The New Rules for Starting Solids

Starting solids is an exciting time for your baby and the entire family.  Now your little one can join the rest of your clan for family meals at the table.  She may not be able to feed herself right away like everyone else, but she’s on her way to learning to enjoy food, meal time togetherness and healthy eating habits.

The rules about starting solids have changed in recent years.  What once were rigid instructions that disregarded a family’s and baby’s preferences are now replaced with a more flexible timeline and options for introducing solid foods.  Today we’re reviewing the new rules for starting solids.

Timing

The American Academy of Pediatrics once recommended starting solids at six months and to exclusively breastfeed up until that time.  Now the guidelines have been revised to starting solids between four and six months if your baby shows readiness.  What does readiness look like?  If your baby can sit up with assistance (as in, sit in a high chair), can hold up her head and shows interest in food (like watching you eat or reaching towards food), she’s probably ready to give it a go.  Exclusive breastfeeding should continue until you start solids and breastfeeding along with solids should continue until at least one year of age.  At one babies can start drinking cow’s milk if you choose to discontinue breastfeeding.

Where to Start

The New Rules for Starting SolidsThe old method of starting solids suggested beginning with rice cereal and other grain cereals, followed by vegetables, meats and then fruits.  This strategy reduced the risk of allergic reaction since rice and other grains are less likely to be allergens.  Also, starting sweet fruits later was believed to encourage a palate for vegetables and meats.  Now, almost anything goes.  You can start with meat, fruit or vegetables if you like, and you can skip the grains altogether.  Grains tend to be high in iron which many breastfed babies lack, but so are other healthy lean meats and produce.

Allergies

New studies show that delaying the introduction to foods due to potential allergies does not reduce risk of reaction.  Rather, introducing nut products, eggs and fish sooner can actually decrease risk of allergies.  There are only a few exceptions here:  If a close family member has allergies, consult your physician about your baby’s risk as allergies may be genetic.  Also, never give honey to a baby under one and beware of foods that are choking hazards like whole nuts or grapes.

The Wait Rule

Experts have varied opinions about waiting three or four days between introducing new foods to your baby.  On the one hand, waiting several days can help you identify an allergy if your baby does have a reaction to something she’s eaten.  However, that prolongs the process of trying new foods, drawing it out over many many months.  You will have to be the judge of what makes you comfortable and how your baby responds to various foods.  Remember, she will have her entire life to eat so rushing it is not necessary.  However, if she is enjoying food, experimenting can be fun and exciting.

A Chow Schedule

Shortly after your baby starts solids is a great time to initiate a meal schedule.  Your baby may be ready to eat during normal meal times with a set breakfast, lunch and dinner time as well as two snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  This consistency will help acclimate your baby to socialized eating and help ensure your baby isn’t grazing all day.  Constant snacking can result in poor meal-eating and picky eaters because they fill up on less healthy snack foods and aren’t hungry from substantive foods during meal times.

Starting solids is a wonderful opportunity to begin a lifetime of healthy eating.  Help your baby enjoy the flavors of fresh produce, lean meats and delightful food combinations.  Health is a journey which you started off on the best foot by breastfeeding.  Continue your hard work as your baby begins a new adventure with solid foods.