Sharing tips for when to start your baby on solids, information on baby led weaning vs traditional weaning, what foods to start with and more.
One of my most requested topics lately (especially in my DMs on Instagram) revolves around Olivia and the baby food I’ve been making for her! I’ve been promising a full update so here it is! In this post I’m sharing how we introduced solids to Olivia, what we’re feeding her and why.
Starting to feed your baby solids is such an exciting milestone and one that I was totally looking forward to with Olivia. As a food lover, introducing her to new foods and hearing her little mmmmms with every bite has been so much fun.
Most pediatricians recommend babies start solids between 4-6 months. That said, every baby is different. You know your baby best so trust your gut and do what feels right to you (with guidance from your pediatrician)!
In addition to age, there are certain signs you want to look for before introducing solids.
These are all signs that your baby might be ready for some solids. As always, check with your pediatrician. If you get the green light, it’s go time!
Olivia started solids around 6 1/2 months. At her 6 month check-up our pediatrician mentioned that we should start solids soon, but I decided to wait a couple weeks because her whole feeding experience has been delayed a bit.
Here’s the backstory if you’re interested: Olivia was on a nasogastric feeding tube (NG tube) for six weeks after open heart surgery at 6 days old. We worked with a speech language pathologist to get her off the tube and January 1st we transitioned to bottles with thickened anti-reflux formula. We used the thickened formula for about 6 weeks, but throughout the whole process (while she was on the NG tube and while she was taking only bottles) I kept up with pumping and would often try to get her to latch after pumping so she could still practice nursing.
Around 3 1/2 months, she was swallowing well enough to start giving her breast milk in the bottles and I also started the process of nursing her. At first she wouldn’t latch on and would just cry when I offered. I used a variety of nipple shields and once she started latching with the nipple shield, I worked on weaning her off of it and soon she was nursing without it. It was a long process! There were good and bad days, but totally worth it because now she’s able to nurse and/or take bottles with expressed breast milk and she does both well. Most days she nurses for the feeds during the day and then takes a bottle with breast milk before bed.
Anyhow, long story short, given Olivia’s feeding history I wasn’t in a rush to start solids. At 6 months I felt like she had only been nursing really well for about a month and I didn’t want to disrupt that. So that’s why we started solids at 6 1/2 months. At this point she was sitting up with assistance and starting to show interest in our food and drinks so we knew she was ready.
I feel like I can’t write this post without mentioning baby led weaning (BLW) because it’s so popular right now. BLW has been around for a while, but was officially named back in 2005 by Gill Rapley, author of the book Baby-Led Weaning. It seems like it’s been gaining popularity since and I see tons of parents trying it out! So what is it?
The basic concept is that when you start solids at 6 months, you skip purees and let your baby feed themselves with finger foods from the start. This gives the baby control over what (and how much) food they put in their mouth. I feel like people usually have one of two reactions to this… 1) that makes so much sense! or 2) how the heck is my baby supposed to get nutrients/feed themselves at 6 months? Let’s back up and talk about the whys behind baby led weaning…
According to registered dietician Clancy Cash Harrison, author of Feeding Baby, “Baby-led weaning supports the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating habits. It also offers babies an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and color of a variety of foods.” It can also help babies regulate fullness on their own. It’s common for parents to just “finish off the jar of baby food” or sneak in a “few more bites” when the baby might actually be full already. Another benefit is that babies can join you at the table during meal times and eat similar foods with you instead of being fed different food at a separate time.
While I do really like a lot of the principles and reasoning behind baby led weaning, we’ve decided to take a more traditional approach with Olivia for a variety of reasons. I share more about what we’re doing below.
I think it’s also important to mention that baby led weaning isn’t for every baby. Some babies have special needs, are unable to pick up foods on their own and some babies just prefer purees. Despite what some sources may say, you don’t have to take an all or nothing approach. You can combine techniques and offer your baby purees and finger foods. Some babies will do fine having both at a meal while for others it might make sense to do purees at one meal and finger foods at another.
