Starting baby solid foods could be a bit stressful – but don’t worry, I got you covered!
So at 4 months, my baby was still being exclusively breastfed but he was not happy and he was not gaining weight. My doctor insisted that I start him on solids. I researched as much as I could and found very little about starting babies on solids at 4 months, as I hoped to start closer to 6 months as most advice out there advises.
In the end, I decided to follow my doctor’s advice because he was very unhappy and fussy with breast milk alone. Her advice was to start with rice cereal for a few days at least, then barley for a few days, and then oatmeal.
I would not recommend starting with cereals unless your doctor insists and you feel it is best to follow their advice. Most nutritionists do not agree with starting on cereals. The best baby food book I have found is Sprout Right: Nutrition From Tummy To Toddler by Lianne Phillipson-Webb, who I met at The Baby Show in Toronto.
Keep in mind that while rice cereal may be the “least allergenic” food, it is also the most constipating! I had to give my baby prune juice for several days before he finally pooped, which is obviously less than ideal.
If your baby has no medical issues, and is starting to become interested in food, you can start giving them solid foods from 4-6 months old. I prefer to combine purees with baby-led weaning when they are ready to ensure that they get enough nutrients. Follow the advice below for a happy healthy baby.
The 3 Day Rule
Let’s say that on day 1 you start with broccoli. Another food should not be introduced until day 4 at the earliest. You may be excited to start giving your baby all kinds of food, but this is a transition time for your baby and the best thing for them is to wait a few days so that you could determine if they have any allergic reactions or issues with digestion which could not show up right away.
Start with Veggies
Some new advice says to start with meat because of iron, but nutritionists don’t seem to agree. Starting with vegetables is a no-brainer. It will set your baby up for healthy eating habits and help to prevent a picky eater.
A great one to start with is avocados because you just have to mash and serve. Other ideas are butternut squash, broccoli, peas, etc.
The best way to cook veggies is steaming them so that they become soft but do not lose any nutrients. If your baby is older and able to pick up food with their own hands, feel free to serve in bite size portions. If not, puree with a little bit of water. As your baby grows, make the purees chunkier and chunkier so that they become accustomed to a variety of textures.
Remember not to add salt but a little bit of unsalted butter or olive oil is okay if your baby needs to gain some weight. Avocados are also good for weight gain.
Follow with Fruit
Fruit is a lot easier to serve since, for the most part, it doesn’t need to be cooked. Starting with mashed banana is the easiest. Organic apple puree and raspberries are other favourites.
Be careful of grapes and blueberries as they can be choking hazards. Always cut seedless grapes in half or quarters and either cut or squish blueberries to prevent any issues.
Introduce Allergens Early and Often
It is important to know which foods are allergens to ensure that you serve them to your baby one at a time, not one after another and to watch for any reactions. Also, they should also be served every so often to ensure that allergies do not develop. Common allergens are:
- peanuts and tree nuts
Wheat, milk, and egg allergies usually fade as children mature, but peanut allergies are normally lifelong.
Remember to thin peanut butter out with a little bit of water and put it on brown bread or mix into puree. Serving peanut butter straight out of the jar is too sticky for young babies to swallow. Always choose 100% natural peanut butter, preferably organic.
Watch Out for Constipating Foods
Here is a handy list of constipating foods, some of them may surprise you!
- unripe bananas
- dairy products
- cooked carrots
- fried foods
- Low-fiber foods (white rice, white bread, and pasta)
This is not to say not to serve these foods at all, just serve them in moderation. I recommend giving water and if necessary, other foods during the day that counteract the constipating effect such as prunes, plums, pears, or peaches.
If Baby Does Not Like a Food, Try Again
Just because your baby did not like broccoli the first (or second) time you served it, does not mean you shouldn’t try again. It could take 7-15 times before their taste buds get used to the taste. Try giving them 1-3 spoonfuls each time and eventually they may surprise you.
If you don’t want a picky eater who refuses to eat vegetables in the future, invest the time now for their better health.
Always Prefer Organic
Remember that organic is always best, especially when it comes to packaged foods or any foods where the skin is not removed.
There are so many choices with packaged foods in particular that there really is no excuse not to serve your baby organic. Organic choices also ensure that there are no unnecessary additives or preservatives in the food.
All About Meat
Introduce meat by 6 months of age as this is when iron levels begin to be depleted in exclusively breastfed babies.
If you want to serve your baby meat before they are able to pick it up on their own, cooking in the oven is better than boiled. Do not add salt but herbs or spices are okay in moderation. Always serve plain the first time.
You can puree it with some vegetables that they have already tried and some water or unsalted broth.
Also, keep in mind that dark meat is better than white. Dark meat has more nutrients like iron and fat which your baby needs.
Babies can start eating dairy like small amounts of cheese and yogurt at 6 months old if they have no allergies to breast milk or cow-based formula. I prefer to serve cheese strings because it is soft and could be pulled apart easily. One of my favourite yogurts for babies is IOGO Nano. It has 3% milk, is made with real fruits & vegetables and has no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Wait to serve homo milk until 9-12 months depending on how much iron they are consuming on a daily basis as over-consumption could lead to iron deficiency. Limit cow milk intake to no more than 750 ml (3 cups) per day according to the recommendation from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee of Canada.
Start with breakfast or dinner, whatever is easier for you. Add another meal a week or two later, when you think your baby is ready and slowly work your way up to 3 meals a day. Your baby will gradually drink less milk as they begin to eat more.
I hope the above information will help you and your baby on your baby weaning journey.
Please leave a comment with any questions or comments below!