My little girl is over a year, and it’s taken me this long to write a post about starting solids with baby. Because mom life is a little nuts. You understand right?
Starting solids with babies is exciting! But daunting, as well, I know.
When my daughters were at this stage, I was so nervous about what to do to make sure they got off to the right start. I knew I didn’t feel right about giving them the jarred baby food off the grocery store shelves. How long has that food been sitting there anyway?
Back then, I had attended a workshop on making your own baby food and we did taste testing where we tasted grocery store baby food and homemade baby food. It was crystal clear: homemade baby food tasted so much better! And it is so much healthier than the store-bought stuff!
We polled parents with Mat Leave Map and asked them what their burning questions were when it came to starting solids! And we answered all those questions.
Here’s everything you need to know about starting solids with your baby!
Baby Led Weaning or Purees?
Every baby is different. I had three and they couldn’t have been more unique.
So my best advice is simply to follow your baby’s lead and do what YOU feel more comfortable with. As long as your baby has control of how much they eat, you’re doing the right thing.
I will say that the downside of spoon-feeding is that parents have the upper hand. We can get more food into those little mouths when they don’t need it. So it’s important to stop shovelling it in when they show signs of “all done”.
I do like that purees are easy to take a long, but they are a pain to make. And BLW allows babies to learn about food with their senses and their hands. It’s messy but food play is an important step to prevent picky eating.
How should breastfeeding or formula-feeding change when baby is eating solids?
At six months of age, breastmilk or formula (or a combination of both!) is still the most important food that your baby should be consuming. It should still be their primary food. Don’t begin with three meals of solids a day. Start with one meal of solids a day, I recommend lunch. Every other meal and snack should be breastmilk or formula.
Slowly increase to 2 meals of solids a day (maybe at around 7 or 8 months) with still a lot of breastmilk or formula.
Then, at around 9 or 10 months, your baby should be on 3 meals of solids per day.
Don’t go crazy with solid food at first otherwise your baby will drink less breastmilk or formula, which is where baby gets most of their nutrients from until 12 months of age.
I recommend breastfeeding until age 2, but at that point, it might only be twice a day such as once in the morning and once at night. Formula feeding should continue until 12 months of age; after that, cow’s milk or goat’s milk is safe to try or you can also try dairy alternatives.
What types of solid foods should you start with your baby?
First of all, be sure to start solids for the first time when your baby is healthy, with no colds or viruses, no teething or recent vaccinations as these things may complicate the smooth introduction to solids.
Whichever food you start with, offer the same food for 3-5 consecutive days before moving on to a new one (remember they are only eating solids once per day at this point). This way, if your baby does have a reaction, it’s easier to figure out what caused it.
First foods should be fruits and veggies. From 6 to 9 months, just serve purees made with one food. At 9 months, you can start experimenting with combinations of flavours and even add some spices or herbs like cinnamon, cumin, parsley or cilantro!
What are the first 5 foods to offer?
It’s best to offer simple purees (or soft pieces if BLW) of a single food around 6 months of age. My favourite ones to start with are:
- Butternut squash – beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, fibre, folic acid, vitamins B1, B3, B6
- Apple – vitamin C, fibre, flavonoids
- Pear – vitamin C, fibre
- Carrots – beta carotene, fibre
- Avocado – fibre, protein, healthy fats
It’s hard to stop at 5 as there are SO MANY other foods I loved bringing to the table.
- Egg yolks – for the healthy fats
- Blueberries – for the antioxidants
- Zucchini – easy to digest because of the high water content
Constipation is common in those first few weeks so it consider foods that are less dense and have more water (i.e. squash vs. sweet potato).
AND don’t be afraid of adding spices! Babies are used to all the flavours they were introduced to in your belly. So don’t stop now! Cinnamon on apples is great!
What do you do if baby refuses to open mouth for a spoon?
If this is the case, it’s a possibility that your baby just isn’t quite ready for solids yet.
However, if you’re feeling that she is ready and is showing a lot of interest in food, perhaps this is a great time to offer food in different ways. Explore Baby-Led Weaning (BLW). Some babies, like my middle daughter, never liked the spoon and only wanted to eat with her hands. Keep putting food in front of them, eat with them and remove the expectation that they will eat.
And sometimes they just want to eat themselves! My middle daughter did not want to be spoon fed. She wanted to do it herself. So I let her. It was messy as hell, but she learned how to use a spoon before virtually every other baby her age. So just load the spoon or baby fork with some food, and leave it on their tray. Eventually it goes in their mouth.
What are some Baby-Led Weaning tips?
