After about 6 months, you’re faced with the next stage: starting solids. This is when feeding your baby gets confusing and complicated.
Feeding your baby in the first few months is pretty straightforward. You have two choices: breast milk or formula.
One mom tells you to avoid baby food altogether, while a popular blogger says make your own food and start now. Meanwhile, your doctor says, “wait for the signs.” But you’re not quite sure what they are. While major health organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend starting your baby on solid food around 6 months, parents still find they have many questions regarding how they should make this happen.
A 2015 survey by Beech-Nut Nutrition Company found that 54 percent of parents reported being “very confused” about starting solids. Parents were unsure about exactly when to introduce solid foods and concerned about choosing the right foods to support baby’s future health. They were also uncertain about how to get baby to actually eat fruits and vegetables and make sure the right amounts of protein were consumed during the transition.
Many parents understand that starting solids is an important step for molding a child’s food preferences and future eating habits. However, with so many questions, parents are bound to make some unintended mistakes. We’ve outlined common mistakes to avoid when starting your baby on solids. The good news: these mistakes are preventable.
Starting Solids Too Soon
Some parents believe starting solids will help their baby sleep better at night, so they add cereal to the bottle or initiate mealtime. In fact, up to 40 percent of parents start solid food before 4 months, according to a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starting your baby on solid food before 4 months introduces food when your baby’s immune and digestive systems aren’t fully equipped to properly process food and defend against potential allergens. As a result, the risk for food allergy, eczema, celiac disease, gastrointestinal infection and excessive weight gain are higher.
So avoid adding cereal to the bottle and hold off on solid food introduction until around 6 months. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider for a game plan if your baby seems extra hungry.
Waiting Too Long to Start Solids
Fear that a baby may choke or have an allergic reaction to food is enough to give any parent pause. But delaying solids isn’t best for baby. According to a 2009 study in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, children who didn’t eat foods with a lumpy consistency by 9 months of age had more feeding problems at age 7 than those kids who experienced lumpy textures between ages 6 and 9 months.
Additionally, waiting too long to start solids may slow your baby’s growth, increase the risk for iron deficiency, delay developmental skills, contribute to food texture sensitivities, and according to the latest food allergy research, contribute to food allergy development.
Instead, get started with solid foods around 6 months and monitor your baby’s tolerance, including signs of an allergic response or choking.
Giving Baby Bland Food
You may have heard bland food is best for baby – easy on the digestive system and readily eaten. In the beginning stages of eating solid food, this is true. However, research suggests that exposing your baby to a variety of flavors early on may encourage the consumption of many different foods later, and perhaps even reduce pickiness.
As your baby adds new foods to his diet, enhance the flavor profile by adding herbs, spices and aromatics. Be adventurous with spicy, exotic and highly seasoned foods.
Forgetting Important Nutrients
The first two years of life are critical for brain and body growth. Iron, zinc, total fat, omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, and vitamin D are important nutrients for this process.
Skipping iron-rich foods, such as beef or iron-fortified cereals, or failing to ensure adequate fat in the diet, for example, may compromise your baby’s growth and development.
Pay attention to food choice, and ensure all food groups and nutrients are represented. To meet iron requirements, which are higher between 6 and 12 months of age, offer two iron-rich food sources per day, such as meat, iron-fortified cereals, egg yolk or iron-rich vegetables like spinach. Be sure to include healthy sources of fat, such as avocado and olive oil.
Offering Sweets Too Often
A sip of mom’s latte and a nibble of cookie may seem harmless, but it can influence your baby’s future food preferences, eating habits and health. With limited tummy space and high nutrient needs, babies have little room for sweets in their diet. Accordingly, the American Heart Association recommends no added sugar during the first two years of life, including from sugar-sweetened drinks.
Avoid sweets as a regular part of your baby’s diet. Exception: first-year birthday cake!
Ignoring the Signs of Satisfaction
Babies are good at knowing how much food to eat, and show satisfaction or fullness by turning away, shaking their head “no” or showing general disinterest. However, some parents may want their baby to eat more, or at least finish the food in the jar or the meal. Encouraging your baby to eat more may undermine his natural ability to self-regulate his eating, and may even teach him to overeat.
If your baby is showing clear signs of being finished with eating, let him be done.
Feeding Baby Separately From the Family
Separating your baby from the family meal experience may seem efficient, but your baby learns by watching others eat. She learns about food variety and texture, and experiences eating as a social endeavor at the family table. Feeding your baby at separate times and in a separate place denies her this learning experience.
So pull the highchair up to the table at mealtime as soon and as much as possible. Give baby the social experience of family meals ideally beginning even before he starts solid food.
Avoiding the Mess of Eating
Feeding your baby is a messy job. You wipe his face after a couple of bites, clean his tray periodically, and spoon-feed him to avoid the mess. But, the real magic of learning about and liking food takes place when your baby is interacting with food: touching, smelling, tasting and playing with it.
Don’t distract your baby while he’s eating. Let him experience food uninterrupted.
Source: US News