My husband and I recently decided to start our five-month-old little guy on solid foods — a major (and adventure-filled!) milestone in every baby’s first year. I found it to be a twisted and winding road when it came to navigating information about this topic. The message I got from my pediatrician was different than the perspectives I read online, which were different still than what I was hearing from other moms. The questions were endless . . . .
- When should we start feeding solids, and how often?
- What foods are safe to start with?
- Will starting too early or late increase the odds of my kiddo developing a food allergy?
- How much should my baby be eating?
- Should I still offer boob or bottle –– before or after?
- What’s this “Baby-led Weaning” I keep hearing about?
- Should I invest in a full-body bib . . . you know, for easy clean up? (kidding)
As a total non-expert, I will refrain from further confusing the conversation by suggesting that any particular answer to these questions is “right” for every baby. As with most questions in life, the answer is, “It depends.” Except the full-body bib question. The answer to that is undoubtedly, “YES!”
But what I can share is that embracing this milestone with flexibility and a sense of fun has turned the experience into one of the more thrilling and hilarious parts of parenting yet. In that spirit, here are a few tips from the pureed trenches:
Be Patient . . . and Enjoy the Anticipation!
I won’t hide it — I was beyond excited to start solids. We decided to wait at least three days between introducing new foods to monitor for possible allergies, and in fairness, my husband had to step in on a few occasions where my zeal nearly overrode my judgment. After each success (bananas) and failure (carrots), I was just as excited to try out the next new nibble. That said, not every bite was a hit. But, don’t let the grimaces get you down . . . you’re introducing baby to a whole new world (shining, shimmering, splendid?!) that will be a foundational part of the rest of his or her life. How cool!
“Mess? What Mess?”
If you hadn’t already abandoned your pre-baby cleanliness aspirations, prepare to do so right about . . . now. Who decided that pureed foods, prodigious drool, and an affinity for blowing raspberries made a sensible developmental combo? May want to invest in a full-body bib for yourself too! While the neat and tidy part of me cringes every time I get a fine mist of sweet potato across my arm, the fun-loving part of me is openly cracking up. Sure, I may be encouraging it a bit by laughing. But honestly, I think he enjoys it so much that it hardly matters. So, I let him have fun. Food should be fun, and I want to encourage that attitude from day one.
Ready the Camera (at a Distance)
When I take pictures of my little one, I often try to think of what he would want to see when he’s older. And in my mind, this is one of those moments. Not to mention, you are highly likely to see some new (and contorted) facial expressions that are certainly worth recording. But unless you want your lens (or iPhone) coated in peas, consider the zoom lens. Even better, video!
Not Every Rash Is an Allergy
Remember I mentioned the drooling? There should really be a baby-specific drooling term because the wetness is on a level all its own, and it can do some noticeable damage to that baby soft skin, particularly on the chin and face. My kiddo managed to get a pretty good rash on his face after the introduction of rice cereal, plunging this first-time mama into a bit of a panic. Luckily, the absence of any other symptoms and the fact that it cleared quickly helped me refine my differential diagnosis . . . and chill out. While parents should absolutely be on the lookout for allergic reactions, it’s important not to jump to conclusions when introducing new foods.
Keep an Open Mind (and Palate!)
I’m a pretty adventurous eater, and I’m hoping my son will be too. Sure, part of our palates are based on our natural likes, dislikes, and developmental stage, but I’m convinced that another part is exposure. A friend of mine who grew up in Singapore listed one of her favorite childhood foods as durian which, if you’ve ever tasted (or smelled) durian, you will find as difficult to believe as I did. I figure it all comes down to exposure and familiarity, so I’m starting now by vowing to introduce him to a wide variety of tasty bites over time.
So enjoy this yummy milestone with an open mouth and an adventurous attitude. Happy eating, babies (and mamas)!