Babies are generally ready for the introduction of solid food at about 6 months old. Good indicators that your baby is ready to start solids are if your baby can sit up with minimal props, has good neck strength, good chewing and swallowing skills and has a curious nature. You’ll want to continue to breast or bottle feed while you slowly bring solid foods into their lives.
Start with 1 new food for 1 week and then add another item for a week and so on. Pay attention to fussiness, skin outbreaks, congestion and anything you think might be a food related sensitivity. First foods to try are cereals such as oat, rice or barley (may be mixed with breast milk or formula), mashed or cooked fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, avocado, banana, apple, pear, green beans. You may also introduce pureed or soft chunks of meats. Stay away from dairy, eggs, peanuts, honey, fish and soy. These foods you can introduce closer to 12 months of age.
A popular method of feeding solids is called Baby Led Weaning or BLW. This is a simple stress free and fun way to introduce solids that virtually bypasses spoon feeding. While baby is sitting in a highchair any single or variety of soft pieces of food are placed in front of baby to self-feed. Again, this is great to do when the family is having mealtime and your baby can observe you and self-regulate when he/she is full. Hand to mouth coordination, independence and confidence are all benefits to BLW.
Did you know that how you wean your baby has long term health implications? Have you heard of the hygiene hypothesis? The hygiene hypothesis is a theory that too clean of an environment means your baby is less exposed to microbes which impacts gut health and the diversity of the microbiota. This could be an explanation for high rates of allergies and autoimmune conditions. Our gut microbiota impacts our immune system from birth.
Once you have introduced a few foods be sure to alternate them. For babies and everyone, eating the same foods on a daily basis can cause food allergies and sensitivities. Hold off on hard, uncooked chunky food such as cut up apples or carrots, even if your baby has some teeth, so your baby doesn’t choke on bits and pieces. Also limit or stay away from sweets or keep them for the end of the meal so your baby doesn’t get picky and only want sweet foods.
Have your baby eat when you and the family are eating to start mealtime togetherness and timing of meals whether you are using the Baby Led Weaning technique or not. Babies are usually ready for about 3 meals a day with snacks somewhere after about 12 months.
Written by: Diane Bokor Sargisian, Happi Tummi Health & Nutrition Coach