Tips for Introducing Babies to Solid Foods
Today’s post is courtesy of Danielle Shea Tan of Healthy Mamas for Happy Families.
Helping moms raise healthy eaters is my passion. Eating together is the single activity you’ll do most with your children before age 18. On average, we spend 74 minutes each day nourishing our bodies with food. By the time your little one reaches age 18, you’ll have spent up to 8,000 hours eating together. That’s a whole lot of teaching moments and down the road, a lot of time for enjoying and reflecting on life together. Starting solids is the beginning of this exciting journey. Yet, as a new mom, starting my son on solid food scared the bejesus out of me! It raised concerns and issues that had my mind spinning into standstill.
- How can I best support a positive relationship with food?
- Will he prefer the healthy foods we eat?
- What if I don’t have time to make his baby food?
- Will he get enough nutrition if I let him feed himself?
- Where do I begin?
After some self-guided training, mentoring with childhood nutrition experts and a lot of deep breaths, I was off and running. With a little planning and some patience, you and your baby will be off to starting a fun new activity together too! Use the simple tips below to guide you on this new journey of raising a healthy eater.
Tips for Introducing Babies to Solid Foods
Start with fruits and veggies instead of processed cereal. The American Academy of Pediatrics confirms there is no medical evidence that indicates starting your baby on processed cereal is beneficial. Yes, it’s fortified with many vitamins and minerals, but that’s because it’s highly processed to make it digestible – depleting the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Processed cereal is recommended to ensure infants are consuming enough iron since iron stores start to deplete after 6 months of age. If your baby consumes formula, then iron levels aren’t an issue. If you’re breastfeeding, you can start iron-rich foods in your baby’s diet early on. My favorites include blackstrap molasses and chia seeds.
Choose nutrient-dense foods. Babies are getting 100% of macronutrients like protein, fat and carbohydrates from breastmilk or formula. That gives you the freedom to introduce foods rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Plant foods are the best options and with so many to choose from, you and your baby will have a blast exploring the different colors and textures. Avocado, sweet potato, squash and broccoli are a few of my favorites.
Food is for fun before age one. Food in the first twelve months is just for fun. In fact, your baby should be getting 100% of his nutrients from breastmilk or formula until age one (that’s at least 24 ounces.) Focus on introducing new textures and flavors so he gets comfortable with variety. There’s no need to worry about how much he ate or whether it all ended up on the floor.
Make it stress free. Speaking of floor, have you every seen an infant eat? It’s going to get real messy, mama. If this stresses you out, I encourage you to buy feeding tools to keep you sane. Your baby can sense stress and creating a positive relationship with food means keeping the stress out of meal times. My favorite tools included: an apron to protect work clothes, a plastic mat for the floor, a bib with a food catcher and mini, soft face cloths.
Find an approach that works for you. Baby-led weaning is all the rage, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re a nervous mom, having your little one gag every mealtime might throw you over the edge. That’s ok because you can opt for spoon-feeding instead. On the other hand, if you have little time to prepare baby food, but are dead set on making your own then BLW might be the way to go. I used a combination of BLW and spoon-feeding because it worked for us and for our child care. Americans have been raising healthy eaters using both methods for decades so choose what works best for your family.
Do you have an infant in the starting solids phase? Got any questions? Tell us about your experience or concerns in the comments section and Danielle will get back to you!
And for any working parents who are thinking about the best ways to bring homemade baby food to daycare, our blogger, Amy, has you covered. Her Tips for Bringing Homemade Baby Food to Daycare offers up some great advice.
Danielle Shea Tan, founder of Healthy Mamas for Happy Families and certified health coach, helps busy moms and their families nurture healthy habits and face nutritional challenges and roadblocks with an upbeat attitude and manageable solutions. You can find Danielle coaching parents and caregivers on raising healthy families virtually and in-person around the Boston area. She’s been frequently featured in local nutrition, lifestyle and health blogs, magazines and radio shows including Boston Magazine and WATD’s Mommy Business.
- Parent Webinars: Food for Thought – Nutrition Tips & Strategies for Growing a Healthy Eater
- E-family news: Getting a Healthy Start on Eating Habits