Whether you breastfeed or formula feed your baby, introducing solids can be a super exciting but anxious milestone for parents. Your baby will finally sleep throughout the night and a whole lot of other wonderful changes are going to happen, right? Maybe not so right!
Don’t be hard on yourself Mama because they told you wrong. Let me tell you 21 things I wish I knew when I started introducing solids to my baby. Some of them, I had to find out as a mom and others I learnt in an online course I took from the Deakin University, Australia in Infant Nutrition. You can view my certificate here.
1. When should you introduce solids?
Breastfeeding has so many amazing benefits. Check out fifteen sweet benefits of breastfeeding you probably didn’t know here. Regardless, of whether a baby is breastfed or formula fed, it is recommended that, solids should be introduced around six months of age and not earlier than four months. This is because: up until six months, a baby’s nutritional requirement can be met by breast milk or formula. In addition, most infants are ready to accept solids by six months of age. They demonstrate this being able to sit upright, having head and tongue control to facilitate eating. They also demonstrate some level of curiosity when you’re eating.
2. Myths about why some babies are introduced to solids earlier than six months
I. Babies need more food and nutrition than they’re getting from milk.
I particularly fell for this. Breastfeeding got a little difficult for me after four months. It seemed my baby was always hungry. Surely, the breast milk isn’t enough I thought, boy was I wrong! Per the advice of some well meaning moms, I introduced solids at about five months. I guess I almost made it!
II. Babies will sleep better if they take in solids in addition to milk.
This is a complete myth. I’ll elaborate on this in point 11.
3. The difference between introducing solids and weaning
Weaning is a step by step process with the ultimate aim being to stop breastfeeding. The first step in weaning is introducing solids or complementary feeding and this continues until baby stops breastfeeding completely.
Introducing solids is when babies are given complementary food other than breast milk or formula. This is usually done between 4-6 months. By this age the gastrointestinal tract of the infant is matured enough to handle solids.
4. Baby-led weaning
It’s an approach to feeding babies their first foods by allowing them to feed on their own. There’s no adult spoon-feeding at all. It usually involves finger foods which a baby can hold and feed themselves. One advantage of this approach is, a baby is in control of how much they consume and there’s no coaxing by an adult or parent to finish their food.
As a mom, you’re likely to skip meals or eat inadequately. But with baby-led feeding, moms particularly can finish their own meals since they’re not busy feeding an infant.
On the down side, a baby can choke, not get enough iron or take in enough food for energy.
5. What foods should you introduce first?
Globally, culture influences what foods are introduced to babies first. Besides the need to introduce iron rich foods, it’s important to place emphasis on nutritional quality rather than the quantity of food consumed by an infant. Eatright.org suggests these foods should be first introduced to babies- avocado, peas, infant cereal with breast milk or formula, pureed meat or poultry, carrots, beans and sweet potatoes.
However, babies learn to enjoy vegetables and foods that are not sweet tasting if they are offered as first foods. They learn this from infancy to adulthood.
6. What you probably don’t know about commercial baby foods
Commercial baby foods mix a sweet fruit or vegetable with another that’s not sweet. This is to maximize the chances of the baby enjoying it. That way, parents are also likely to purchase them over and over again.
The challenge with this is, single units of non-sweet tasting vegetables or fruits may not be enjoyed by infants when offered alone. This sets up a limited cycle of food enjoyment.
7. Eleven foods to avoid when introducing solids:
- Sugar and sweets
- Cow or goat milk
- Partially cooked meat
- Really spicy food
- Drinks and juice
- Carbonated drinks
- Fatty foods
- Whole nuts or seeds
Once you introduce solids note that…
8. The texture of poop will change
Babies poop are soft because all they take is milk. Consequently, introducing solids may result in their stool changing to solids. So there should be no cause for alarm when their poop changes from fluid to solid.
9. The smell will change
Nothing prepared me for this one! I don’t think baby poop smells (I don’t know about bottle fed babies though). If you think it does, it about to take a whole new dimension when you start solids. It begins to smell a lot more like adult poop. Sorry I had to spell out all the yucky details. Do parents find these things yucky at all, do we?
10. Less likelihood of blowouts
The days of blowouts will be long gone or minimized after solids have been introduced. This is because the baby stool will not be as fluid as before hence fewer or no leakages or blowouts.
