Introducing your little one to their first “real” foods is always fun, frustrating and messy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the ideal time to introduce solids is between four and six months of age. (Note: many of our grandmothers will give the impression that they tossed us a steak at three months old, and recommend baby foods within weeks of birth. This is probably not a good idea, but every child is different.) I, and many of my mom friends, have noticed one predictable indicator that a baby is ready for solid foods. My daughter began eyeing everything our family ate or drank around four months of age, and was actively trying to get to it by five. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it if she got it, but darn it, she was going to try.
Don’t Forget The Cereals
According to the AAP, many pediatricians recommend starting a baby on rice cereal first, then trying oatmeal and barley cereals. When introducing any food to a baby, give it to them for two to three days before adding a new one. This gives you time to rule out any allergic reactions based on that food. Later on, when fruits, veggies and meats are added, cereal will also be helpful. Many baby foods today are too watery for babies to eat effectively. Adding baby cereals ups the caloric value and thickens the food.
Sweet, Sweet Compromise
Determined to start my daughter out on a healthy regimen of vegetables, I broke out the Gerber’s green beans early on and proceeded to (try to) feed her. Not only did this result in green beans being spit all over her high chair, the kitchen floor, and myself, but she screamed when I tried to feed her anything for two days. It’s not that I didn’t want to give her fruits, I just didn’t want it to be all she would eat. The AAP actually recommends introducing foods in the order of fruits, vegetables and then meats, due to a baby’s inborn preference for sweet foods. At the same time, super sweet baby foods like applesauce lack the nutrients of vegetables. So, I compromised, and hit the jackpot: sweet potatoes and corn.
Sweet, Sweet Compromise 2: Introducing the Not-Sweet Foods
Babies like routine, as every mom knows. If you’ve been feeding your baby pleasant foods like bananas, sweet potatoes or pears, giving them a jar of squash or pureed ham will likely not go well. I know this from experience, as I actually thought that babies would eat the jars of straight meat (mine did not). Many baby food manufacturers now offer baby food mixes that help to introduce your baby to more “adult” foods. If you can’t find them, you can make them yourself by mixing two or more types of baby food. For instance, Beechnut has a pineapple-ham mix that my daughter loved. There are tons of other combinations – apple and ham, sweet potato and turkey, etc. Eventually, your child will develop a taste for meats and veggies, and will be more prepared for table foods.
Check out the Nuby Nylon Mesh Feeder ($4.19 at TheBabyBungalow.com)
What, you say? I can’t blame you. Honestly, the first time I saw this thing, I thought it was ridiculous and couldn’t imagine anyone ever buying it. However, shortly after she started eating solids, my daughter decided that she wanted to feed herself. Problem was, she didn’t have the coordination to use a spoon, and she was too young to eat finger foods. So, we ended up with her trying to catch the spoon as we fed her and smearing baby food everywhere. The concept of the feeder is this: when your baby is too young to feed himself normally, you use the little mesh bag on the feeder, fill it with fresh fruits or steamed veggies, and let him gum it to his heart’s content. The mesh keeps anything that your little one could choke on from being swallowed, but allows them to pulverize grapes, bananas, peaches, etc. My daughter will chomp on this thing for more than fifteen minutes – fifteen fabulous, fuss-free minutes!
Long Bibs and Love
There are so many adorable bibs out there. In fact, I think I got one of each and every design before my daughter was even born. Bibs with cute sayings, bibs with animals, bibs with appliqués, bibs with buttons and bows. Little bibs. They are great for catching baby drool when giving a bottle or during early teething. But when it comes to feeding your baby solid food, these bibs are useless. Food will go everywhere not covered by that tiny, adorable bib. A good rule of thumb: if a bib is smaller than your hand, it will be of no use to you when spoon feeding your baby. A feeding bib should be more like a tarp for your baby – long, absorbent and preferably water-proof. They do sell bibs that are perfect for the purpose; in fact, some even have a little pouch for catching dropped food, and keeping it out of your child’s lap.
Introducing your baby to solid foods is one of the major milestones in parenthood. Overall, it’s a lot of fun. With the right tips and tools, you can keep the mess and frustration down to a minimum, and just enjoy your time with your baby. Good luck!