A Solid Plan – How to Start Feeding Your Baby Solid Food
When it came time to introduce solid foods to my infant, I learned the world had moved beyond simply buying a jar of canned food. There were many alternatives for me to research and different options for my son to taste test. I was ready to find one that worked best for him and his first foodie milestone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Solid foods should be introduced around 6 months of age.” My son’s sensitive stomach needed to be considered, so I spoke with our pediatrician to design a menu. The first part of our recipe was to skip the single-grain cereal that’s given. We thought it best to move directly to the next step — sweet potatoes. But how should I feed him his first meal? Should I play soft music? Feed him by candlelight? Make the meal from scratch?
Cindy Baerny, a mother of 16-month-old twins, decided that her best plan was to make her own baby food. Cindy was inspired by the low cost of making food at home. Then she began to see the extra benefits, like variety, portion size, and great taste. “When you taste sweet potatoes that you’ve made compared to those that come in a jar or pouch, there’s a difference,” Cindy says.
The best part for Cindy, though, was the enjoyment it provided for her family. “We had fun! I went through my list and put check marks next to all the foods we tried. I’d never even tried turnips!” Making meals fun keeps a child interested in the tasty foods they’re eating. Another way to do this is through baby-led weaning.
Baby-led weaning is yet another option when choosing how to start an infant on solids. A child eats handheld finger foods so that they can control the pace and amount of food they want. In some cases, parents choose to skip the purees in favor of baby-led weaning, because a baby still receives most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula until they reach their first birthday.
Jill Cobb, mother to a 10-month-old baby boy, was intrigued by baby-led weaning when her pediatrician and a good friend both mentioned it. After further research and taking an online course, she decided this was the ideal plan for her family. “It made sense to me. I’m cooking beans and rice for us, so he can have some beans and rice too. It was a win-win for all of us.”
The first foods Jill offered her son were avocado and banana. In the beginning, she mashed them up, but as her son became used to the process, she offered him larger, whole portions. Jill makes her own baby food, and this provides a combination of textures for her son’s developing tastes. “I still give purees in certain situations, but I try to get my son to feed himself as much as possible.”
Both mothers introduced prospective food allergies early. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to know that “Eight groups of foods account for about 90 percent of all food allergies and must be declared on U.S. product labels. These include cow’s milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.”
Cindy introduced eggs to her twins first and spaced out other potential food allergies weekly. Jill introduced peanut butter to her son when he was close to 6 months. The King’s College Leap Study “found that early childhood exposure to peanuts decreases the risk of developing a peanut allergy and found that this tolerance to peanut remains after one year of not eating peanuts.” If one or both parents have a food-related allergy, it’s suggested that allergy testing be done for the child.
Eventually, my little guy and I came up with his perfect bill of fare. We settled on a combination of baby-led weaning and mom-led buying of limited-ingredient baby food. He was sweet on his pureed sweet potatoes. Then, when I cut bananas into small pieces, he was thrilled to be able to eat them all by himself. Dinner became a time for us to connect over his new foodie appetites. We giggled and chatted, enjoying our time together. It was never rushed, but it was definitely messy.
Finding a solid plan for starting a baby on solids can take some trial and error, but once found, a healthy foundation is established. “You fall in love with your kids,” Cindy says, “and you try your best by them, and that’s all that matters.”
P.S. A touching tribute to boys and men.