Is your little one ready to try baby food? Here are some things to look for, and ways to get started on this new adventure!
When Is Your Child Ready to Start Eating Baby Food?
For the first six months, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. Some baby food companies advertise that you can start around 4 months, but at that age, the intestines aren’t developed enough to process solid food as well as later.
5 Signs That Your Child is Ready for Baby Food
Watch for these signs that your sweetheart is ready to start eating solids. Hold off on giving them purees or baby cereal until you’re confident they meet the following milestones:
- Your baby can hold up their head without help.
- They can sit upright with little support.
- The tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared. Babies reflexively spit everything out of their mouths, so if your baby keeps pushing the baby food out with her tongue, they’re not trying to upset you, and it’s not a sign that something doesn’t taste good. Your child is just not ready, so wait another few weeks to try the baby food again.
- Your baby can coordinate the movement of her hand to her mouth (aka has a good “pincer grasp”)
- They show interest in their parents’ food. This is more than sitting with her mouth open at the table. Does your baby grab the broccoli on your plate and chew it? Then this sign of maturity is fulfilled. Does he mimic the chewing of others? They may be ready.
Eating Should be Fun
You should never force your little one to eat. If they signal that they’re full, finish the meal. Don’t play games like “one more bite! Open wide!” Keep the same tone while feeding the baby that you would for any family meal. Avoid hectic mealtimes and reduce stress by turning off the TV and putting away your cell phone. “No toys at the table” is another great rule to minimize these distractions.
Think of the phrase “eating under one is just for fun.” Children should enjoy eating and not associate it with frustration. In addition, we’re training them for the natural feelings of knowing when they’re hungry or full.
Baby Food Complements the Bottle
Don’t get too wrapped up with published meal plans stating when breast or bottle milk is to be replaced by the jar. There isn’t one “right time” to introduce solids. Each child is different.
Food in the first year of life is not described by nutrition experts as “complementary food” for nothing. You should give it in addition to milk and not instead of.
It’s fine not to introduce many solid foods in the first year. Those who continue to breastfeed provide their child with all the important nutrients. So you don’t have to worry if your baby doesn’t eat much, because it is quite normal that their food consumption will fluctuate.
How Do You Start?
Choose a time when your child is not too tired, has a fresh diaper, and is generally in a happy mood. Most mothers choose lunch time for the first try. The baby should not have just been breastfed, but also not be completely hungry. It is best to offer the baby food about one to one and a half hours after the last milk meal.
General Baby Food Timeline
Remember: this list consists of general guidelines. Every child is different, and every family has different eating philosophies. As a general rule, introduce one new food at a time, and wait a few days to make sure your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction.
- Four to Six Months: Start with soft foods and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, or peas. If you don’t want to purchase baby food, letting them suck on a banana can be a great early food. Single-grain cereals mixed with breast milk or formula are also good starter foods.
- Six to Eight Months: Try out meat and fish. The little soft meat sticks in a jar were a big hit with my kids. This is also a great age to enjoy any single-ingredient finger food, like avocado wedges or pear.
- Nine to Twelve Months: Keep on exposing your little ones to extra textures and flavors. The only foods to really avoid during the first year of life are honey, cow’s milk, and foods that could be choking hazards like whole grapes, uncut cherry tomatoes, popcorn, or nuts.
How Do I Make My Own Baby Food?
More and more mothers are also starting to cook their own baby food. Many lack confidence in the food industry, so homemade options might offer a safer approach. Product recalls, food scandals, and questionable company policies might be another reason to make your own food.
Plus, when you’re cooking food yourself, you know what’s in it. You can choose the food and, for example, only prepare organic baby food. You can also tailor the taste to the preferences of your child.
Tools of the Trade
A pressure cooker is a great way to prepare baby food. Dice meat or veggies and place them in the bottom of the pot with about one cup of water. Cook for a few minutes, mash up with a fork or spoon and serve.
A steamer is another tool that allows you to gently cook chopped sweet potatoes and other vegetables. After steaming the foods, puree your veggies or fruit in a multi-function device like a blender or food processor. For an extra nutrient boost, add in the water from the steamer when you blend.
After you’ve pureed the food, fill an ice cube tray with the individual purees in order to perfectly portion the baby food. Freezer storage also ensures a more sanitary environment. Of course, be sure your ice tray and other materials have been well-cleaned.
Do I Have to Make My Own Baby Food?
Of course, there are benefits to using store-bought baby foods, too. Many companies now use non-GMO organic ingredients and have specific nutritional standards that they must meet for production. Also, even though it doesn’t take too much time, a lot of parents just don’t have the time and energy to make their own baby food. Convenient fruit and veggie pouches, like Plum Organics, are also easier to give your child if you’re out and about than spooning homemade baby food out of an ice tray.
If this is you, that’s okay! As long as your child is getting important vitamins and nutrients, you’re doing a great job with feeding.
Blueberry Banana Oat Baby Food
- blender/food processor
- 1 very ripe banana
- 1/2 cup organic blueberries
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 2-3 tbs almond milk or coconut milk
- Puree all ingredients together in a blender. Serve immediately.
- If desired, pour extra puree into ice cube trays and freeze for later use. Put the cubes into a blender with a little almond milk and you’ll have a second batch ready to go in a pinch!
While baby purees are great, and a feeding timeline can be helpful, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Some parents forego baby food altogether in favor of baby-led weaning. In this approach, starting around six months, parents simply let the baby eat whatever table foods the rest of the family can eat. So rather than having rice cereal, they might have steamed green beans or another type of soft vegetable. Parents who use this approach say it’s easier and more cost-effective than traditional baby food.
When it comes to feeding your baby, have fun! While you want to avoid giving your child sugary sodas or junk food, you can choose any reasonable feeding method that works well for your baby and family, whether it’s homemade organic baby food, ordinary table food, or prepackaged conventional baby food.
Your family might also have great baby feeding suggestions, so chatting with relatives about baby food tips on platforms like the FamilyApp could be another place to get menu ideas for your little ones.
Some children are naturally more selective eaters than others, and sometimes limiting factors like allergies or acid reflux could heavily influence your meal plan. Even if your baby rejects solid food altogether for some time, don’t fret! They’ll still have decades of good eating ahead of them.