Starting solid foods is one of the biggest and most exciting milestones in your baby’s first year of life. After the first few months of a milk-based diet, it’s time to transition your little one to a whole new world of ingredients and tastes. And of course, embarking on a new adventure is just as much fun as it is daunting.
The way you first introduce your baby to solid foods can have a lasting impact as these early taste experiences lay the foundation for an adventurous little foodie or a perpetually fussy eater down the line. There are a few things all moms and dads should be aware of so read on as I explain the dos and don’ts of starting solids.
DO WATCH THE BABY, NOT THE CALENDAR
While the general rule is that babies should start solids around 6 months of age, this doesn’t apply to every baby. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting anywhere between 4 to 6 months. Starting sooner can lead to increased risks of obesity and allergies, while delaying solids beyond six months can cause impaired oral development. There are key physical signs that indicate your baby is ready for solids. They include your baby’s ability to sit and hold their head up unassisted, good hand-eye coordination, and the loss of the tongue thrust reflex, meaning they’re able to swallow food rather than push it out with their tongue.
DON’T BELIEVE THAT FOOD BEFORE ONE IS JUST FOR FUN
This is one of those catch phrases new parents will hear a lot but it’s absolutely not true! Not only do babies from six months onwards need adequate amounts of iron to develop healthily – a vital nutrient that breast milk or formula alone cannot sufficiently provide – it is also in these very early stages of experiencing taste that babies’ palates are shaped for life. Indeed babies form lasting food preferences and the key to ensuring your child grows up to be a happy, healthy and adventurous eater is to offer them lots and lots of different foods. Feed them a repetitive diet of bland tastes and you’re much more likely to end up with a picky eater.
DO OFFER A NEW INGREDIENT EVERY DAY
While it’s vital to watch your baby’s reactions to new foods, the chances of your little foodie having an allergic reaction to fruits or vegetables are very, very low. Allergies are mostly to protein-containing foods like dairy, soy, wheat, shellfish and nuts and therefore introducing a new fruit or vegetable each day is considered safe practice. What’s more is there is mounting scientific evidence that suggests baby’s have a flavor window in which they’re more accepting of new foods. And offering different vegetables each day has been shown to be more successful in raising a healthy eater than giving the same vegetable for multiple consecutive days.
DON’T START WITH RICE CEREAL
Many new parents choose to use baby rice cereal or teething rusks to introduce their baby to solids as this is what was promoted as the ideal first food for decades. However, experts today strongly advise against this approach. Baby rice cereal and rusks are incredibly bland in flavor. Starting solids is as much about developing your baby’s palate and willingness to try new tastes, as it is about providing sufficient calories and nutrition. Tasting much like a piece of cardboard and lacking in nutrients, rice cereal will not achieve this. Some pediatricians have even linked rice cereal to childhood obesity.
DO GIVE YOUR BABY NUTS
Peanuts are the number one known cause of food-related allergic reactions among children in the US. For years parents were advised to stay away from nuts until their baby’s first birthday and since some nut allergies can be life threatening this sounded like a good plan. But modern day research has found just the opposite and experts now suggest giving babies nuts anytime after starting solids to reduce the risk for developing a nut allergy. Remember though that whole nuts are a choking hazard for small children, so avoid them until age four. Instead mix a spoonful of nut butter into a bowl with baby purées. Butternut squash and peanut butter make for a delicious meal!
LITTLE FOODIE CLUB’S 21 DAYS TO SOLIDS PLAN
The Little Foodie Club 21 Days To Solids Plan has been designed to help, support and enable parents to introduce their baby to solid foods with confidence and ease.
Developed in conjunction with leading pediatricians and infant nutrition experts, the plan introduces a new ingredient each day from a carefully selected range of organic vegetables and fruits, laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. It comes with a handbook to guide parents through the process plus a fun meal planner for each day.
This article contributed by Kerstin Kuhn. Kerstin is the founder of Little Foodie Club, the Los Angeles-based baby food delivery company that is revolutionizing the way babies eat and learn about healthy food. She clears the air on common misconceptions when it comes to starting solids so you can kick off your baby’s food journey with confidence.