When is your baby ready to eat her first solids? All babies develop the skills to eat at different rates so age is not always the only factor for readiness. Some of the signs are
- baby can sit upright on her own with little or no support and hold her head and neck up unassisted.
- baby shows readiness by being able to place hands or toys in her mouth without gagging on them.
- baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not push foods out of her mouth.
- baby is able to lean forward and open mouth and is interested in food or lean away and close mouth or turn head when not interested in food.
- baby is beginning to develop her pincer grasp which allows her to pick up foods between her thumb and forefinger.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing first solids around 6 months of age for babies exclusively breast fed. This is because breastmilk is baby’s main source of nutrition until 6 months of age. Early solids lack the nutrients and protective qualities of human milk and only serve as a complementary food and should not be a replacement. The guidelines are not clear for formula fed babies on when to start solids but usually follow along with breast milk. Some pediatricians recommend starting solids earlier between 4 and 6 months depending on the individual baby’s developmental skills. Please seek advice if you feel your baby is ready earlier whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding.
It is best to introduce solids in the morning that way if baby has a bad reaction to any food she won’t be up all night in distress and you can monitor her. Try it when she is in a good mood and after she has had a small amount of breast milk or formula. I recommend staring with some fresh pureed vegetables if spoon feeding her or some mashed sweet potatoes on her tray and letting her try and pick it up and eat with her fingers. This is much messier and it may depend on baby’s age and development but it teaches baby to feed herself and gives her more self-regulation. This is also known as baby led weaning or responsive feeding. http://www.babyledweaning.com/ Allowing baby to decide what to eat, how much to eat and how fast. Research show this is a healthy way for infants to learn to eat and sets them up for healthy eating habits as they get older. For research article go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25014743
Whatever method you decide to use to feed her start slow and introduce one food at a time once a day for starters. She may only eat one or two tablespoons to begin with. Most experts recommend waiting 3 or more days when introducing a new food to make sure there is no allergic reaction to that particular food. Remember it can take a baby as many as 6 to 10 tries before she will accept a new food so don’t give up too easily. Also do not introduce potentially known foods that create common allergy problems like wheat before 6 months. Again you can find guidelines for these types of food if you believe they may be a problem.
There are so many foods baby can begin eating and rice cereal is not one of them. Begin with fresh vegetable and fruits and if you want to add cereal use whole grain cereals like oatmeal, barley, millet or quinoa is much healthier. Also introduce different textures of foods as some babies may go for a thicker puree. Here are some examples of good starter foods and amounts http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/startingsolidfood-schedule.htm
Some babies may like to self- regulate their own feedings and some may be fine with you spoon feeding. Regardless, pay attention and be responsive to your baby’s cues and don’t pressure them to eat. Feeding needs to be a positive experience so find which method works for your child.