Starting Solids: Step-By-Step Guide

by Staff

He is showing definite signs of being ready to start solids -- sits well alone, has strong head and neck muscles, her tongue thrust is disappearing and is interested in food. In fact, yesterday he dove toward your plate and attempted to help himself. You've decided today is a fine day for an introduction to the world of food.

Get your stuff together ahead of time. The stuff list isn't very big -- just a small plastic or plastic-coated spoon and a bowl (it doesn't have to be a fancy, stick-to-the-tray bowl because this time you will be the one holding it), a bib and the food you've decided should be offered first.

Before you get started, here are a couple tips to help unstress mealtimes. First, it isn't expected your baby will get very many nutrients from her food. These first meals are intended to be a chance for her to experiment with new flavors and new textures -- both with tongue and fingers! It's also an opportunity for her to practice chewing and swallowing and an opportunity for you to glimpse some of her most amazed and puzzled expressions.

Decide What You'll Offer to Your Baby

According to Dr. Frank Greer, member of AAP committee on nutrition, rice cereal can wait; let them eat meat first! Meats, fruits and vegetables offer both dense calories and abundant nutrients.

Choose a Time Your Baby is Happy

Time your baby's introduction to solids to coincide with her happy time of the day.

Nurse or feed your baby before offering other foods

Milk is the single most important food in your baby's diet so nurse her or give her a bottle before offering solids. She's more apt to be interested in this new experience if she's not ravenous. At this age foods are more for experimentation and exploration. Once she has *eaten*, offer to nurse again.

Sit Her in Her High Chair or in Your Lap

Some babies like to sit in a high chair. Others prefer to sit in your lap. Babies can be messy, so you may want to put a mat under her chair or a towel on your lap for easier cleanup.

Start with Small Amounts of Thin Consistency

At first, offer ¼ - 1 teaspoon of smooth, runny, slightly warm solids once a day. The consistence should be similar to watery gravy, not mashed potatoes. Gradually increase the amount of food and the frequency of feeding to satisfy your baby's hunger and interest. Start with one food at a time. It should be smooth with no lumps and can be mixed with breast milk or formula to make a gravy-like consistency so it is easy for baby to eat. Use only single ingredients and wait about a week before introducing a new food. If something upsets your baby, you will know exactly which food is responsible.

Feed Her When She is Ready

Hold the spoon, containing a small amount of food, about a foot from her mouth. Wait for her to open her mouth. If you are offering a new food, put a little on her lip. If it is a familiar food, put the food in her mouth. Look at her and talk with her as she eats. Watch for cues as to how she wants to eat -- fast or slow, a little at a time or more. Stop when she indicates she is finished, even if she has only had a taste or a few bites. Don't be discouraged if she doesn't like a new food. Give her many chances to learn to like it by offering again tomorrow and the next day.

If she spits the food out, it could be because she doesn't want to eat right now, or because she doesn't realize that her tongue has a new job -- moving food to the back of her mouth. Food may drool out because she hasn't learned that she needs to shut her mouth to keep the food in... Eating is a new experience. Be patient.

Your baby may not like a spoon, but she might accept small amounts of solids off your fingertip. Once she realizes that solids are great to eat, she may not mind the spoon at all -- in fact, she may want to try using it herself. Or...she may prefer finger foods such as squishy cut up pieces of sweet potato. That's okay. First foods are for fun and experimenting. Neatness doesn't count to baby!

If she simply is not interested, don't press the matter. Babies change quickly and she may not be developmentally and socially ready to take on this new challenge. Try again in just a couple weeks.

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