Top 5 Tips for Starting Solids in Smaller BabiesJan 11, 2023
If you’ve just come from a pediatric check-up and you’re worried your baby is small and needs to gain weight, please don’t panic! It’s important to consider that if your baby falls into a low percentile, is this a new occurrence, or have they always been on the smaller side? Are they not meeting other developmental milestones, or are they following along their own growth curve?
It is only natural that some babies will land in a lower percentile, and that is not a cause for concern. However, once they are developmentally ready to start solids, there are certain ways food can be fortified to aid in caloric intake and growth! Jessica Penner, Registered Dietician and co-founder of Happy Health Eaters, shares with us her top 5 tips for starting solids with smaller babies!
Growth charts can be misleading. You may have heard the myth that all babies should ideally be at the 50th percentile, but this doesn’t quite account for the diversity of people that can be perfectly healthy at all sorts of shapes and sizes! However, even if there are growth concerns, starting solids too early can lead to a lower success rate. Babies might perceive the shift negatively if they are not ready, and push away solid foods. If that is the case, it is recommended to fortify their liquid diet, whether through breastmilk or formula. If baby is ready for solids, consider these 5 tips from Jess on how to increase their caloric and nutritional intake in those early days of solid food eating!
Top 5 Tips for Fortifying Solid Foods
- Fat Intake: There are three things in food that provide us with calories - carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Fat has more than twice the caloric value of protein and carbohydrates, so the first thing to focus on is adding healthy fats to baby’s diet. Good ways to add fat is through nut butters or tahini, added to their existing pureed food, fat fortified baby biscuits (Happy Health Eaters has a great recipe for Pumpkin Spice Baby Biscotti!), or by coating fruit with almond or coconut flour!
- Baby-Led vs. Feeding: The baby led weaning style of introducing solids is commonly where purees are skipped for baby self-feeding handheld foods. While that is definitely a wonderful approach, if baby is not meeting their growth milestones (sometimes with baby-led weaning, they might not be able to ingest enough), Jess encourages the embrace of purees. It ensures the baby is eating enough - and there is no rule that says you can’t combine both baby-led weaning to help develop those skills, and puree feeding at the same time!
- Water: Typically it is recommended to introduce water to baby at around six months of age. But if baby is not meeting their expected growth milestones, focus on breastmilk and formula for hydration, with the goal that every little thing ingested by baby has some caloric value. Water can be introduced a bit later down the road.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are wonderful and generally recommended for their fiber content and nutritional value. However, fiber is also good at filling up our stomachs, making us feel “full” for longer, while not getting extra calories from it. If baby is needing a little extra caloric intake, focus more on refined grains as baby is better able to absorb them and their hunger will return sooner.
- Snack Schedule: if baby is taking well to solids, consider adding another meal or snack to their schedule, a little earlier than general guidelines. Don’t feed with breastmilk or formula right before a meal because they will be full and eating will become more of a playtime than a meal. Space out their meals with a wake-up feed, then breakfast an hour or two later, and so on.
If you’d like to learn more about starting solids confidently with your baby, consider taking the Start Solids Confidently course from Happy Healthy Eaters: An online course & recipe books for raising a happy healthy eater! Use the code SFH15 for 15% off! And give them a follow on Instagram @HappyHealthyEaters!
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