Feeding a baby seems like it should be easy—but it rarely is. Once you’ve tackled the nuances of nursing or have finally found an infant formula your little one won’t spit up, life throws you another curveball: solids.
It might seem overwhelming at first to figure out which pureed fruit or veggie to give first—and how to get mashed sweet potato stains out of a white onesie (hint: don’t buy white onesies)—but you can also look forward to more fun than you ever imagined possible.
Here’s everything you need to know about graduating to the world of strained carrots and mashed peas.
When to start
Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids somewhere around age 4-6 months. If that sounds like a pretty big age range, that’s because some babies will be watching your mouth when you eat and licking their lips (signs of solid readiness) right at the 4 month mark, and others won’t want to have anything to do with solids until their half birthday or even later. Nutritionally speaking, what your baby really needs in the first 12 months is breast milk or formula—so if she spits out her peas, don’t worry too much. (For what it’s worth, my daughter hated anything that came from a spoon when she was an infant and now is a perfectly bright, healthy and properly nourished 7-year-old.)
What to offer
Your pediatrician probably will recommend starting with a single-grain infant cereal. Rice has been the traditional first choice, but since white rice is generally considered less “healthy” than whole grains or brown rice, not everyone is on the rice cereal bandwagon these days. I know my kids couldn’t stand the white, sticky stuff, and instead preferred single grain oatmeal and barley instead. Whatever grain you choose, mix it with breast milk or formula to make sure the taste is familiar.
Next, the fun begins! Your doctor likely will tell you to start with the stage 1 veggies first, offering them one at a time and monitoring for any signs of intolerance or allergic reaction, and then moving on to stage 1 fruits. Why veggies first? Well, fruits are naturally sweet and if you start with them, first, your baby might systematically reject vegetables afterwards.
But hang in there—if your baby spits out the squash the first time you offer it, try it the following day, and then the next…as many as 7 times in a row before you conclude that he’s put the kibosh on squash. And if that’s the case, try mixing nixed veggies with fruits or other vegetables that he will eat to get him used to the taste.
Once you’ve gone through all the vegetables, it’s finally time for fruit! Word to the wise: use prunes and plums sparingly. (And never before air travel.)
Once your baby is crawling and can pick up objects with the pincher grasp, you can move on to finger foods like cereal, biscuits, puffs—even carefully cut up table food!
So what do you need to feed a baby? You need a safe high chair, some soft-tip spoons, BPA-free bowls, and either a food processor and bushels of fresh product to make your own baby food, or the pre-made stuff. I wish I could say that I made my own baby food, but I didn’t. I really love the brands Happy Baby and Plum Organics, followed closely by Earth’s Best.
Lights, camera, action
No matter what you do…don’t forget your camera. The facial expression on your baby’s face when she tries food for the first time is absolutely priceless!
Jorie Mark is the Creative Director of Vitacost.com and mother to three children, ages 2 to 9.