When and How to Start Solids for Baby
For a baby to start solids is a big big milestone and step ahead into this world. First question that parents face, is WHEN to start. And new parents probably get as many different advice as people they know. Grandmother will tell you they started you when you were three months old and you did not have any problem after all. A friend might tip you about feeding cereal in a bottle. Your doctor might advise you to wait till 6 months. It can be very confusing.
Very early introduction of solids can be harmful for baby, as it can fill her tiny tummy and leave less room for breast-milk or formula which is most important for baby growth at this stage. Early introduction of food can also cause allergy. At the same time, wait for too long and you may find that your baby does not take to new food easily and wants to continue nursing or bottle.
Most paediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months of age. A baby should not be given any solid food before 4 months of age. Baby’s digestive system is not ready to handle solids till at least 4 months and breast milk or formula is enough to provide all the nourishment the baby needs. You can start solids gradually sometime between 4 and 6 months with the advice of your baby’s doctor.
All babies are different and you should go with baby’s cues to decide when to introduce solids. Just because your best friend started her baby at 4 months doesn’t mean you should too. Neither should you wait till 7 months because your sister did that.
HOW TO KNOW IF BABY IS READY FOR SOLIDS
There are many developmental signs which can help you decide when you want to introduce solids to your baby.
Baby can sit well with support and can hold her head well and steady. Baby should never be given food lying down.
Tongue-thrust reflex is gone. Tongue-thrust reflex protects babies from accidentally swallowing any foreign material. Try giving small amount of solid food to baby and if it immediately comes out even after several attempts, baby is not yet ready for solids. Do not ever force baby to swallow food.
Baby observes intently and is curious about your food. This is not a sure-shot sign as babies at this age are curious about most things.
Baby makes chewing motion.
Baby is hungry even after eight to ten feedings.
Baby has gained significant weight. Usually baby should have at least doubled her birth weight before solids can be given to her.
Observe your baby for these signs and then start solids after consultation with baby’s doctor.
WHAT TO GIVE WHEN STARTING SOLIDS
Rice cereal is considered to be a safe first food to start with. However , it does not need to be the only thing you can feed your baby as a first food. In India, there are many alternate cereals which babies have been fed traditionally.
Check out a list of first foods you can give your baby.
Whatever you give should be very watery at first and do not expect baby to finish everything you have prepared. This in initial months is just to enable baby to aware that there are other and varied tasting sources of nutrition than breast or bottle. There are certain foods should not be given to baby during first year.
Ready-made baby food in jars is available in baby stores. You can choose to use those if you are pressed for time and don’t mind the cost or make your own fresh food as is done traditionally. Making your own baby food is very easy and you know exactly what you are giving to your baby.
Whenever you introduce a new food, always introduce it alone and give the same food for 3-4 days. This is known as the 3 day wait rule. This will ensure you can notice allegies if any. If you find baby is experiencing any kind of rash, gassiness, reflux etc. discontinue that food and wait for many weeks before trying again.