Navigating Solid Food Firsts

So I have figured out beginning solid foods and how and with what is a daunting process.  There are many different opinions and only you are going to know what is best for you and your family.  What we want to do here is provide you with a place to start in comparing all of your different options!  The information here is not exhaustive, just preliminary to get you started with your journey of introducing solids.  Be sure to read the resources indicated, find even more, and always check with your pediatrician.

When

When are we supposed to begin feeding our little ones solids?

There are a variety of opinions you will read or hear regarding when to start.  4-6 months seems to be the standard range.  My husband and I thought we'd split the difference and begin at 5 months.  She was doing many of the behaviors that the books and websites mentioned so at about 5 and half months we went for it.  It just so happened she was ready.

Common signs among many of the sources for trying solids with your infant are:

  • Baby can hold up head and has neck control
  • Baby can sit up with support
  • Baby shows interest in what you are eating
  • Most sources, except for the American Pediatrics Association (AAP), recommend beginning 4-6 months, depending on the signs noted above.  The AAP recommends beginning solids at 6 months after exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months.
  • Super Kids Nutrition, is in alignment with the AAP and suggests 5.5 to 6 months to begin.  Super Kids Nutrition claims "starting solids earlier is associating with increased risk for childhood obesity."  Super Kids Nutrition is the only resource (used for this post) that makes this claim. 
  • The sources also seem to agree that Baby gets all of the nutrients he/she needs up to 6 months from formula or breastmilk so there is not a rush to get Baby started prior to 6 months.
  • A common suggestion is to be sure to follow Baby's signs that he/she is ready and not the schedule your friends or your favorite publication is on.  Also, be sure to consult with your pediatrician and/or dietitian.

What

So now we have figured out When we want to start.  Now, how in the world do we decide What to serve for her first food?

This part was the most overwhelming for me.  There were a variety of opinions in the ephemeral world of the internet and our pediatrician recommended the infant-fortified cereals to start her on.  We could see how she responds, determine if she is ready for the solids, and then move on to other foods.  After considering the varied opinions, we decided the cereal was the best thing to start with for us. Part of that decision was because I wasn't ready to begin making the other food yet!  It also seemed like a basic and non-risky thing to start with for our family.  We went ahead and bought Earth's Best Organic Whole Grain Multi-Grain Cereal.  It was made up of Oats, Spelt and Barley Blend, there was no expert or scientific reason for this, we, as her parents, decided it was our best choice.

  • Traditional recommendations are to begin with an iron-fortified, single-grain cereal, such as rice cereal.  This is traditionally recommended because it is thought to be "easy to digest and least likely to cause intolerance or allergic reaction" (Knight & Ruggiero, 2010).  Our pediatrician recommended to do this as well as the Mayo ClinicKids Health,Super Kids NutritionThe Baby Bistro: Child-Approved Recipes and Expert Nutrition Advice for the First Year, and
  • Other sources such as the American Academy of PediatricsBabyCenter and Eat Right mention that the traditional food to begin with is the rice cereal but that it is not nutritionally necessary to do so.
  • Traditionally, the natural progression has been to serve Baby the meats last but the American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no medical reason to do this.  They even suggest that meat might be a good food to begin with because of the iron and zinc naturally in the meat.
  • Some say to begin with the cereal, then the vegetable, then fruits, then meat.  Our pediatrician mentioned that some people think that serving all of the vegetables prior to starting Baby on fruits is the way to go.  The thought process here is that fruit is sweet and the parent doesn't want to develop a sweet tooth in Baby with the fruits.  Schmidt of, The Baby Bistro: Child-Approved Recipes and Expert Nutrition Advice for the First Year, suggests starting with a vegetable for the sweet tooth reason but does not recommend doing ALL veggies and then begin fruits.  This is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about it "Though many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits, there is no evidence that your baby will develop a dislike for vegetables if fruit is given first. Babies are born with a preference for sweets, and the order of introducing foods does not change this" (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012).

For our second food, I choose peas.  Honestly, it was because I made her food and they seemed, out of all of the foods I made, the least likely to mess up and the perfect texture for the first second food.  Both of the books I referenced, The Baby Bistro and The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet have peas in their charts for first food for 6 months.    After the recommended three days to wait, we tried the avocados.  That is as far as we've gotten. 

