Everyone is around. Dad has the video camera set up. Granny has her extra towels ready. Even Max the dog is wagging his tail and at full attention. Your heart is beating fast while your hand is gently shaking. You lift the spoon and it makes it way to a tiny, pouty mouth and …SPLAT!
Baby just spit out what you painstakingly boiled, mashed and seasoned just right. What you thought was a culinary masterpiece just landed on the floor. And baby is still hungry.
This scene is as familiar as the back of your hand because it happens to almost all, if not all, families. Even if the world around him is all poised and excited, if baby is not yet ready for solid food, then you simply have to wait.
When is my baby ready for solid food?
As parents, you are naturally overcome with emotion with every step your little one takes in the baby development process. Each whimper or tiny gurgle elicits worry or joy. You simply cannot get over how adorable your bundle of joy is and would want to do everything to in your power to create a happy and safe world for your little cherub.
This includes feeding him the best food that would make him go, glow and grow into the best human being he can be. However, as excited as you are, you also need to pause and check if your little one is ready to take in solid food.
According to expert nutrition advisors, babies require different nutrients at different stages in life. Introducing new foods to your baby is a gradual process. To hurry and give your baby food that is not appropriate for his age may even be harmful as it can cause allergies or long-term health problems.
Your baby might not also need it yet as from infancy to six months, your baby’s nutritional needs are sustained by breast milk or infant milk products.
Here are some indicators that your little one is ready for solid food:
- At six months, check if your baby can already hold his head up by himself when propped up to sit.
- Baby may be ready when he begins showing interest in your food. If your baby is looking at you and starting to reach for food on your plate, then it might be a clue that he’s ready to sample new fare.
- Observe if your tiny tot can already move his tongue up, down, sideways and all around. If so, test his tongue thrust by placing a teeny-weeny piece of baby-appropriate food, thinned down with breast milk or formula, on a baby spoon or your finger. Place it on the tip of his tongue, and if the food comes in and out with that baby tongue, then your babe is not yet ready for spoon-feeding.
If you’ve determined that your baby is ready to open wide and try new food, here are some reminders on what to do and not to do:
Do not introduce new food when your baby is tired, sleepy, or cranky.
This will only associate feeding with negative emotions. Timing is everything.
Do hold your baby upright on your lap.
Ensure that he is sitting up straight and facing forward when you first introduce solid food. This will allow him to swallow easier and avoid choking.
If you have mastered this, then you can start using a high chair for feedings. Don’t forget to fasten babies in as they can be squiggly and might fall of the chair.
Do start with just a tiny bit of food.
Be careful not to overwhelm your baby as his tongue is still getting used to the new
tastes and textures you are giving him.
Do introduce each new food separately.
Ask your doctor about what first foods will be advisable for your little one. Allow at least three days before introducing another kind of food. This way, you can also monitor if your baby develops allergies or adverse reactions.
Do make sure that whatever food it is, it is something that is smooth and not too thick.
You can thin out mashed fruits or vegetables with breast milk or infant milk products until you can gradually move up to thicker fare.
Don’t have a song and dance number ready while feeding (at least, it’s not really required every single time).
Babies can be easily distracted. It is better if you talk to your baby in a calm, encouraging voice. You can also model the experience by pretending to open wide and tasting the food.
Don’t forget to make it realistic by oohing and aahing over how delicious it is. If the baby sees you enjoying the food you’re feeding him, then he’s more likely to try it out.
Don’t stress if your baby makes a mess.
New food will also tickle your baby’s curiosity, so let him touch and find out what the texture is. Remember that everyday and everything is a learning opportunity, so let your baby be.
Don’t use a spoon for adults.
You might relish the idea of feeding your little princess with a silver spoon, but experts agree that it would be better to start with silicone, BPA-free plastic, or corn-based material with a small, soft bowl. These types of spoon will be gentler on tender gums.
Do know when to stop.
Little diners may reject new food and will take up to 20 tries for them to learn to like them. Be patient. If your baby purses her mouth or shakes her head, then it is time to stop feeding for the meantime.
Do not plead or force them to finish. Just pack away and clean up even if no food was even consumed. You can just try again next time.
You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, so take it easy and do not rush. Avoid putting pressure on yourself as well as on your baby.
Exploring new foods should be an enjoyable experience, so take tiny steps and have loads of patience. Eventually, you and your baby will find your pace and start exploring new and healthy food together.