Starting your baby on solids can be overwhelming! Things have changed a lot since we were little babes and our moms happily shoveled rice cereal into our unwilling mouths at 3 or 4 months of age. We now know that it is important to wait until your baby is at least 6 months old to start introducing complimentary foods. This is for several reasons.
Your baby’s digestive system isn’t meant to process solid foods until this time.
Before the age of 6 months’ babies don’t have full head and neck control, this increases their chances of choking.
Until 6 months of age your baby gets all their required nutrients from Breastmilk or Artificial Baby milk (ABM), so the don’t need food yet.
Before you start solid foods the general recommendations from Public Health Canada are:
- Your baby is at least 6 months’ old.
- Your baby can sit unassisted in a highchair alone (no rolls or pillows to support them).
- Your baby can control his or her head and neck ALL the time.
Even when meeting these recommendations, some babies may not be ready to start solids the very day they turn 6 months old. So watch your baby and follow their cues. Are they interested in food? Can they reach for food and bring it to their mouth? If so then they are ready! There’s no rush if you wait an extra week or two. Your baby will not turn into a pumpkin.
Another important thing to note is that babies don’t need a lot of food in the beginning! The bulk of your baby’s nutrition is still coming from your breastmilk or ABM so don’t panic! Eating, munching, chewing and swallowing along with spitting things out are all new skills and they take time to develop. SO have patience. Don’t expect to serve your chunky monkey 3 course meals 3 times a day.
Start gradually with one feeding a day for a few weeks, let them play with and experiment with their food and slowly increase it over time. Offer a variety of textures, colours and flavours! Ditch the spoon and the bland purees! Babies are actually quite capable of feeding themselves and will prefer food that is lumpy and chunky over smooth puree. If you start with foods that have lots of texture your baby is less likely to have issues with texture in the future and will be more willing to try new things.
Have you heard of Baby Led Weaning? Contrary to its name, Baby Led Weaning has nothing to do with “weaning” your baby from Breastmilk or ABM. It simply means introducing complimentary foods. The premise of this method of feeding, developed by Gill Rapley, a British Midwife, is to feed your baby real whole food and let them feed themselves. Instead of a bowl of mashed sweet potatoes, Baby Led Weaning encourages parents to feed their babies home fry shaped wedges or chunks of food, that are of soft enough texture that a baby can easily hold and safely feed them self.
The Baby Led Weaning method of feeding has several advantages:
- It saves money, no need to buy “baby food” when you feed baby the same food your family eats.
- It encourages independence as it allows your baby to have control over how much they put in their mouth and how much they eat.
- It saves time, parent need not mash or blend their baby’s food and prepare large batches to freeze.
- It makes meal times social! Instead of spending most of your dinner shoveling spoonful’s into baby’s mouth, you can enjoy your meal and your baby becomes part of the social aspect of family eating.
Feeding your baby is this way actually makes it easier to ensure that as they age they meet their nutritive requirements for additional iron (babies require additional iron intake starting at around 6 months) without the added downfall of constipation caused by many iron fortified cereals. You can feed your baby strips of meat, quinoa, legumes and leafy green vegetables that contain far more available iron for absorption but with the added benefit of fiber!
Parenting is hard enough! Let’s remove the mealtime stress and feed our babies real food, save ourselves some time and enjoy eating with your little one and your family.
If you’d like to learn more about Baby Led Weaning Check out our Baby Led Weaning Class
Maggie Hilton RN, BScN, is a Registered Nurse with 9 years of experience in Childbirth Nursing and 6 years of experience as a Childbirth Educator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Maggie is full time RN, a part time instructor at Conestoga College where she teaches maternity nursing courses to Nurses looking to further their careers in the maternal-child field as well as Co-owner of Balancing from Birth to Baby. She has a great passion for childbirth education, especially in regards to pain management during labour and infant feeding. Maggie is the mother of two young children, both of whom were fed using Baby Led Weaning.