11. Your baby may not sleep throughout the night
Although we had a bed time routine which helped my baby sleep on time, she didn’t sleep throughout the night. However, I had heard so many stories about babies sleeping throughout the night when they are introduced to solids. You can’t blame me for really looking forward to it. Well that never happened. How I got her to sleep throughout the night is a story for another day.
Babies will sleep throughout the night, well eventually but that doesn’t automatically happen the minute you introduce solids. Some babies may sleep throughout the night naturally whereas others need to be taught.
Note however that, introducing solids will not prevent your baby from waking up at night. A baby waking up at night does not necessarily mean they are hungry. For breastfeeding moms co-sleeping, it’s easier to re-settle a baby back to sleep by breastfeeding. If possible, re-settle your baby without feeding them.
12. Iron is essential in the diet of babies
Particularly after six months, babies need to derive more iron from solids. Hence, foods introduced should be rich in iron. For example, iron fortified cereals, pureed poultry or fish and legumes.
13. Infant cereal contain sodium
According to a research by Deakin University’s Infant Program, on the average, infants age nine months consume 486 milligrams of sodium a day which is well above the recommended quantity of 170 milligrams a day.
Whilst some foods naturally contain sodium, processed and manufactured food tend to contain a higher amount of sodium.What you can do as a parent is to always check the label of cereal boxes and baby foods for the sodium content and select options with less sodium .Your baby shouldn’t be eating too much salt because it can lead to dreadful medical conditions.
14. Your baby may reject some foods by spitting it out
This may happen more than once for particular foods. It is easy to assume an infant doesn’t like that food in such instances. The result being that food not being offered again.
Bare this in mind, your first try at introducing solids maybe hard. There are babies who are able to transition more easily than others. Your baby may reject food the first time they are offered with the reason being they’re not hungry or surprised by the taste or texture. Thus, it doesn’t mean you should not offer it to them again. It only means try again later.
Reintroducing foods increases the chances of the food being accepted.
15. Your baby may fuss and this is why
I’ve come to learn that fussiness is normal in babies. Sometimes, babies fuss because of tiredness and hunger. Other times, it’s a manipulative behavior to get what they want- something more sweet tasting!
As a mom, do not encourage a fussy infant to finish their meals else they may fuss some more.
16. Babies eat little quantities of food sometimes
Parents tend to worry when their babies eat little quantities of food. I did too. But so long as they are growing steadily and not decreasing in weight, or showing signs of nutrient deficiencies, there’s nothing to worry about.
17. Colored food can stain clothes
Colored foods like carrots, butternut, pawpaw can stain baby clothes even with a bib. It is a good idea to wash them out immediately if you can after feeding.
18. Give your baby water
Babies who are breastfeeding do not need water before six months of age. This is because breast milk contains 80% water. Source. However, once solids are introduced, water also ought to be given. Because, introducing solids usually means, a baby takes in less breast milk or formula hence the need for water.
Start with small amounts of water and increase it gradually. Giving so much when introducing solids means more work for their tiny kidneys. Now, we don’t want to stress their kidneys do we?
Giving them too much water can fill up their tummies making them less interested in feeding. Also, a lot of water can dilute the nutrient levels in a baby’s body. About 2-4oz of water (50-120ml) within a 24 hour period is fine for babies between 6 months to 12 months. Source.
19. Your baby can constipate
Water aids in the digestion of solids. Your baby will constipate if they are not getting enough water with their meals. If your baby does, do not PANIC. What you can do is to increase the amount of water your baby your takes as well as their fruits intake. Particularly, fruits with a high water content like watermelon are helpful.
20. Food likes and dislikes are difficult to change at around three years of age
Do know any adult who has a certain like or dislike to certain foods, fruits or vegetables? Food habits including likes or dislikes are formed based on what foods are introduced. Infants exposed to a wide range of taste grow up enjoying a wide range of taste! At around three years, these likes and dislikes become difficult but not impossible to change.
This is to say that, your baby will grow up to be the adult you’ve trained them to be. If you introduce them to a variety of vegetables they will grow up to have a varied taste. If they consume too much sodium for instance, they may end up with high blood pressures as adults.
21. Final thoughts
Parents want nothing but the absolute best for their kids including to be healthy. A healthy diet for a baby means, they will be less prone to infections and their risk of developing non-communicable diseases for instance diabetes, some cancers and heart disease is reduced. No matter how tough introducing solids gets, you can do this Mama!
Have you started introducing solids to your little one yet? Which aspect of this post resonates or surprises you?
If you found this post useful kindly share to a fellow mom or mom-to-be!