Introduce solids to baby safely with real, applicable guidance. Babies can have solids starting around 6 months old. Offering allergenic foods younger can decrease the risk of developing food allergies later. Baby-led weaning is a popular approach to offering table food. Pin it here.
Mom life is hard. Aside from the fact that we’re completely exhausted (it’s fine, my baby is five months old and has literally slept through the night maybe 5 times ever) with the task of keeping a small human alive, we have a list a mile long of “should-dos”. Oh, and a peanut gallery of unsolicited, though well-meaning, advice that’s often contradictory. I’m here to break down some real life application of introducing solids safely.
When Can You Introduce Solids?
Introduce solids close to 6 months, following any specific recommendations from your doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) used to recommend beginning solids between 4 and 6 months, although their recommendation shifted a few years ago to “approximately 6 months”. The World Health Organization holds a hard and fast 6 month recommendation (1,2,3). Introducing solids before 4 months can increase the risk for weight gain and adiposity in infancy and childhood (2).
Real life: Personally, my pediatrician recommended we introduce solids at 5 months. I had planned to wait until 6 months but went with what my doctor recommended. We introduced solids the week she turned 5 months.Introducing #solids to #baby can be overwhelming. Here's REAL life advice on how to do it safely. Click To Tweet
Important Milestones for Introducing Solids
Aside from being a certain age and size (minimum of ~13 pounds), your baby should be doing a couple of things prior to introducing solids:
- Head control: Your baby should be able to hold her head up for a fairly long period of time and show good head control (3,4,5,6).
- Sitting up: Your baby should be able to sit mostly independently (especially in her high chair!) before starting on solids (3,4,5).
- Show interest: Your baby should display interest in solids, like grabbing for your food, opening her mouth or watching you intently while you eat (3,4,5).
Real life: My daughter started reaching for our food and cups a few weeks before we introduced food to her. She could hold her head independently and she sat her in her high chair easily for a full family meal the day before we gave her her first real solids. (Admittedly, to my dismay, my husband put a few droplets of food on his finger a couple times a week or two earlier… he couldn’t help himself. She survived.).
How Should You Introduce Solids? Baby-Led Weaning or a Standard Approach?
It depends on the baby, your feeding preferences and also the guidance from your pediatrician.
Standard Approach to Starting Solids
Traditionally, babies in the US have started on iron-fortified cereal and spoon-fed purees (a smooth, creamy blend) of food.
Baby-Led Weaning Approach to Starting Solids
Alternatively, baby-led weaning (BLW) is an approach where babies are given table food in chunks and they feed themselves starting at about 6 months. Babies skip the puree or mashed phase of introductory foods, and they are never spoon-fed. Baby-led weaning has been popular in the UK and New Zealand for quite some time, and is becoming increasingly more popular in the US. The AAP doesn’t have an official statement for or against BLW. The term “weaning” here doesn’t mean the baby will no longer have breastmilk, it just means eating solids.
Real life: I was fairly open-minded but had mostly planned to try the BLW approach. But, given we were starting solids a month earlier than anticipated it means she didn’t quite have the coordination to feed herself. My pediatrician told me she prefers spoon-feeding to help get rid of the tongue-thrust reflex and because at five months they lack the dexterity for BLW. I decided to try a mix of both.
How to Mix the Standard Approach to Solids with Baby-Led Weaning
Real life: I’m giving the disclaimer here that this is completely my personal approach for introducing solids and how I’m weaving together the standard solids approach with BLW. Every baby and family’s needs are different! I don’t #momshame any different approaches :).
At the first few meals I introduced one single, whole food, from what we were eating as a family and modified the texture as needed:
- Mashed avocado – given with a spoon
- Mashed beans – given with a spoon
- Roasted broccoli (the very tip of the florets), mashed between my fingers – given with my finger
- Strawberry, mashed between my fingers – given with my finger
- Plum (without skin), mashed between my fingers – given with my finger
I noticed after a few meals, that I was able to put the spoon in front of her and she could reach for it with her mouth. This puts her in more control rather than me “forcing” her to try foods. We are also now more successful with her eating from the spoon than from my finger, although the finger was easy for her to suck from at the beginning.
Aside from giving these very small “bites”, I’m putting grabbable chunks of various sizes on her high chair for her to play with and explore. Real talk, these end up either all over her or on the floor.
Next, I started giving more highly allergenic foods and spacing them out every few days to check for reactions. Introducing allergenic foods from a young age may decrease risk of developing food allergies (3).
- Cheese, mashed between my fingers (we tried this one today!)
- Thinned peanut butter (mix 1 tsp of peanut butter with 2 tsp of hot water and cool before serving)
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Scrambled eggs or whole cooked egg, mashed
- Whole grain puff cereal with iron or whole wheat pasta noodles, mashed
- Whole grain waffle (cut/mashed mixed with milk after introducing milk into a slurry)
For example, I gave dairy for three days in a row (cheese and yogurt) before giving her wheat (waffle, very small pieces of soft bread) for three days.
I weave in BLW to the standard approach by allowing her to reach for the spoon herself with her mouth, and giving her chunks (basically thin-strips) of food to explore herself.
Breastfeeding, Formula & Baby-Led Weaning
As one of my girlfriend’s pediatricians says, “Food before one is just for fun“. It’s an easy way to remember that giving table food before one year of age is more about offering food experiences and exploring flavors and textures than worrying about them eating “enough”. Babies should be getting all the nutrients they need from breastmilk (you will need a vitamin D supplement soon after birth and iron after about 4 months if exclusively breastfeeding) or formula before one year old.
As always, I hope this info on safely and realistically introducing solids to baby helps you! I’ll be sharing more on infant feeding in the coming weeks!
Have you introduced solids to your baby?
What are your favorite ways to introduce solids to baby?
Pin these tips for safely introducing solids here.