcorn, hard raw fruits and vegetables, grapes, and peanut butter. Most pediatricians suggest saving these choices until after your child is three or four years of age.
Try not to limit your child’s fat and cholesterol, unless specifically advised to do so by your pediatrician or other health care provider. Fat, calories, and cholesterol help with brain and nervous systems development. Additionally, try not to limit your baby’s food choices to those that you may prefer. Offering different varieties of foods early will help pave the way to good eating habits in the future!
Introducing solids to your baby can be a fun and adventurous experience. Let your baby get messy and play with their food. It’s all about development, nutrition, curiosity, sharing, and learning.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s feeding skills, or if you notice your child resists trying new foods, please contact Woman’s Pediatric Therapy team online or at 225-924-8450.