The Adventure of Transitioning to Solid Foods
By Kim Amato
Founder / Baby’s Bounty and Vice-Chair / Maternal Child Health Coalition
When our granddaughter sat up at six months, grasped toys, and put everything in her mouth, she began eating solid food. Instead of pureed fruits and veggies, they were cut up in manageable spears for easy grasping so Lucia could feed herself. This is a wonderful sensory experience!
Baby-led feeding, or baby-led weaning, lets babies learn how to feed themselves as they transition from breast or bottle. Purees can delay this because the baby sucks the food into their mouths without chewing. Textures and tastes will be strange at first, and they may only move the food around in their mouths without actually swallowing it since they’re still developing chewing and swallowing skills between 6 and 12 months. And it will be very messy. But that’s part of the adventure!
Prepare for the mess by spreading a beach towel under the high chair and using a bigger bib or a long-sleeved t-shirt. No matter how messy it gets, try not to interrupt by wiping their faces until they’re entirely finished eating. Part of the fun is to squish food in their hands and somehow get it into their mouths. This activity won’t replace a feeding at first because it will be in very small amounts. Consult your pediatrician for guidelines for your baby.
Baby foods don’t have to be bland. The more variety, the better to expand baby’s taste buds. Children all over the world are introduced to delicious foods, right from the family table. But in the U.S., we tend to serve them bland, uninteresting foods even though no research supports it. Do avoid salt and sugar as they tend to make one feel fuller. We want them to eat foods rich in nutrients necessary for brain growth and development.
So prepare those steamed or roasted veggies with rosemary and thyme. Squeeze lemon over chicken before roasting it with a bit of oregano. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to banana spears. If something is too slippery, roll it in baby cereal for a better grip.
Lucia loves rice cereal and enjoys eating it from a spoon. Once her pincer grasp is better, she’ll be able to hold it and control it, by around nine months. Now she just likes to smear it all over her tray.
Watching her try new things and react to them like bananas is fun. The expression on her face was incredulous as she felt it for the first time. Then she put it in her mouth and looked at us with a dour expression. They can’t all be winners, and it can take many, many tries before babies will eat certain foods. But don’t give up!
Try these first:
– Soft cooked veggie spears of sweet potato, zucchini, carrot, and broccoli “trees”
– Greek yogurt or hummus as a dip
– Banana, pear, avocado, and mango
– Strips of egg omelet
– Goat or feta cheese
– Small chunks of fish or chicken
– Rice and pasta
– Waffles and pancakes
Foods to avoid and choking hazards:
– Cow’s milk products
– Hard, crunchy foods
– Whole grapes and cherry tomatoes
To avoid choking, always feed baby upright and never leave them unattended. When cutting foods into spears, ensure they are long enough for the baby to hold. If they get too much food in their mouths, they may gag, so watch closely!
Try not to stress about eating habits. Their appetites are fickle, especially during the toddler years. Sometimes the strawberries are too red, or the juice is too wet. Acknowledge it and move on. Enjoy meals together and help your child become an adventurous eater.