You’ve waited months for the big moment! Now it’s finally time to start baby on solid foods. Katie walks through the basics in hopes of making it a little less overwhelming for both mama and baby…
Baby’s first taste of “solid” foods is such a momentous occasion! The rice cereal has been measured and mixed to the perfect consistency. Cameras are ready, plastic bib is secured, and baby is propped up even though he doesn’t realize that his life is about to change forever. After spending his first few months on a strictly liquid diet, he’s about to enter the exciting world of FOOD! Recently I asked a ripely pregnant friend what she was looking forward to the most. Being the amazing cook that she is, it was the introduction of new foods that she actually anticipated the most!
However, mamas who have been through that stage can attest to the quirky, unexpected events that we encounter as new foods are introduced. It’s definitely an exciting time, and I’m hoping life will become easier as my child is gradually able to eat the same meal as the rest of the family, but there are frustrations involved.
Before we got to the beginning of this stage, my husband and I had a plan to introduce all non-sweet foods before fruits and desserts. In our naivity, we thought that we could prevent our son from getting a sweet tooth like his mama. Then we found out that breastmilk is sweet! Well, that plan didn’t work anymore. He does enjoy sweet foods, but he really likes his veggies, too. We’re continually learning and being surprised.
I received a Baeba babyfood maker, so I’m putting it to use in preparing his fruits, veggies, and meats. I like knowing exactly what is going into my son’s bowl, and it seems to save us money. While I’m not currently a daily recycler, I like the idea of not accumulating multiple glass and plastic jars in the trash. Making my son’s pureed meals has just become a part of my routine, and it’s really doesn’t take too much time. By making extra and putting it into ice cube trays, then dumping them into freezer baggies, it can actually be a monthly task.
I’ve heard stories about extremely picky and moody eaters. Luckily, Nolan isn’t showing these signs. There have only been a couple foods that have come back out faster than they got into his hatch. Avocado and pureed cantaloupe. But recently I let Nolan bite from a soft chunk of cantaloupe and he immediately wanted more! Maybe he likes it now, or maybe he likes feeling like a big kid.
If you’re beginning to introduce new foods, I have some tips, money saving ideas, and safety precautions that I’d like to share with you.
Tips for Introducing Solid Foods
While there isn’t a perfect formula to make every child like every food, these are some suggestions that might help this endeavor to go a little more smoothly.
- When introducing new foods, you’ll want your child to be happy and relaxed. If he is uncomfortable and tense, he might be more likely to spit out the new food with the slightest distaste. Feeling happy and relaxed, he’ll be more likely to give it another try. What can affect your child’s level of tension or relaxation more than room temperature, seating position, or lighting? YOUR level of tension or relaxation! It’s amazing how babies easily read and reflect the attitudes of others. You can help your baby get comfortable in the high chair with a comfortable temperature and lighting. But your smile and relaxed posture could help him even more! Sometimes I make my son smile by holding the end of the spoon in my mouth while feeding him.
- Just like those fabulous yogurt shops, you can mix-in favorites to your baby’s food. If you started with rice and she likes it, you can mix rice in with the new peas that are being introduced. I always feed my son from one bowl at a time. Whether he’s having chicken and sweet potatoes or apples and oatmeal, I mix it together, and he loves it!
- This might sound wacky, but sometimes giving my son several bites in a row seems to help him swallow it down even if he’s not crazy about the meal. Once I put a bite in his mouth, I give him a chance to mush and swallow, then immediately scoop up another bite. He goes ahead and swallows it down and opens the hatch for the next one. I don’t want to give him too much time to think about disliking the food. It probably won’t work for every baby, but it’s worth a try.
- Your child’s sleep routine could affect her openness to try new foods, for better or for worse. A sleepy baby is a cranky baby. And a cranky baby will be less likely to try new foods than a happy baby. As much as you can, try schedule her meals after naps. Or at least don’t wait to feed her until directly before nap time.
- You might not want to hear this, but consider making your baby food. My son definitely prefers the homemade, fresh purees over the mixtures that come in the jars. If you can make the time, I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot.
- Here’s another one that you might not want to hear, but it actually worked for me today: taking a bite of his food yourself, then… smiling. Yes, it’s difficult. Nolan didn’t seem to like his lunch at all today, even though he’s liked that food in the past. In between some of his bites, I’d take a bite… and smile. I must fake a smile pretty well, because he became more interested in it.
- Finally, don’t be quick to replace the food that she’s disliking. If she’s spitting it out and needs some time to fuss, then wipe her face, and let her have that time. Just carry on with your meal, letting her watch you. After a while, try giving her another bite, and if she still doesn’t like it, try again a few minutes later.
Just because some food comes without a label for babies, doesn’t mean that it can’t be baby food. I’ve found that I already have food around the house that’s safe, nutritious, and baby-ready. For example, canned pumpkin is about the consistency of mashed potatoes. And it’s 100% pumpkin. Bananas are easy to mush into a smooth consistency. Nolan loves for me to peel the banana and let him eat it right out of my hand! Avocados are a nutritious and mushy food, too.
If you’re looking for nontraditional baby food in your home, make sure to check the nutrition labels. You might be surprised to find that some of those foods with a mushy consistency are actually high in sodium, high-fructose corn syrup or other chemicals. So choose carefully.
Talk with your pediatrician about food choices for your child. That’s the best person to look to for guidance of picking new foods. If you are making your own baby food, there are a few foods that are better served from manufactured baby food companies. These foods could be high in nitrates which could lead to a certain type of anemia in young infants: beets, turnips, carrots, collard greens, spinach (American Academy of Pediatrics, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child). The baby food companies monitor the levels of nitrates to keep them at healthy levels for infants.
And of course, the most important safety precaution you can take when feeding your child new foods is being aware of choking hazards. Before my son’s early teeth were big enough to cut food, I would trial run a new food, mimicking gumming by using the roof of my mouth and tongue. That probably sounds silly, but it helped me realize that I should take the outer skin off of lima beans before feeding them to him. If a food doesn’t disintegrate or mush easily, I’ll puree it for him instead of taking a risk.
I hope that the new world of foods can be an exciting time for you and your baby with minimal spewing. I’m reminded that my baby boy is growing up as he joins the family at mealtime and even shares some of our foods. While some times might be frustrating, remember that it will get easier and your patience will pay off. As you help your children endure new foods that might seem weird at first, you’re preparing them for a lifetime of good health and mealtime joy!