Starting Solids with Happy Healthy EatersOct 06, 2021
When is the best time to start introducing my baby to solid foods? How will I know they are ready? What kind of foods should I give them? Is it better to offer whole foods, or purées? How long do I wait between introducing them to new foods? What about allergens!? HELP!
If any of these questions have crossed your mind, today’s podcast is necessary listening! Dr. Alicia and Nita Sharda, BSc, a Registered Dietitian, and co-founder of Happy Health Eaters discuss all of the above and help you demystify the various guidelines and misinformation you may come across on the weird, wild web. Nita has also generously offered our listeners 15% off of their online course, Start Solids Confidently, helping parents feel confident about introducing their baby to solid food. More info on that below! But first…
Top 5 Things You Need to know about Starting Solids with your Baby
How do I know it’s time to start solids?
Like we have said before - every baby is different. On average, most babies are ready to start on solids anywhere between the four to six month range, but comparing your child to another may leave you with more questions than answers. Instead, we recommend looking for the following developmental signs of readiness:
- Good Head & Neck Control: When starting solids, your baby is being exposed to lots of new things, so it is also a crucial time for communication development. You want your baby to be able to nod “yes” or “no”, indicating if something is bothering them or that they’re done eating!
- Mouthing: If they’re putting objects or their hands and feet in their mouth, it is usually a good sign that they are beginning to mouth and will soon be ready for solid foods.
- Reduced Tongue Thrust Reflex: This one is a little bit more complex. Newborns have a natural intuition or reflex to stick out or push things out with their tongue when the area is stimulated. With time this reflex reduces, allowing for food to be let into their mouth. When being spoon-fed, notice if your baby pushes the spoon out or allows it to come in. We want the tongue to push food in to be swallowed instead of out - perhaps a sign that they are not yet ready for solid food. Tune in to today’s episode for tips on testing your child’s extrusion reflex!
- Watching You Eat: General interest in watching you eat food is really important and absolutely adorable too! Their curiosity in the act and the food itself can be another sign of readiness.
To Purée or not to Purée?
Once again, the key to responsive parenting is tuning into your baby’s signs and signals, and trying to listen to what they’re telling you. There are a few schools of thought with regards to how foods should be introduced to your baby:
- Purées: A lot of parents are quite familiar with this form of feeding, which involves giving your baby mashed-up food. Puréed foods are also helpful in teaching the crucial skill of lip closure.
- Baby Led Weaning: In this approach, whether your baby is weaning off the bottle or the breast, your baby skips the purée and goes right to self-feeding. It’s important to note that it is contraindicated (should not be done) to do this before six months in age.
- Combination Approach: A combination of the above two approaches, it allows for baby to receive nutrients through purées, while also exploring and grabbing food on their own and finding independence. Despite some strong opinions online, there's no evidence to suggest that can't mix the two approaches!
What Kind of Foods Should I Start With?
One of the most important considerations is to offer complimentary iron rich foods.
If you’re an omnivorous family and consuming animal products, iron rich foods include: ground beef, fish, dark chicken (more iron rich than chicken breasts), wild game, etc.
If you’re more comfortable with a plant-based diet, iron rich foods include: legumes, lentils, beans, infant cereals (grains fortified by iron), etc.
How Often Can I Introduce New Foods?
You can often find conflicting information regarding how slowly or quickly to introduce your baby to new foods. Some guidelines have suggested that parents wait three days before introducing their baby to something new. But after sifting through evidence, it is our conclusion that there is no good reason to wait two to three days for every single food - which can really elongate the integration of many foods and the enjoyment of meals the whole family can enjoy together! Keep in mind if your child is showing signs of an allergy, we recommend to continue introducing foods slowly, one-by-one. And on that note...
What about Allergies?
A landmark study published in 2017 presented a lot of new recommendations around allergy introduction. Essentially what came out of the study was that we do not need to delay the introduction of highly allergenic foods anymore. If you have a baby that is in low to moderate risk for developing an allergy, you can actually start to offer things like peanuts, almond butter, or sesame seeds right at six months. That’s not to say you need to get it all done back to back in the first month of starting solids, but definitely by around ten months, try to expose your baby to most of them!
NOTE: Don't put food on your baby's skin prior to them ingesting it. Doing so will increase their risk of having allergies to it because of the way our skin functions as a barrier to keeping harmful things out of our bodies!
We hope the above blog is a helpful introduction to starting solids with your baby, but we have barely scratched the surface! Consider checking out the Happy Health Eaters Start Solids Confidently Course and use the code SFH15 for 15% off at check-out!
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