Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Starting Your Baby On Solids

Starting your baby on solids is a fun and exciting time for both you and your little one. You are not only teaching your baby how to swallow food from a spoon, you are also helping her develop a love of mealtime. While this is an exciting time for you and your baby, you may have a lot of questions and some anxiety about this new venture, especially if it’s your first baby. Feeling this way is completely normal, but don’t worry.  With my step-by-step guide and the advice of your pediatrician you can’t go wrong.
When Is My Baby Ready For Solids?
Most babies are ready to start on solids between 4-6 months, but every baby is different so please check with your pediatrician to determine your baby’s readiness.  Personally, I started each of my 4 children on solids at 5 months.  Signs that your baby may be ready are:

*Can sit up with support.
*Can hold her head up and has control of her neck.
*Shows interest in and possibly reaches for the food you are eating.
*Has doubled his birth weight
*Is still hungry after a bottle feed
While it’s important not to start solids too soon, before 4 months, it is equally as important not to start too late.  Babies who start solids later than 6 months are more likely to be picky and hesitate trying new textures.

What are the best first foods for my baby?
The best first foods for your baby are easy to digest, non-allergenic fruits and vegetables like banana, peas, pear, butternut squash, avocado, apple and sweet potato.  You absolutely do not need to start with rice cereal.  It is almost void of nutrients and has a very bland taste. If we want our babies to learn that solid food is yummy, why start them with something not yummy?
My son Royce started with carrots, my son Brendan with banana, my daughter Hayden with apple and my son Mason with butternut squash. It has been my experience that it really doesn’t matter if you introduce a fruit first or a vegetable first. Babies will eat what tastes good to them.  I recommend alternating between fruits and vegetables. For example, if you gave your baby peas as his first food, try apples next.
What texture should the puree be for Stage 1?
The texture should be smooth and creamy, no lumps or anything that would be difficult for your baby to swallow.  If you need to thin the puree, add a little water, breast milk or formula.  If you need to thicken it, add a little baby cereal. Once your baby has mastered the art of swallowing food from a spoon, you can start bumping up the texture and consistency. This usually starts with Stage 2 - around 7 months.

When is the best time of day to give my baby a solid meal?
A great time to give your baby a solid meal is in the late morning after a nap, because she will be rested and ready for some yummy puree! Let her drink some of her bottle or nurse for a few minutes before offering your puree. That way she will have satisfied a little of her hunger, but won’t be completely full yet. Try to feed her in the same place around the same time and start a routine - babies love having a routine.   

How much do I feed my baby at this stage?
In the beginning, there is no need to worry about how much solid food your baby is eating. Right now, the idea is to get him used to swallowing food from a spoon and excited about mealtime. For that first meal, start with a teaspoon or two of puree and be sure to demonstrate swallowing from a spoon so your baby can see what he is supposed to do. As your baby learns, those teaspoons will turn into tablespoons and then into ounces! When introducing new foods, give the same food for 3 days straight so if there is any kind of reaction, you will know what caused it.

Offer a solid meal once a day for about 2-4 weeks, then, if your baby is ready, you can bump it to 2 solid meals per day - normally around 7 months.  The rest of your baby’s feedings will remain the same, either breast milk or formula.  The size of the solid meal will depend on your baby.  He may only take a few bites or he may devour the whole thing and want more.  Keep in mind that it’s not about “cleaning your plate” it’s about enjoying the new experience of eating food.  Follow your baby’s cues, he is finished when he turns his head away, starts spitting the food out or swats at the spoon.  Just like us, sometimes babies are really hungry and sometimes they aren’t.

What if my baby doesn’t seem to like the food and keeps spitting it out?
Don’t stress if your baby spits the food out in the beginning, in fact, it is a natural reflex.  Some babies take to swallowing solid food right away and others take a few days or even weeks to get the hang of it.  If your baby is consistently thrusting his tongue out when you try to feed him, wait a few days or a week and then try again.  Royce took a week to get used to the idea of swallowing food, Hayden 5 days and Mason 2 weeks, but Brendan took to it on the first bite and he was a preemie!

Homemade Baby Food vs. Store Bought
Lots of parents ask me what the difference is between homemade baby food and store bought.  The truth is, there’s a huge difference.  Store bought baby food is processed so it can have a long shelf life and homemade is fresh.  Store bought baby food has to undergo a sterilization process which destroys nutrients and antioxidants, color, taste, texture and aroma of the food.  In fact, so much of the nutrients are lost in processing that many baby food companies artificially add the nutrients back in.  We don’t eat processed food every day, for every meal, why should our babies?

Homemade is healthier than store bought, up to 5 times less expensive and helps prevent picky eating and food allergies.  Homemade baby food is also a lot easier and less time consuming than many parents may realize.  With Sage Spoonfuls, you can make 2 weeks of baby food in as little as 10 minutes and store it in the freezer.  That way, you have the convenience of store bought, but with all the amazing benefits of homemade.
Enjoy this delicious new time in your baby's life!