Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Introducing Solids


I was so uncertain about introducing solids with my oldest. Before her first bite, I did a lot of internet searches, discussed the recommendations with the pediatrician and talked to my friends who had already been through it. While I appreciated the info I received from everyone, I still felt incredibly unsure of the process. I just never felt like I had any firm answers on the "right" way to introduce solids.

The following are a few things to consider - no matter how you decide to introduce solids: 
Weaning is the introduction of any food other than breast milk. Click here for some great info on weaning. This is important because the moment you decide to introduce solids (or liquids other than breast milk) the weaning process has begun.

The only nutrition an infant needs the first year of life is either breast milk or infant formula. Solid food between 6 - 12 months is more for fun and experimentation (to prepare the baby for when solids will become the primary food source).

Since your baby doesn't need solid food during the first year, there's limited guidance on how much is "normal" to give. The important thing is to ensure the primary food is still breast milk or formula. For breastfeeding mamas - limiting solids is important to ensure so that you can maintain your supply and it is often recommended to nurse your baby before giving solids. (Please note - this was not always possible for me with our work, dinner and nursing schedule. Like everything else, you just have to find what works best for you and try not to stress!)

High risk choking hazards: whole nuts, sliced hot dogs, popcorn, raisins, grapes, etc. Basically whole, round foods.These foods are not recommended for initial foods and just use caution whenever deciding to give these.

Now I'm going to tell you how we introduced solids. But take it for what it's worth. It's pretty unlikely that you will do it the same way.  I spent so much time and effort figuring out how to start solids with my first child that I decided to write everything down so I would remember it for my next child. I was so glad I did! Plus, it's coming in pretty handy now so I can share it with you!

6 months: Start with rice cereal

No, it's not necessary to start with rice cereal and if you do an internet search you will be inundated with info on reasons to not start it. We chose organic, brown rice cereal and my husband actually ground our own up for our first several feeds and mixed in my breast milk. We were happy with this compromise.

  • Start with 1-2 teaspoons of very thin rice cereal.
  • Gradually increase amount to 1-2 tablespoons and increase consistency (using less breast milk or water).
6 and 1/2 months: After about a week or two of rice cereal we began to introduce "real" solids. 

I honestly don't consider the rice cereal my kids' first food. For Autumn it was home-made pureed butternut squash and for Amelia it was avocado. Avocado and banana are probably my 2 favorite first foods because you can just "fork mash" them and if you want them a little thinner, just add breast milk. It's about the easiest meal you can prepare.

  • Start by giving 1-2 tbsp of food (depending on what the baby wants). Follow your baby's lead and watch for hunger and full signs.
  • Introduce a new food every 3-4 days (I was paranoid about allergy risk)
  • To change taste/texture mix 2 previously tried foods  
  • Gradually increase consistency - working towards mashed potatoes and grain rice

Some of my favorite first foods: 

- avocado (fork mash)
- banana (fork mash)
- butternut squash (fantastic texture)
- peas
- apple sauce (one of the few jar foods my kids ate
- carrots
- black beans
- sweet potato
- pear
- peach 

My children both "helped" feed themselves from the very beginning. They would grab the spoon handle and direct it towards their mouth. Their aim was often bad so they also fed their nose, eyes and hair but that's all part of the fun! 

 8 months: Begin introducing very small, bite-size foods (including Cheerios). 

  • Began eating foods that the entire family was having for dinner if a food had already "passed" the allergy test. If no foods qualified for this or weren't quite healthy enough then we just went to avocado or something else already tried.
  • Continue some soft  foods such as apple sauce, yogurt, oatmeal, etc for spoon "practice." At this stage, we scooped the food on the spoon and laid it on the tray. Both of my children were successfully using a spoon at this point (but couldn't scoop it themselves and they mostly preferred the hand method). 
  • Continue introducing foods every 3-4 days (basically until 12 months at which point they had tried most things). 
  • Start having 2 solid food meals/day. Breakfast consisted of some banana and either dry Cheerios, oatmeal or rice cereal. Rice cereal given to finish the box we purchased. Dinner was usually a new food and part of the meal that was prepared for the family.
10 months: Everything is basically the same now with types of food.

  • Started having 3 solid food meals/day.  
  • Able to eat some raw bite size fruits/veggies at this stage
Food started becoming a social thing at this time since everyone else was eating a meal, my baby wanted to eat as well. All meals were still very small and lunch would consist of something like peas. There were many days that this meal was skipped though. The amount my kids nursed did NOT change from 6 months through 12 months.

Carrot straws
Some of my favorite foods for this stage:

- tofu
- yogurt
- oatmeal
- thin apple slices (peel off)
- beans (any kind) cut in half
- ground meat
- sweet peppers 
- mixed veggies yes - frozen, from a bag. Another simple go-to food. We just thaw them by running under cool water
- carrot straws - giving this will depend on your child's teeth/chewing skills but this was a perfect raw food for my kids. They also make broccoli slaw that they love too.

12 months: By this point able to eat nearly everything. Continue cutting to appropriate size.
  • Added snack  .
  • Begin whole milk from a sippy cup with meals. Started with 2 oz and worked up to 4 oz at meals. Both of my children breast fed beyond 12 months. At this point, they were still getting more breast milk than cow's milk. The weaning process continued for some time (more on that another day!)

Well, that's all there is to it. Simple, right?! Well, I guess yes and no. Just listen to your baby's cues and give quantities and meals based on their interest. We may have given smaller portions and started meals slower than many people do. My children remained happy, healthy and continued to gain weight and grow. That's really all that matters. Just remember that there really is no right way or wrong way to introduce solids.

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The above information is not intended to be used for medical advice and you should always consult your own healthcare team when making health decisions for yourself or your family.