10 Tips for Starting Your Baby on Solids
What you feed your baby in the first year is so important because it sets the foundation for his or her future health.
For the past 15 years I've been helping pregnant women, new moms and babies lead healthier lives through massage and nutrition. I studied massage at The Swedish Institute in New York and received my certificate in nutritional consulting from Hawthorne University. Most nutritionist specialize in adult nutrition but given that I work with pregnant women and new moms I really wanted to focus on babies. I wrote my final paper on Baby Nutrition in the First year.
What you feed your baby in the first year is so important because it sets the foundation for his or her future health. These tips will help you navigate what and how to feed your baby in that all important first year.
Do not start baby on solids before 6 months. Both the World Health Organization and the American Pediatric Association recommend not starting babies on solid food before 6 months. A baby's digestive system may not be fully developed. Giving them solids before they are ready can cause upset stomachs and allergies.
Always give a milk feed before solids. For the first year babies will get most of their nutrients from breast milk or formula. Feedings initially get babies accustomed to the taste and texture of food. It is also an exercise in learning how to eat. They must move the food from the front of their mouth to the back of their mouth and then swallow. This is different from just swallowing milk.
Follow the 4- Day Rule to avoid allergies. Offer your baby one food exclusively for 4 days. Check to see if there is an allergic reaction. If so, discontinue that food. If not know that food is safe for your baby to eat. Introduce another food for 4 days and follow the same procedure. If both foods are safe you may combine them. This should be done for the first few weeks of starting solids.
Grains should be soaked before they are cooked and offered to your baby. Grains contain phytates which prohibit mineral absorption and are hard to digest. Soaking them before cooking leeches out the phytates and also makes them more digestible. Treat grains as you would beans.
Bananas and avocados are excellent baby "fast food." These do not need to be cooked. Simply mash and serve. They are also portable.
Add herbs to baby food to introduce a variety of flavors. Basil, oregano and cinnamon are great herbs and spices for baby. Avoid sugar which your baby doesn't need and do not put salt in your baby's food. Salt is very hard on the kidneys.
Add a small amount of butter or olive oil to baby food. Butter and olive oil are "good" fats and are good for brain development. A small amount added to food also helps with nutrient absorption.
Offer pureed food until your baby develops a pincer grip. Babies will initially have a palmer grip which means that they pick up things (including food) with the palm of their hand. Doing this makes it difficult for them to get food into their mouth. It usually is all over their face and a little gets into their mouth. At about 9 months babies develop a pincer grip which means they can pick things up with their fingers. If you give them something like Cheerios, they will be able to pick up individual Cheerios and put them into their mouths.
Don't give your baby honey before they are a year old. Honey contains botulism spore which are harmful to babies under a year old. A good substitute would be black strap molasses which is also high in iron.
- Always follow your baby's lead when it comes to the amount he or she should eat. Babies are self regulating. When they have had enough they will let you know. At that point feeding time is over. Do not force feed your baby. Remember that the main source of nutrients in the 1st year come from breast milk or formula.
There are so many changes happening in your baby's first year. Starting on solids is one of them. It is exciting and maybe a bit scary. Hopefully these tips will give you the confidence you need to start the adventure of food with your baby.