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How Do I Begin Feeding My Child Solid Food? Try Baby-led Weaning

19 Feb 2014 – 07:10 AM EST

When my daughter was born, I was really uncertain of how I would feed her. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I wasn’t sure how long. I knew I wanted to make baby food for her, but I wasn’t certain of how or what to make. What did I start doing? Research! By the time my son was ready for solids, I knew exactly what to do.

The first solid food suggested to most moms is rice cereal at around 4 months. This is incorrect for two reasons:

1. Solid food should not be introduced until baby is around 6 months old, when he has full trunk control and can sit up independently. Before that, there is a greater risk of choking/aspiration.

2. Rice cereal is not a good first food. USA Today reports, “White rice — after processing, strips away fiber, vitamins and other nutrients — is a ‘nutritional disaster’ … White rice and flour turn to sugar in the body ‘almost instantly,’ … raising blood sugar and insulin levels.”

So then where do you start? I followed the principles of baby-led weaning, which basically means that baby will feed himself food when he is ready. The introduction of solid food is the first step toward weaning. Baby will bypass all of those spoon-fed jarred foods and homemade purees and opt for real solid food that baby can use his hands to feed himself. Some of the best foods to begin with are colorful, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables:

  • diced avocado
  • roasted butternut squash
  • baked sweet potato
  • blueberries
  • peas

By 9 months, if your child doesn’t have any known allergies (and if allergies don’t run in your family), your child should be eating whatever you are eating. Both of my children were enjoying a wide variety of proteins (e.g. steak, chicken, fish, beans), vegetables, fruits, healthy grains (e.g. barley, quinoa), and dairy (e.g. full-fat yogurt and cheese). Cut your home-cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner into smaller bites your child can finger feed himself using a pincer grasp. One thing that is important to remember is that for the first year, a child’s primary source of nutrition is breastmilk (or formula). Food is there to gain exposure to flavors and textures, but should not be factored into the child’s caloric or nutrient intake. So when introducing solid food to your baby — make it fun!
What was your baby’s first food?