Written by Pegah Jalali, Pediatric Dietician
Many parents are overwhelmed when starting solids. It’s not a straightforward process and there are so many things to consider.
When is the right time to start (both age and time of day)? Should a highchair be used? Which food to serve? Is the food high in iron (and should it be)? What is baby led weaning (BLW)? Are purees best? Should you offer water with the food?
These questions are all common, and unfortunately a Google search will bring up a myriad of different answers only making things more overwhelming and confusing. Making matters worse, pediatricians are often too busy to go through this topic in depth. Based on the latest research, here are some basic rules for starting solids with your baby from a pediatric dietitian.
When is the right age to start?
You should start around your baby’s 6-month birthday, but their precise age is less important than making sure they are developmentally ready. How do you know they are ready?
- They can sit up unassisted (head, neck and trunk control is important!)
- Their tongue is not protruding strongly (this is their tongue reflux, naturally very strong until about 6 months)
- Baby is showing an interest in food
Please note that all three of these things need to be present. Starting too early (especially before 6 months) has been shown to cause gastrointestinal issues due to an underdeveloped GI tract, food aversion and increased risk of aspiration in babies.
What food do you start with?
If your baby is exclusively breastfed then focus on high iron foods when starting solids. At about 4 – 6 months, your baby’s iron stores start to run low. Breast milk does not have enough iron to support your babies needs at this age. If they are taking formula, then don’t worry, the formula is fortified with iron.
What foods are high in Iron?
High iron foods that are easy to introduce to babies include meats, lentils and baby cereals (since they are fortified with iron).
Should you do baby led weaning (BLW) or purees?
Many parents feel very passionate about baby led weaning. It can certainly be a useful strategy, but currently there is no research to show that baby led weaning is better than traditional purees. Parents should do what they are comfortable with and what feels right to them!
Where should you feed your baby?
You should always feed your baby in their highchair or seating on your lap. Feeding them in a car seat, or baby chair puts them at an incline that can increase the risk of choking.
What time of the day should you start?
When you first begin solids it is best to offer them earlier in the day so that you can monitor their tolerance and call the pediatricians office if necessary. Offer solids 30 minutes after a milk feeding so that baby is not too hungry.
What else should you offer?
When you begin solids, it is a great time to introduce your baby to water. Start with 1 ounce every time you offer solids. Offer this in an open cup. Learning to drink water is a skill so don’t worry if your baby does not do this well in the beginning. A small amount of water can also help offset constipation which is common when first starting solids.
Want to learn more, or have specific questions? Sign up for the upcoming event, Introducing Solids: Start With Confidence, led by Pegah Jalali on Saturday, May 16th at 2pm ET.