3 Mistakes Parents Make When Starting Solids
Starting solids can be stressful if you’re not sure how to begin! Talking to my friends, it seems like pediatricians’ advice can vary widely, and you’d be surprised to find out how many are giving outdated advice. Read through these common mistakes parents make when starting solids so you can feel confident when it’s time to move beyond the breast and bottle. And if you’re looking for more guidance on starting solids, read through to the end for the resource I recommend!
Mistake #1: Starting Too Soon
It’s an exciting time, when your baby is able to start trying real food. Sometimes, parents just don’t want to wait anymore and start feeding their babies too soon. I still hear people saying that babies will sleep longer if they start solids, even though there’s good research saying that’s not true.
Recommendations say babies can start solids at 4 to 6 months, but I would argue for waiting until closer to 6 months. Breastmilk (or formula) meets 100% of baby’s needs when they are under 6 months. The digestive tract is also still developing and maturing. This is something we can’t see, obviously. But it’s best to give it enough time to be ready to handle a variety of solid foods.
It’s also important to wait until baby is developmentally ready. They should be sitting up on their own (it’s okay if they’re still a little wobbly). Baby must have lost the tongue thrust reflex, meaning they no longer automatically push food out of their mouth with their tongue. And baby should be showing interest in eating.
Starting too early could increase the chance of baby becoming obese- yikes! So it’s best to wait until about 6 months. If your baby was premature, you may want to wait even longer- but discuss this with your pediatrician.
But there is nothing magical about the half birthday. This is just the age that most babies are ready. So if you’re a few weeks before this or a few weeks after AND your baby shows signs of readiness, then you’re probably ready to start.
Mistake #2: Giving Up On Foods Too Quickly
Did you know that a baby spitting out a food doesn’t mean they don’t like it? Making faces with certain foods also doesn’t mean that they don’t like it! So counterintuitive, I know.
If they are spitting out everything you give them, they may not be ready for solids quite yet. Second, it can take a little time for them to accept a food. Like, 10-15 times! So even if it seems that they might not like it, it is important to keep offering a wide variety of foods. The more exposures they get early on, the more likely they are to continue liking those foods as they get older.
Mistake #3: Only Giving Baby Foods
There is a whole aisle in the grocery store with baby food, so it makes sense to think that is what they should eat. But babies are capable of eating more than just pouches or jarred purées. Babies can eat food you’re eating too, just without added oil, sugar, or salt. (And remember, no honey under 1 year old.) This type of early self feeding is called baby led weaning.
For example, they can eat avocado slices, gnaw on bananas, or try roasted sweet potato spears. Introduce your baby to different flavors and textures. Spoon feeding is fine, but they should also explore feeding themselves too. Make sure you educate yourself on baby led weaning before starting!
If you’re curious about baby led weaning and want to know more, go check out this (free) webinar by my RD friend Jennifer House. She tells you how to start baby led weaning, what the benefits are, and what are the BEST foods to start with.
There are lots of baby led weaning resources on the internet but honestly, a lot of them come from unqualified people. Jennifer knows her stuff and I promise you can trust 100% of what she says. When it comes to your baby…you don’t want to mess around with bad advice!
Starting Solids – The Bottom Line
These are just some tips to help guide you if you will be starting solids soon. Do NOT feel bad if you think you made one of these mistakes with your baby. You know your baby better than I do! Even as a dietitian myself, there are some things I plan to do differently when we start feeding our second baby than I did with my first. We are always learning, there is always new research, and there is no ONE right way to do things. And remember this isn’t not a substitute for medical advice. Consult with your pediatrician if you have questions about your baby.
Is there anything you wish you did differently when starting solids with your baby?
With our older son, I didn’t use many herbs and spices in his foods, and as a three year old, he definitely prefers plain flavors. This time around, I would like to add more flavor to our daughter’s first foods to encourage her to accept a wider variety of flavors!
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