By Aubrey Everett
Transitioning from breastmilk or formula to solids can be a daunting task. Since birth, all your baby has known is liquid nourishment, and even that process may have been a struggle at times. Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around six months of age. Watch for signs that your baby is ready, such as observing you while you eat or reaching for food, and have a plan for how you want to feed your growing child.
Technically, our son’s first bite of solid food was a bit of mango-flavored frozen yogurt taken from my spoon. It was spur of the moment and we thought, let’s see what he does. He seemed eager and swallowed the treat right down and so we decided to move forward with some healthier options and a meal schedule.
Technically, our son’s first bite of solid food was a bit of mango-flavored frozen yogurt taken from my spoon. It was spur of the moment and we thought, let’s see what he does.
When we were ready to introduce solids, our son was in daycare four days a week and our routines were scheduled around our work calendars. My husband was typically home with him in the mornings and I had him in the evenings. We decided to start slow, with the introduction of bananas, peanut butter and eggs. Our pediatrician recommended introducing allergens at an early age, giving a few days of space between each new food, so we could rule out any food sensitivities. We sat him in a chair that clipped to our breakfast bar and he seemed to love being in the middle of all the kitchen’s activity.
My husband would mash half a banana on a plate in the morning and serve it to him on a baby spoon. Similar to the frozen yogurt, he was eager. Soon that half banana turned into a whole, and then he started swirling in some peanut butter. In the evenings I would mash or puree various vegetables - peas, carrots, sweet potato - and see how he would react. In those early days, he rarely turned anything away.
In the evenings I would mash or puree various vegetables - peas, carrots, sweet potato - and see how he would react. In those early days, he rarely turned anything away.
For the most part, we offered purees served on a small baby spoon. We dipped our toe into the baby-led weaning world, giving him chunks of avocado and cooked sweet potato, but ultimately it didn’t feel like the right method for us. We stuck with purees and soft foods. We tried introducing a silicone feeder, but he was neutral about the gadget. Maybe it is because he never took to a pacifier, but he didn’t seem to enjoy sucking on something to get his food. He liked it put directly in his mouth.
At eight months old, our son had four teeth and was eating solids twice a day, in addition to nursing and taking bottles at daycare. Once we could tell he was comfortable with the idea of solid food, my mother started preparing individual 4-ounce jars of homemade food. She made sure to include a mix of vegetables, protein and grains, in addition to various spices and flavorings (avoiding added salt when possible).
Our freezer was soon filled with jars containing turkey stew, spaghetti with meat sauce, beans and kale, beef stew with potatoes, tortellini with turnip, curried bean stew, and more. Whenever she delivered a cooler full of mini meals we knew our son would be eating well for the next few weeks. He was eagerly scarfing down one jar a night, sometimes two. I was also sending one to daycare to go with his lunchtime bottle.
Little by little, we started letting our son feed himself more often by supplementing his jars of food with things such as Cheerios, Bamba and homemade banana bread. By 11 months he was picking up and eating crackers, string cheese, pasta, peas, pieces of chicken and meatballs, and more. His morning banana was no longer mashed on a plate -- my husband would hand him the whole peeled fruit. He also moved out of the counter seat to a free-standing high chair, which gave him a bit more room and a dedicated tray to space out his food.
Around his first birthday we got a set of silicone plates with individual sections, and utensils intended for toddlers. By this point he was eating almost entirely on his own. For the most part this looked like putting food in his mouth with one hand, while holding a fork or spoon in the other. He seemed to be getting used to the grip and understanding the utensil’s purpose.
This approach worked for us. Our son, now an active toddler, is still a great eater. He goes through typical picky phases, but I believe that the variety of foods and flavors that were introduced to him at an early age through my mother’s homemade baby food, helped form his palate and exposed him to a wide variety of cuisines.
Solid Food Recommendations by Month
4 - 6 months: Single-grain cereals that are iron fortified are often recommended first foods.
4 - 8 months: Pureed fruits and vegetables like bananas, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes, and avocados are great beginner foods, and meats like pureed chicken or beef are good for baby. Talk to your pediatrician about introducing allergenic foods (e.g. peanuts, eggs, and dairy) at this stage, too.
6 - 8 months: Single-ingredient finger foods like cut-up bananas and blueberries, cooked peas, or baby cereal “puffs” or rice crackers.
9 - 12 months: Chopped, ground, or mashed foods, yogurts and cheeses, and pastas make great options at this age. Rice and beans, macaroni and cheese, and even mashed potatoes are all welcome items on the menu.
Solid foods to avoid? Honey, cow’s milk, and foods that could be choking hazards like grapes, hot dogs, or raisins.
About the author: Aubrey works in higher education and is the mother to an active and inquisitive son. She lives in the Boston area where she enjoys taking family walks along the beach, reading books, and introducing new foods to her son. Writing about motherhood allows her to connect to other parents and give voice to a challenging yet exciting time. About the author: Kara is a teacher, author, and mother of two vivacious daughters. A Maryland native, she and her husband are restoring an 18th-century farm in Susquehanna State Park. Her writing centers on literature, art, nature, disability, and working parenthood.
Photo credit: iStock.com/Ivan-Bajic