Introducing solids to your baby can be both exciting and challenging -- at times it's emotionally exhausting, others, extremely satisfying. If you are well equipped with the best direction and ways to overcome the challenges, I promise you this will be a rewarding time in your parenting journey.
Here are a few questions I have received from moms just starting out:
1. When is the best time of day to introduce solids?
Morning is a good time to introduce solids, as babies tend to be hungry at this time. You will also have the rest of the day to watch for a possible allergic reaction.
2. When starting solids, do I feed my baby before or after regular milk feeding?
The best time to offer solids is between milk feeding, or after a partial milk feeding. That way your baby will still have some appetite to try the solid food, but they won't be starving and get frustrated by their inability to get the food in fast enough to satiate their hunger.
3. How much do I feed my baby?
When you are just starting with solids, one meal a day is enough. Start with breakfast, as that is when your baby is likely to be hungriest. This gives baby the full day to work the new foods through their system, rather than starting with dinner and putting them to bed with an upset tummy. By seven months, your baby can take two meals a day, and by nine months, you can move up to three regular meals per day.
By a year, your baby will be eating family foods in a regular adult eating pattern: three meals and a few snacks. As for the amount of food, that is up to baby! Start with a small amount (1 tbsp.) of food, so you don't waste too much if baby isn't interested. If they are still eager once they are finished, then offer them more until they tell you they are finished.
As long as baby is happy and active, they are likely getting enough food.
4. What if my baby doesn't want to eat?
It's not uncommon for babies to prefer breastfeeding to eating solids. If your little one isn't interested in solids when you start feeding them, that's okay. Just follow their guidance and don't force or trick them into eating (that means no distracting them with toys or playing "airplane" with the spoon). Just try again tomorrow!
Another thing to try is going straight to baby-friendly finger foods. Some babies are not interested in purees and just want to try what Mom and Dad are eating. Puffed cereal, grated apple or pear, black beans, a strip of avocado, banana and toast are good starter finger foods. If your baby still doesn't take to solids after about a month of gentle trying, pay attention to signs of potential iron deficiency like pale skin, fatigue, decreased appetite and slow growth. Take your baby to the doctor to be tested if you have any doubts.
5. Is my baby eating enough?
I hear from many moms who are stressed out from a recent visit to the doctor or health nurse, worried that their child is not eating enough. Try to relax, and know there is not a certain amount of food your baby "should" eat in a day, other than the amount that they choose to eat that particular day. This may be a little, a lot, or nothing at all. As long as baby is happy and active, they are likely getting enough food.
6. Is my baby eating too much?
Children are the best regulators of their own appetite. As parents, we know there some days (or weeks) that they will eat next to nothing and you wonder how they survive. Other days, they might do nothing but eat. Their appetite can depend on their growth rates, teething, illness, etc.
If you are worried because your child is overweight, try to remember that people come in all shapes, and weight is not always the best indicator of health. If you offer your child mostly healthy foods at regular times, in the portions they choose, they will get the food and nutrition they need to grow to their healthy weight (which will change as they grow).
7. Can I season baby's foods with spices like cinnamon and paprika?
Yes, please do! Offering a variety of tastes and seasonings just as your baby is starting solids can possibly help reduce picky eating down the road. Seasonings such as garlic, ginger, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg are fine -just avoid added sugars or salt.
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