Starting Solids

February 12th, 2013 posted by Tammy Rome

Your baby is six weeks old and still not sleeping through the night. The pediatrician says this is normal, your nosey neighbor warns of SIDS and your mother is pushing you to feed him cereal. It seems that many people (at least from our parents’ generation) encourage early solids. Why is this? When we 20- and 30-somethings were babies, the doctors taught mothers to introduce thinned rice cereal in baby formula as a way of getting a young baby to sleep through the night. Did it work? Well, my own mother swears by it to this day, but I think the only one who slept better was mom! The danger in introducing solids this early is that baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to break down the large and complex protein molecules found in solid foods. Not only does this make for some pretty nasty diaper changes, it may also set baby up for a number of food-related allergies and digestive problems. Are a few extra hours of sleep worth the risk? Whether breastfed or bottlefed, when do you start solids? And what do you start with? Most pediatricians recommend starting solids somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Some breastfed babies don’t take a bite of cereal before their first birthday. At what age you start, depends largely on baby’s readiness. Does your baby sit well on her own? Does he reach for your spoon or shove his little fist in your plate? Does he cry and fuss when he sees you eating? Does she make eating motions with her mouth? These may be indications that baby is ready to move on to solids. It is always best to check with your own doctor AND follow your instincts when assessing readiness.

So baby is ready. Are you? For those early feedings, you may want to sit baby in the car seat or other reclining seat. Eventually you will need some sort of high chair, either a stand-alone or one that attaches to an adult chair. Whatever you choose, make sure it is safe with all the belts and buckles properly fastened. You don’t want Junior taking a dive along with his first bite. Also, be aware that feeding is some of the messiest work your child will do for a few years. So if you have a weak stomach, brace yourself. Your little princess didn’t come equipped with Emily Post manners and she won’t be acquiring them for quite awhile. Bath time should come after mealtime and if it’s not too cool in the house, dining without clothes (except diaper, of course) may be the way to go. Bibs are always handy, but only if you object to naked babies at the dinner table (or you are eating out). Another boon for feeding baby is a washable floor or plastic covering for carpet. Much of the food will end up other than in baby’s mouth. Okay, you’ve been to every baby store in town and finally picked out the perfect high chair. It has a tray as wide as the Grand Canyon, more belts and buckles than a parachute harness, and it reclines, rocks, rolls and even does backflips! (Not really, but I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention). Baby is seated securely, covered (or uncovered) in the outfit of your choice. You are armed with rubber-covered baby spoons and tiny little bowls. …now what do you serve? Probably your best option is something easy to digest such as Infant Rice Cereal. There are a few different brands, but any will do. If you’re partial to all-natural, you may even find organic or sugar-free varieties at a health food store. They can be mixed with breastmilk, formula or water. If you are nursing, breastmilk is probably best as baby will be more receptive to food that smells like Mama. Make it fairly thin to begin with, but some babies do better with more substance. Once baby is eating cereal well, you may want to introduce other forms of nutrition. The next step is often a big debate. Some doctors prefer you start with fruits, thinking baby will accept them easier and others insist on vegetables, so you don’t encourage a “sweet tooth”. It is probably best to offer vegetables next, but whatever you decide, offer new foods one at a time, waiting up to a week before offering another food. Watch carefully for signs of food reactions with each new food. If you are considering alternatives to the major brands of baby food, why not consider homemade baby food? It doesn’t take much time and can save you a lot of money. All you need is a blender or food processor and a few ice trays. Make your produce selections from the fresh produce aisle at the grocery store, from a Farmer’s Market or from the organic foods section at the health food store. Start with easy to digest foods such as squash, carrots, apples and pears. Wash and peel the food, cut into bite-sized chunks, place in a small saucepan with a little water and cook on high until water begins to boil, then simmer on low heat until food is soft (like boiled potatoes). Remember to cover the pan while cooking as many fruits and vegetables are water-soluble. That is, they loose vitamins and minerals during cooking. Use the water they were cooked in when blending so that you get as much of their nutritional value as possible. Pour fruit/vegetable in the blender and puree until smooth, then spoon into the ice trays and freeze. Thaw and serve one or two cubes at a time. Remaining cubes can be stored in large freezer bags until ready to use. Whether you choose to introduce solids early or late, remember to give baby time to mature, making sure that he is ready for solid foods before setting yourself and him up for frustration. Listen to your doctor and your mother, but follow your heart when it comes to feeding your baby. If you use common sense, only you can decide when is the right time and what is the right food.

Tammy Rome (4 Posts)

Tammy Rome has been married for 13 years to Brian. They have two children: Jennifer (9) and Andrew (6). The Romes live in Ottawa, KS where they own and operate a health food store. Tammy is an accomplished herbalist and Certified Reiki Master-Teacher.

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