How

How to feed Baby his/her first solid food?
Recommendations about HOW to feed Baby for the first time from the sources mentioned throughout this post:

  • Place a tablespoon of breastmilk or formula in cereal and mix.  Add or subtract liquid as needed.  More "watery" at first might be good to start with until Baby can get a handle of the different tongue movement required to swallow solids.
  • Don't sit Baby down to try solids for the first time if Baby is hungry.  Nurse or give Baby a bottle first and then try it.
  • Use small spoonfuls, almost all of the resources recommend soft-tipped spoons.
  • Do not put cereal in bottle to feed Baby.
  • Don't get frustrated if Baby doesn't take to eating solids right away.  Learning this fun new skill is a gradual process.
  • Be sure to stop feeding Baby when he/she shows cues that he/she is done eating.  Those might be tight lips, turning his/her head, crying or getting fidgety.
  • One of my favorite things that The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests is "Let your baby touch the food in the dish and on the spoon.  You wouldn't want to eat something if you didn't know anything it, would you?"
  • NUMBER ONE consistent recommendation was to wait 3 days when starting each new food to look for allergic reactions.  It will be easier to determine which food was the culprit if there is a reaction.
  • Check with your pediatrician and peruse the sources yourself for the details and additional suggestions from each one.

How Much and How Fast?  How much should we give Baby and when do we ramp up the servings?
This particular part is still a little muddy for me.  The chart from SuperKids Nutrition provides us with guidelines and theInfant Meal Pattern from USDA is a good reference as well.  At the moment I am reading the cues from Baby to see if she wants more or less.  Our pediatrician recommended to approach it similar to our adult Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  We could do cereal and a fruit in the morning, a fruit and a vegetable in the afternoon and cereal and a vegetable in the evening, or meat whenever we choose to introduce that.  Makes sense to me. Right now Baby has only been introduced to vegetables and is pretty full after one serving but as she shows the desire for more, this process makes perfect sense to me.

Have Fun!I was nervous at first, I think the same parental nerves that come with each "first." It's so fun, you'll do great!  

Maybe the next post will be about making the food.  Comment below!

Resources


Resources

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (n.d.). Introduction Solid Foods. Retrieved from EatRight.org: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=8049#.UO68zW-_EaF

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012, December 10). Switching to Solid Foods. Retrieved from HealthyChildren.org: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

BabyCenter. (2011, April). Introducing Solid Food. Retrieved from Baby Center: http://www.babycenter.com/0_introducing-solid-food_113.bc?page=1

Kids Health From Nemours. (2010, August). Questions and Answers: When Can My Baby Start Eating Solid Foods. Retrieved from KidsHealth.org: http://kidshealth.org/parent/question/infants/solid_foods.html#cat20051

Knight, K. R., & Ruggiero, T. M. (2010). The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet: Know What Goes into Every Bite with More than 200 of the Most Deliciously Nutritious Homemade Baby Food Recipes. Beverly: Fair Winds Press.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, June 17). Solid Foods: How to Get Your Baby Started. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00029

Schmidt, C. M. (2009). The Baby Bistro: Child Approved Recipes and Expert Nutrition Advice for the First Year. Boulder: Bulls Publishing Company.

SuperKids Nutrition. (2010). Introduction to Solids: Baby's Nutrition in the First Year. Retrieved from SuperKids Nutrition: http://www.superkidsnutrition.com/infants_toddlers/bff_introductionsolids.php

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Samantha Marshall, M.A.

Samantha is, just like you, excited to make a difference in our community and our world. With a Master of Arts degree in English Literature, you might ask how she found herself building and writing for a website focused on child care. From 1995 through 2001, Samantha started her career working for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsors which introduced her to the importance of non-profits, community and quality child care. Her experience with Sponsors, State Officials, and Family Child Care Providers left a great and lasting impression. Later in her career and her most recent position at SAGE Publications, an academic publisher, was as a product manager for a new online resource! During this time many of Samantha's passions collided. A love for the written word, children and the proliferation of knowledge as well as a fascination with the resources the internet gives us, building a community for child care on ChildCareInfo.com is the perfect way to make the difference she wanted to. Needless to say, she is very excited to be an active part of creating and building ChildCareInfo.com.