I remember being a new mom and waiting eagerly for a very important milestone: the day I could feed my first baby solids. In those days, the recommended age for starting solids was 4 – 6 months, and many parents started much earlier. I thought I was being really patient by waiting until Jacob was six months old before I mixed up his first bowl of rice cereal and broke out the spoon.
It didn’t go so swimmingly. He gagged, turned his head away, and smeared the grainy mush all over his face and the high chair, where it promptly turned to a gluelike substance. I tried a few more times, but it became obvious that he just wasn’t interested. I worried. Would he get enough iron from breastmilk? Wasn’t there some … reason he should be eating solids regularly by now?
When my second came along, I decided to take a much more laid-back approach, and waited until Isaac was grabbing at my plate before I started solids. And this time, I just fed him a squished-up version of what everyone else in the family was eating. I treated his introduction to solids as a grand adventure instead of a nutritional minefield … and as a result, we all enjoyed the process a lot more. (Plus, he ate a much more impressive variety of fresh, homemade foods.)
If you’re stressing over starting your baby on solids, learn from my mistakes and follow the rules I’ve learned along the way:
1. Wait ’til she’s ready
I know it’s so tempting to break out the rice cereal the moment your baby can hold her head up for a few seconds at a time. But young babies are really meant to grow mostly on breastmilk or formula, and introducing solids too early is unnecessary and can lead to upset little tummies (not to mention additional hassle and mess to clean up). Plus, the earlier you start, the more you’ll stress about making sure she’s still getting enough milk and the right blend of nutrients. Waiting until at least six months — the age recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics — makes starting solids much easier.
2. Make it a family affair
I always found it easiest to feed our babies alongside the rest of us at the table. Dinner is generally the most social and relaxed meal of the day, and the one your baby will be most eager to participate in. Sure, it might mean that your attention is divided during your meal, but that’s parenthood for you!
3. Keep prep simple
Look at what you’re serving the big people in your house: Is there something you can easily puree, smash, or dice up, depending on your baby’s age and level of readiness? Unless you have a strong family history of food allergies, you probably don’t need to worry too much about introducing foods in a certain order or avoid spices and seasonings. It’s a myth that all babies need to start with specific bland foods. That theory is not supported by science.
4. Do what works
Don’t worry about making every meal the “perfect” experience. Let baby eat with his fingers or squish his peas with a spoon. Can’t find a clean bib? Make dinner the last activity before bathtime, and toss baby’s shirt right into the wash. Or let him go shirtless at dinner. You’ve got plenty of time ahead to teach table etiquette, and I promise, Miss Manners is not watching.
5. Relax and have fun
You’re setting the table for a lifetime of family meals together. Learn to enjoy this time! Linger at the table, talk about your day and include your baby in the conversation (even if she can’t talk just yet). Eating together should be fun and as low-stress as you can manage — and that’s true for feeding your baby, too.
How do you keep feeding your baby fun and low-stress?