Taking that big step!
WHEN TO START
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that you feed your baby only on breast milk for the first six months and then supplement with formula from six months up to one year.
But after six months your baby will naturally begin to show signs of wanting to have their first taste of solid food. Typically, most babies show these signs from 4 to 6 months which is why the AAP says you can start your baby on solids during this period. However, the right time depends on your baby and how ready he or she is. Naturally, your baby will give you signals and a crucial one is that your baby no longer pushes food out of his or her mouth but can move food from the front of his or her mouth to the back to be swallowed. This is called the tongue-thrust or extrusion reflex. Other signals are:
- Your baby can hold his or her head up steadily,
- Your baby can sit up,
- Your baby mouths his or her hands or objects like his or her toys,
- Your baby leans forward and opens his or her mouth at the sight of food, especially when you are eating,
- Your baby still feels hungry after being breastfed 8 to 10 times in a day or after drinking a 32 oz. formula,
- Your baby weighs 13 pounds or more and
- Your baby can open his mouth wide.
Once you start getting these signals from your baby know that it's time to add some baby food or solids to his or her usual diet of breastmilk or formula. Do not however stop breastfeeding for at least 12 months when you start him or her on solids.
WARNING: Do not start your baby on baby food or solids before 4 months!
HOW TO START
You will need a bit of patience, perseverance and positivity if you are to achieve some success – chances are you may not get off to a good start. But little by little your baby will begin to warm up to the solids you feed him or her with.
So what are the rules of the game?
First, start small. Your baby's first intake should not be more than a half-spoonful per day.
Try some communication. Goad him or her on with a little singing and talking to or tasting food yourself and making your face like you really like it.
Swap between liquids and solids. Start your baby off with some breastmilk or formula or both first and then change to a half-spoonful of solids and then finish off with some more breastmilk or formula.
Do it bit by bit. Increase your baby's food intake gradually (from a half-spoonful to one or two teaspoonfuls per day). This will help your baby to get used to the change in food and also to pick up on his or her swallowing.
Swap between one kind of solid food at a time. Try your baby with one kind of food at a time and then wait for some time (3 to 5 days at most) to observe his or her reaction (for instance, is he or she allergic to that type of solid food) before trying him or her on another type of solid food.
WARNING: Do not force your baby to eat solids if he or she doesn't want it. Quickly switch back to his or her usual liquid diet and then try again after some time. Remember, it's a gradual process.
WHAT TO START WITH
Food groups that qualify to be on the first solids list are meat, poultry, beans, vegetables, cereals and fruits. What to start with depends on your baby's age though.
For babies who are 4 to 6 months:
Meat, poultry and beans – these should be cooked well and mashed.
Cereals – these should be single-grain or infant cereals and should be ground and cooked. You can add them to breastmilk or formula.
Vegetables – these should be cooked and mashed.
Fruits (bananas or avocados) – these should be mashed.
For babies over 6 months to 9 months:
Meat, poultry and beans – these should be cooked well and minced.
Vegetables – give your baby a variety and these should be cooked and cut up into very small pieces that wouldn't choke him or her.
Fruits (bananas or soft fruits) – these should be sliced up.
For babies over 9 months to 12 months:
Meat, poultry and fish – these should be soft and shredded.
Vegetables – these should be cooked and chopped into small pieces.
Fruits – these should be in small pieces, soft and easy to chew.
At this age, you can also give baby something from family meals but these should be mixed up and in portions or sizes appropriate for your baby's age.
WHAT NOT TO START WITH
Avoid giving your baby these kinds of foods: honey (this can cause a condition called infant botulism), cow's milk (is not a good source of iron and can rather cause iron deficiency), foods that are potential choking hazards (nuts, raisins, seeds, peanut butter, raw and hard vegetables or fruits, hot dogs, chunks of meat and poultry, hard candy and grapes).
HANDLING MEAL TIMES
Here are some tips to make your meal times as manageable as possible:
Make sure your baby is seated during meal times. Put him in a highchair and strap him in with a buckle.
Teach your baby how to hold a spoon by putting one in his hand. After a while, allow him or her to use the spoon all by himself or herself.
Make it easier for your baby to explore with food given to him or her; this helps him to open up to a wide variety of food. So make sure food given to him or her is soft, easy to swallow and served in bite-size pieces.
When your baby is about 9 months old, wean him from the bottle by letting him drink breastmilk or formula from a cup.
Don't be too pushy if your baby doesn't want to eat solids offered him or her. Give it time.
Don't overfeed your baby; once you realise your baby is full stop feeding him or her – your baby will signal to you that he or she is full by turning away from extra food, pushing your hand away or crying.
Don't feed your baby directly from baby food containers. Dish baby food into a separate container and use that to feed him or her – this way the leftover is kept fresh and can be put in the fridge and used again.
Have some wipes or napkins at the ready because it's going to get really messy.
Now here's our baby food chart to keep you on track on the age-appropriate solids to feed your baby with. Happy feeding time!
Click To Download Baby Food Chart
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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