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February 1, 2021 • read
Solid foods: How to get your baby started
Introducing food to your baby is fun! But with other parents and social media touting home-made, free-range, all-natural and organic food for their little ones, it can also feel like A LOT of pressure. On top of that, knowing when, how much and what to feed your little one can be confusing — even your mom doesn’t have all the answers (just because she gave you rice cereal at 3 months doesn’t mean you should do the same). And while some solid food charts for babies can be helpful, they can also induce anxiety — especially if your baby won’t eat certain foods (or not enough, or too much). The good news is that feeding your baby solid food is a lot less complex than it seems. Whether you choose purees or baby-led weaning (BLW), here are the rules for introducing food to your baby.
How do I know it’s time to introduce solid food?
Your baby is going to tell you. You’ll know you should start your baby on solids when they can sit up on their own and seem interested in what you’re eating. If they’re reaching, chewing or staring intensely at you during meals, they’re probably signaling they’d like a taste. This usually happens around six months, but you’re probably fine if you want to start a bit earlier — as long as it’s not before four months.
What about allergies?
In terms of a schedule for introducing solid food to a baby, most doctors recommend adding a new food every three days. That way if there’s an allergic reaction, you’re much more likely to know the cause of it. Children don’t typically have allergic reactions the first time they have a new substance. If you have food allergies, however, it’s a good idea to speak to your child’s doctor before introducing those foods to your little one.
What foods do you introduce to babies first?
Breast milk or infant formula should be your baby’s primary source of nutrition for their first year. But unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you can start adding fruits and veggies to your baby’s diet after six months. There’s no need to follow a month-by-month baby solid food feeding guide as up until they turn one, food is just for fun!
Besides breastmilk or formula, there are, however, a couple of musts for your little one’s diet. Your baby needs vitamin D drops every day — actually, as Canadians most of us should be taking vitamin D every day. Iron-rich foods should also be on the menu, especially if your child is breastfed and older than six months. Most baby cereals are iron-fortified, so double check the back of the package to see if it meets their nutritional requirements. If not, meat, fish, eggs and beans are your best bets. You may think it sounds gross, but chances are your baby will love their pureed meat.
First year feeding guide
When it comes to introducing specific foods to baby, there are very few hard and fast rules for their first year. The major one is not to give honey until your child is at least one as it can cause botulism. It’s also a good idea to alternate between orange and other coloured foods to avoid turning your baby orange (yes it’s a real thing, it’s called carotenemia). That and you’ll want to make sure you’re feeding enough fibre (that means lots of fruits, veggies and beans) or you risk having a constipated baby.
Apart from washing both your hands and baby’s before preparing food and eating, eating safely means never leaving your baby alone in their high chair or while they’re eating. Eating in their stroller or car seat is also a no-go, even more so if they’re facing away from you — just because they’re close to you doesn’t mean they can’t choke. If possible, it’s a great idea for you, your partner and anyone else who’s going to be watching the baby to take a first aid course to learn how to deal with choking. There are a number of courses available online if you can’t make it in person.
As a parent, you’re constantly bombarded with messages about what you “should” be doing. You can end up feeling like your worth as a human being is tied to your child, especially when it comes to what they’re eating. But at the end of the day, you only have control over what you serve and when. Your child isn’t going to like every food and they might decide to eat mostly fruit for their first three years of life. That’s probably ok. Speak to your child’s doctor if you have concerns. But know that your baby will eventually learn to eat a wide range of foods. It just might take a while.