Deciding when, how and what to introduce solid food-wise to your baby can feel like big decisions. Here’s are some key guidelines to keeping it simple, healthy and realistic.
Start looking for key signs of readiness in your child, such as teeth and the ability to sit on their own. If your babe is starting to show interest in food, like reaching, opening their mouths and looking like they want to have a bite of what you’re eating, it’s also a sign of readiness. These things generally start to show up somewhere between 5 and 7 months of age. That being said, I know kiddos that don’t get teeth until they are 16 months or more so you don’t need to have all these things in place in order to start solid foods.
A focus on nutrient-dense foods, just like for you, is key when choosing what to feed your child. They don’t eat that much so making sure the food they are consuming is full of minerals, fats, protein and vitamins is extra important. I advice avoiding grains until a baby is at least one year old because kids don’t start producing amylase until they’re a little older, which means there is a chance that grains won’t be properly digested, which could lead to allergies or digestive issues. As foods are introduced, look for changes in stool consistency, a red ring around the anus and skin changes, such as eczema, rash, etc to determine whether a food is well-tolerated or not.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite foods to start introducing:
Egg yolk (eggs are a common allergy but the yolks tend to be less of an issue)
Pates and organ meats
Roasted and mashed vegetables such as winter squash and carrots. Mashing with bone broth and/or some grass-fed butter or coconut oil is a great way to add healthy fats
Many kids love flavor so don’t be afraid to add simple spices like mild curry powder, cinnamon, ginger and some sea salt. If it tastes good, they are much more likely to be interested in eating it.
A note on dairy: Cow’s milk dairy is often an issue for people of all ages so caution in introducing it. I prefer fermented dairy such as cheese and yogurt to straight milk. If a child is eating the foods above and still having breastmilk (or formula) they will be getting the nutrients they need without the dairy. That being said, you’re welcome to try including dairy products and if you decide to do so, I like it to be organic and full fat. Goat milk is a great option and is often better tolerated than cow’s milk dairy.
There are two major schools of thought around what format to introduce foods. Baby Led-Weaning (BLW) and purees/mashed food. Each has their pros and cons and I think both lead to healthy, well-fed babies when the food quality is the main focus.
Baby Led-Weaning (BLW): Large chunks of food are given and the baby is able to gnaw on the food, helping them to learn the need for chewing. I think this is a great thing to try and it can also be really messy. Food generally ends up all over the child and the high chair. There is often some amount of choking involved in the early days as well as babies learn the need to break down the food, to some degree, in order to be able to swallow it. That can be scary for some parents and knowing that is important in order to be successful and have it be the right fit. I recommend parents do some more reading about this method if they’re interested in having it as an option for the baby.
Purees/mashed foods: This is where the parent breaks down the food mechanically before offering it to the child. That can be done with a blender, food processor, or in some environments, the parent pre-chewing meats for their baby. Parents have been doing this for their babies for thousands of years so while it might not be super socially acceptable these days, it’s a great and efficient way of making particularly meat the right consistency for a baby to eat. Additional benefits of this is that the enzymes present in the parents mouth help begin to break down the food for the child. That being said, kitchen devices can also absolutely be used and then the baby is spoon fed by the parent. In this case, the baby has to be willing to be fed, which sometimes is the case and sometimes isn’t.
Like most things, I think experimentation and getting curious is the way to go when introducing solid foods to your baby. It can feel overwhelming at times but soon enough you’ll find what works for you and your family. Try not to be too attached to how much food your baby eats before his/her first birthday as it’s just a time for trying new things. Most of their nutrition should still be coming from breastmilk or formula until that time. Keep offering foods even if they don’t accept it the first time as it can take up to 15 tries for new flavors to be welcomed. And as always, your intuition is your best guide.