I was really excited about starting solid foods with my baby. Not only because I love food, but, being a breastfeeding mother, it offered me some glimmer of independence from my child. It meant being able to leave my daughter with my husband without worrying about feeding times or pumping.
To my surprise, feeding was much harder than expected. My daughter seemed only concerned about grabbing the spoon, not swallowing any food. Meals tallied 50 per cent on her shirt (and/or the floor), 30 per cent on her face, and 20 per cent in between the fat folds on her neck. Even foods that all babies were supposed to enjoy, she spat out.
Ironically, what came out of the experience was the realization of the convenience of breastfeeding. Fortunately, after about a month or so, her interest and skills improved, and now she’ll eat almost anything.
When should I start solids? Most organizations recommend starting at six months. This is the time when your child’s iron requirements are higher than provided by breast milk (or formula), and most infants are developmentally ready to start eating (can hold their head, sit up, reach for food…etc).
What are good foods to start? The main nutrient a six-month infant requires is iron. Good sources are pureed meat, fish, chicken, well-cooked beans, egg yolks or iron-fortified cereals. Veggies and fruits are also healthy for your baby, but are not as high in iron. Foods should start smooth, and get more textured as your baby progresses. While gagging is a normal part of learning to eat, choking is not. Small, round foods (like peas or grapes) should be mashed or cut up.
What foods should I avoid? Some include: additives, sugary foods, high-salt foods, caffeine, herbal products, juice, chocolate, soy milk or milk alternatives other than infant formula. Although there is no consensus on when to start allergenic foods, most recommend waiting until nine months for cow’s milk and 12 months for egg whites and nuts.
What should I expect? A mess! Remember this is a new skill and can take some time to learn. Be patient. The goal is to create positive experiences with eating and family meal times. Trying to feed an infant that is too hungry or too tired, or forcing them to eat something, may set you up for disaster. Dietitians call this first phase “complementary feeding” to emphasize that solids are not meant to replace breast milk or infant formula, but to accompany them.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.