We discussed starting solids with Olivia’s occupational therapist and together decided we should do a more traditional weaning approach by offering purees to start and adding in finger foods when Olivia seemed ready. The first solid food we offered was steamed and pureed sweet potato, with breast milk to thin it out. We offered this for a few days and then offered avocado pureed with breast milk, then mashed banana and apple puree. She took to all of these foods right away so we started adding in more foods and pretty quickly transitioned to purees that were thicker and chunkier.
In the first couple weeks we only offered solids once a day and then once we saw how much she enjoyed eating we started a new schedule that involved 3 meals a day. At 8 months we’re still on the same schedule with 4 breast milk feeds and 3 meals with solids a day. I don’t measure how much solid food she’s eating, but she is a really good eater. Often times I fill up her ezpz bowl and end up having to go back to the container for seconds or thirds. Girl loves to eat!
While we’re mostly focused on purees for nutrition at the moment I have been offering some soft, finger foods like avocado and banana. I’ve found that larger items are better because she can easily pick up them up. She often gets frustrated with smaller things like mashed blueberries because she doesn’t have her pincer grasp down yet and getting the food to her mouth takes too long. She seems to really enjoy having us feed her with a spoon because it’s faster. That said, we do some spoon loading and let her bring the spoon to her mouth for practice, which she likes to do. We also have a couple little self feeders that you can put food in. I like putting frozen banana chunks in so she can practice feeding herself and the frozen banana feels good on her gums.
With starting solids I found quite a few items that have been super helpful. Everything from a blender and steamer basket for making homemade purees to small spoons and silicone bibs with pockets for catching food that doesn’t make it to Olivia’s mouth. I will say that early on I bought a Baby Brezza, which both steams and purees food in one container. People seem to love the Baby Brezza and I thought that it would make the process easier, but I actually didn’t like it. It was large and required that you peel and chop the fruits/veggies into small pieces before steaming and cooking. I have simply been using a steamer basket and blender.
I definitely recommend checking out this article which breaks down the different stages of foods and gives guidelines of when to start them.
I’ve been having a lot of fun making baby food and Olivia’s liked everything we’ve given her except for prunes (which we gave her a couple times to help with constipation). We’ve been doing a lot of food purees (or mashes) made with either steamed or fresh fruit and veggies. Even if we’re feeding her single food purees, I usually pair the foods together in her bowl for each meal. I’ve also been experimenting with making my own baby food combinations and I have a post coming soon with recipes! Here are the foods we’ve tried so far just to give you an ideas.
A couple notes: You can add breastmilk or formula to thin out any of the purees if needed. With some fruits and veggies it’s recommended that you strain them to make the puree super smooth for stage 1 eaters but because we started Olivia on solids at 6 months I haven’t felt the need to strain any of the foods I’ve given her.
Although you shouldn’t add salt or sugar to baby food, it’s a good idea to add flavor from spices and herbs so your baby can get used to enjoying flavorful food. From my research I’ve found that introducing aromatic spices to babies that 6 months or older is fine. Of course, you want to watch for signs of allergic reactions just like with any other food. Here are some ideas:
One of the most important things to be aware of when introducing solids to babies are common allergens. You can still give your baby these foods, just be extra aware when you do, noting any reactions. Foods like diary, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and shellfish should be introduced gradually after less allergenic foods have been tolerated. The previous recommendation was to wait on these foods, but that as since changed and in fact, delaying the introduction of these foods may increase the risk of a child developing allergies.
When introducing foods it can be helpful to introduce only one food every three to five days so you can watch for any signs of allergic reactions. A reaction could show up almost immediately or a few days after so it’s recommend to introduce one food at a time when starting out so you can track what may be causing a reaction in your baby. Reactions include: hives or rashes, itching, shortness or breath or more serious reactions like vomiting or swelling of the lips and tongue.
One food that is off limits until a baby is at least 1 year old is honey because of the risk of infantile botulism.