This post was written in partnership with my friends at Baby Gourmet. As always, all opinions are my own!
Introducing your baby to solids is a fun and exciting time, but it can also be a bit confusing and and anxiety-provoking, especially when you have a million different opinions and LOTS of advice coming at you from all different directions. The truth is, starting solids isn’t a black or white process. You can tailor it to your own comfort level, your lifestyle and your baby. There’s no RIGHT way.
But, there are certain things that you should know before starting, and one of those is that infant feeding guidelines have changed over the past few years. So just because your friend introduced her baby to infant rice cereal first five years ago, doesn’t mean that this the best or only way. In fact, the newest guidelines suggest introducing a variety of textures and flavours, right from six months of age! So here are a few of the most common starting solids questions and answers to help you get started (and watch the video below!):
1. What order should I introduce foods to my baby?
There’s no right order to introduce foods anymore–most foods are fair game (besides a foods like honey, choking hazards and undercooked meat, fish, or eggs, and high mercury fish), BUT it’s very important to introduce iron-rich foods like like deboned salmon, meat, well-cooked eggs, beans and lentils right away. The reason for this is that baby’s iron stores that were built up in the womb are depleted by about six months, so they need iron from food. It’s recommended that babies are offered iron-rich foods at least twice a day, but other nutritious foods like veggies, fruits, yogurt, cheese, nut butters, small seeds like chia and hemp and whole grains can also be introduced around that six month period too.
It’s also now even encouraged to introduce those high allergenic foods like peanut butter, fish, and eggs from six months too! In fact, there’s some promising research to show that this could actually decrease the risk of developing a food allergy. I always recommend to introduce one highly allergenic food at a time, to see if baby reacts at all and decipher what it could be from. If you’re nervous about this, or if there’s a really strong family history of food allergies, you can always test these foods out in the doctors office instead of at home.
2. Should I do “baby-led weaning”?
One of the most exciting changes to infant feeding guidelines over the past few years is that parents can now start introducing lumpier textures—and even soft finger foods–right from the start. This means that your baby can eat foods that the rest of your family is eating, and be included in family meals right at six months of age. In fact, some of you might have (or are planning to) introduce solids using the “baby-led weaning” approach, which is fantastic. This means that your baby self-feeds with safe, soft finger foods right from day one. There are many potential benefits to this approach, such as:
- improved dexterity,
- it’s easy and inexpensive,
- less stressful for the parents,
- may reduce picky eating,
- gives your baby full control of their appetite (they can learn self-regulation)
Regardless of which texture you start with, it’s important to let your baby lead. This means, either allowing her to self-feed and eat how much she wants (without coaxing her to eat more or taking food away when she’s not done), or paying close attention to her cues while spoon-feeding. Your baby will let you know when she’s done eating by swatting at the spoon, turning her head away, zipping her lips tightly, spitting food out, throwing food, whining or crying. Don’t make her eat more than she wants. Kids will eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. Honouring those instincts may help them avoid overeating now and down the road.
To keep up with current recommendations of introducing varied textures early, Baby Gourmet is the first baby food company to come up with a lineup of lumpier purees in convenient pouches (with a larger spout for bigger food pieces). They’ve included nutrient-rich foods like salmon (which is loaded full of brain and eye-boosting Omega-3 fats), and sophisticated tastes like mild coconut curry Chicken.
There are so many reasons I love these as a dietitian and mom:
- They’re convenient and shelf-stable (until the seal is broken that is)
- They’re made with high quality, nutritious and organic ingredients
- They’re high in protein and contain iron and other important nutrients such as Omega-3
- They allow babies to experience more advanced textures and flavours, early on which increases the chances that they’ll have a wide palate later.
3. Is it ok to feed baby store-bought foods?
Now, we know that we should be striving to feed our babies (and the rest of the family) whole, unprocessed foods most of the time–things like meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. This is a no-brainer. But we also all know (even me–the pediatric dietitian), that it is not always realistic to make everything from scratch 100% of the time, and that convenient packaged baby food comes in handy when life gets busy or you’re on the go. So, that’s when these nutritious, whole-food-based pouches come in really handy. It’s best to compare ingredients’ lists when choosing store-bought baby food, making sure that the company is using real food ingredients that you can recognize. Not a long list of ingredients that sound more like chemicals (this means more processing, additives and preservatives). Personally, I also prefer finding a company that uses local organic ingredients if I can (such as Baby Gourmet).
Don’t be afraid to “think outside the rice cereal box” when introducing solids – by 12 months, your baby should be used to eating a variety of different foods, with the rest of the family!
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