As a new mom and a dietitian, I was so excited to start solid foods with my son. After our 4 month check up with his doctor, she gave me the ‘starting solids’ speech, and later that night, my husband asked, “So what is the next step? What will that look like?” Excellent questions!
With all the freedom of the new guidelines for introducing solids, first-time parents (or even veteran parents) wonder what that actually looks like for their child. What time of day should the solid food meal be offered? Should it be with a regular feed or offer it at another time? What do I offer first (liquids vs solids)? What type of food should I start with? What texture should I start with? Should I be Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
So back to my husband’s question, what will it actually look like? Here are my three “T’s” to starting solids with your infant.
Timing is most important for you. What works best with your routine and the one you’ve established for your little one.
Wait, what routine? If you haven’t found your way into a routine with your little one, now would be an excellent time to start one. Children thrive with routine. It doesn’t need to be a strict schedule; rather a routine allows your child to start to understand what is expected of them (and you), at what approximate times during the day (and at night!). You are likely already doing this with bedtime. Maybe you have a bath, followed by a changing them into a footed sleeper, perhaps you read a bedtime story together. These rituals at bedtime are signals to your child that bedtime (ie. sleep) is coming.
Okay, back to the timing. What does the day look like for you? Are you rushed in the morning trying to get your day started and other family members out the door? Do you have afternoon obligations? Does your child fight naps at a certain part of the day? Do they still have a ‘witching hour’? If you answered, yes, to any of those questions, then a feed at that time of day may not be the best place to start. If you answered, yes, to ALL those questions, then you’ll need to rate one part of the day as the least stressful, and go with that one.
Ideally, there will be a time during your day when you can sit with your little one and have a meal. It may not be a time when you would typically eat a meal, and that is OK. The most important thing is that you’re dedicating time to focus on a meal, and let’s be honest, you’re probably hungry anyway!
2) Type of food
The recommended foods to start with are iron-rich as babies are at risk for developing iron deficiency as they make the shift from a diet of exclusive breastmilk and/or formula to solid foods. Great foods to include in your baby’s diet include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, iron-fortified whole grain infant cereals, beans, pulses, and dark greens (to name a few). Whenever I discuss these foods as great “first foods” I generally get a weird ‘you want me to give my baby chicken as their first food’ look. Well yes, and no. It doesn’t have to be the very first solid food that goes in their mouth, but what I do suggest is that if you do decide to start with a fruit or vegetable, then that second or third time you offer foods, it be an iron-rich food.
3) Texture of food
The fun part! The texture of foods offered can be a range from thin and silky smooth to actual pieces of soft/well-cooked foods (to avoid choking risk, please do not offer hard foods or even cooked or raw foods that you yourself cannot break down using just your lips). If you’ve decided that BLW is right for you and your baby, a variety of textures can still be given (sometimes when we hear BLW we think pureed foods can’t be given). It’s great to experiment with different textures and give your child a few options, too. Your child will let you know what textures they prefer, so take their lead on that. However, even if they prefer a smooth texture one day, doesn’t mean they won’t be a little more adventurous at their next meal, or at a meal a week later.
The current guidelines on introducing solids recommends babies be between 4 to 6 months. Some babies are ready at the 4 month mark, while other babies may still need a little extra encouragement around 6 months. Whenever you decide to start solids with your child, keep the three “T’s” in mind and have fun!