- Wait until your baby is ready. She should be able to sit in a high chair, have good neck strength and be able to move food to the back of her mouth with up and down jaw movements. Some babies are ready at 6 months, and some aren’t ready until about 9 months.
- Continue breastfeeding or formula-feeding. This continues to be the biggest source of nutrition for your baby until about 12 months of age.
- Sit with your baby. Socialize with her, supervise her and eat with her!
- Start with soft foods. Things like ripe fruit, small pieces of steamed carrots or broccoli, flaky fish, puffed grains like brown rice or millet.
- Prepare for a mess! Let your little one explore food at his own pace. This means that he may smash it, smear it or drop it or all of the above! You can place a garbage bag or plastic tablecloth under the high chair for easy cleanup and balance messy foods with less-messy ones when feeding.
Is it okay to do a mix of Baby-Led Weaning and purees?
Absolutely! I like to put out the pieces of food (BLW style) while I prep the purees or other food. Let them play or eat it.
When can I introduce nuts?
Anytime. Only honey and dairy are off the table before 12 months of age.
What is the best way to progress from purees to finger foods? How do you start?
Starting at the 9 to 12 month old stage, start making purees less smooth by leaving them more chunky. But keep offering smooth purees to vary the textures that your baby is exposed to.
Baby may gag and that’s ok. They will likely go back to the food no problem. If they seem to be having a hard time try again in a few days or a week. But I recommend allowing opportunities to play / touch with those chunkier textures.
Around 9 months of age (or earlier), your baby may want to start practising the pincer grasp (first finger and thumb coming together) by picking up small pieces of food. Offer small pieces of food because baby needs a lot of practice with this grasp (even though this may lead to a great big mess!)
Putting finger foods on the high chair tray after before, during, or after a meal is a great way to start. Try a 1/4 inch (5 mm) well-steamed piece of carrot. Steamed cauliflower works well too because it tends to melt in your mouth…try it! My daughter loved frozen wild organic blueberries; don’t worry about the mess, you can clean up after or have her bath ready to go!
Stay away from the baby aisles at the grocery store. Foods that are marketed for babies are not necessarily the healthiest. Take a look at the ingredients list of some of these foods; things like white rice, sugar, salt, skim milk powder. 🙁
The problems with these ingredients:
- Salt – Salt should be avoided until at least one year of age as it’s too taxing on little kidneys.
- Skim milk powder – This may cause rashes, gassiness, diarrhea, constipation; may even increase potential for allergies or cause eczema to flare up
- Sugar – It increases your baby’s blood sugar levels, suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system and can plant itself all over those new baby teeth.
Remember to always to read the list of ingredients on these ‘baby’ packaged foods!
Which finger foods should you start with at the 9 to 12 month old stage?
- Soft, ripe, cut up fruit – remove skins on pears and apples at first. Try wild blueberries (keep them frozen so their not quite as messy), melon, plum, peach, mango, raspberries, banana
- Steamed and cut-up veggies – Try green beans, sweet potato, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, beets, peas, cauliflower, parsnips
- Legumes – chickpeas (remove the skins and squish with a fork), cannellini/black/kidney/navy/pinto beans
- Rice or millet puffs – only ingredient should be brown rice or millet (no added sugar or salt)
- Rice cakes – brown rice (salt-free!)
- Noodles made from brown rice, quinoa or amaranth – start with penne or elbows and cut up into smaller pieces
What do you do if your baby gags or chokes?
Gagging and choking are different although both are scary! Babies tend to have very strong gag reflexes which allows them to push the food out and away from the airway to avoid choking.
Gagging can even happen with both smooth and chunky purees depending on where the gag reflex is. Gagging is perfectly normal and you’ll notice most babies aren’t even phased by it and they keep eating.
You know a child is choking when they are making no sounds. Although choking is very rare, it is a good time for parents to sign up for first aid training, including what to do in case of choking – important knowledge for every parent!
Now that you know what to do, you can offer new foods with more confidence. Just stay away from small, round foods like whole grapes, until baby is much older.
What about baby’s iron levels?
Healthy babies that are born full-term have enough iron stores to last at least 6 months. In fact, current research has shown that iron stores should last from between 6 months to 12 months.
However, there appears to be a link between low iron levels and birth weight. This means that low birthweight babies or premature babies are likely to have low iron.
Babies are also at risk of iron deficiency if they’ve been fed cow’s milk instead of breastmilk or formula during the first year.
So here are some iron-rich foods you can feed your baby: legumes (including chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils), squash, sweet potato, spinach, quinoa, amaranth, eggs, and meat/poultry.
You are now armed with the tools necessary for a successful introduction to solid foods for your baby! Good luck (although I know you don’t need it!) Let me know how it goes!