Whether you like it or not, you’re going to get a lot of advice about starting your baby on solid foods. And sometimes the advice you get will be wildly different from one person to the next. The confusing thing is that everybody’s advice seems to make some sense and there seems to be a lot of conflicting “evidence” out there about what foods to give and when to start them.
It’s tricky! Some parents are able to take all this info in stride, listen to the din of advice and cobble together a plan that makes sense, but other parents need more concrete guidance with specific foods and amounts that should be offered at specific ages for their growing child. The truth of the matter is if there were only one right way of doing it, there would be one clear set of guidelines and all the “experts” would sing the same song. The reality, though, is that feeding infants isn’t an exact science and frankly maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe feeding your infant should be fun and messy instead of measured and filled with do’s and don’ts.
Here are some important things to remember about feeding your infant, followed by some more concrete recommendations for those looking for guidance:
- Remember that parents have fed their children for millennia and children have largely survived. We’ve learned things of course over the years, but in truth, you’re not going to colossally screw this up.
- You will not scar your child for life by introducing a certain food “out of order.” In other words, if you offer fruits first and not veggies, you won’t have destined your child to forever to hate all vegetables.
- You don’t have to make your own baby food to be a good parent. Jarred baby food is fine.
- You don’t have to spend money on baby food at the grocery store, you can put the food you’re eating in a blender and feed it to your baby to save time and money.
- The time of day for feeding doesn’t matter. Feed your baby when he’s in a good mood and you are too.
Every parent has fed their child and every baby has eaten. You can do this. Now, for those who need more concrete ideas to work with:
- For babies 4-6 months of age, starting with fruits, veggies and meats makes sense. Introducing foods at this time appears to decrease food allergies in the long run by helping the gut and immune system develop tolerance to food proteins. Waiting until later to start foods may actually increase the risk of food allergies, according to the most up-to-date research.
- Meats are especially important to begin early on for breastfed infants since they are a good source of iron. Make this a regular part of the diet before 5 months if possible.
- Cereals aren’t that nutritionally valuable, so waiting until between 5 and 6 months of age is best. Mixed grain cereals are the best choice when you’re ready to add those in to the routine. No need to use a single grain cereal.
- Wait a couple days between introducing new foods. Allergies to fruits, veggies, and meats are really, really rare; the reason to wait is so the baby can get used to digesting them, not to look for allergy. (If you had never digested green beans, it may take a couple of days to get used to it — so you wouldn’t want to throw a banana right on top of it and have to learn how to digest that too). An example of a first foods week might be green beans Monday through Wednesday, turkey on Thursday through Saturday, and then apple sauce on Sunday through Tuesday. Of course you could have started with a meat or fruit and then done something else second or third; anything goes when it comes to the order of things.
- Signs of allergy would be profuse vomiting, hives all over the body, or severe coughing within a couple of hours of eating a food. Rash in the “beard or bib” area on the face and chest or in the diaper area is not an allergy but rather an irritation from the food, and you can still continue to offer the food in the rotation.
- As far as the amounts go, your baby gets to decide that. Watch for cues and when she is turning her head away or pushing the spoon out of her mouth then she’s done. She may only take a spoon or two or what seems like a lot of food, but she will know what’s right for her; keep feeding her if she’s still interested.
- Start feeding once a day and if your baby loves to eat, he may want to have solids up to twice a day before the six-month well visit. Each baby is different though, so read your infant’s cues and go with it!
The most important advice I can give is to relax and enjoy feeding your baby.