Cereal, Bananas and Peas! Getting started with solid foods

Start Solid Food Alzein

Is Grandma right about Baby sleeping better with cereal?

Starting solid foods is an important step in your infant’s life. You want to get the timing right – after your child has developed the oral coordination to avoid choking, but not so long that there is a delay in oral motor development.

Feeding your baby solid foods too soon may also skew their calorie intake, providing too little or too much nutrition. Premature solid introduction also increases your child’s risk of life-long obesity.

However, waiting too long can slow your infant’s growth and development, may cause an iron deficiency and could make your baby refuse solid foods when they are introduced, setting up eating disorders. Recent studies also show that waiting to introduce certain foods does not reduce the risk of allergies, asthma or eczema.

Here at Alzein Pediatrics, we’re not looking for Baby to hit a certain age to introduce solids. We’re watching for physical indicators that confirm your child is far enough along in growth and development to benefit from and enjoy solid foods. We want Baby to:
• Have doubled in birth weight, and weigh at least 13 pounds
• Be able to lift and support their head in a steady position
• Seem hungry even after 8-10 breastfeedings or 32 ounces of formula each day

When Baby has reached these milestones, it’s time to start solids! Sit Baby in your lap, just slightly reclined. Offer first an iron-fortified rice cereal, about 1 tablespoon of cereal mixed with 4 tablespoons of breast milk or formula. Scoop just a taste onto the tip of a child-safe spoon and don’t be surprised if Baby initially rejects this new taste and texture – and be ready for a mess. Introduce new foods first thing in the morning, when you and Baby are enjoying quiet time, so you’ll have the whole day to watch for any stomach upsets or other reactions. Offer this cereal once a day for 3 to 5 days in a row and don’t introduce any other new foods at this time.

If Baby seems to have difficulty breathing after any new food introduction, call 9-1-1 immediately. Call our office if you see any of these symptoms:
• Vomiting
• Excessive, shrill or hoarse-sounding crying
• Diarrhea
• Runny nose, cough, sneezing or congestion
• Rashes, hives or other skin irritations

When Baby shows no adverse effects, you can next try a finely milled oatmeal or barley cereal. Always introduce just one new food at a time for 3 to 5 days before introducing another food.
• Never add cereals or any foods to a bottle.
• Solids should always be fed from a spoon.
• No juice, punch or sports drinks before one year of age.

Looking forward to fruits and vegetables? Baby should have solid control of their head movements and be able to push up from their belly and hold themselves with straight elbows. Start with single pureed ingredients, like bananas or peas with no salt or sugar added. It’s still too early for eggs, wheat or citrus.

Let Baby guide how much they eat. This helps develop healthy eating habits and lower their risk of later obesity. Your baby may slow down, spit out the food, close their mouth, turn their head away or begin to fidget when they are full.

When Baby can sit up by themselves, roll from back to front and grip a toy or spoon in their hand, you’re ready to introduce mixed foods, creating combinations from the single foods already enjoyed. Continue purchasing or making pureed foods, with no salt or sugar. You can also begin adding proteins like scrambled eggs, pureed chicken or turkey and offer small sips of water.

As Baby crawls and pulls themselves up to standing, they need more solids to fuel that activity. Make portion sizes a little bigger and add bits of texture to the puree to encourage chewing – or at least mashing with those little gums. Introduce more tastes like broccoli, carrots, and pastas to expand their palate.

Your baby will love experimenting with finger foods when they can pick up small objects between the thumb and index finger, drink from a cup by themselves, has a few upper and lower teeth and can stand alone. Finger foods should be soft, easy to swallow and very small. Consider:
• Bananas cut small
• Crackers
• Cooked, finely chopped chicken
• Thoroughly cooked, cut up potatoes
• Thoroughly cooked soft peas or other vegetables.

When Baby can walk by themselves and can easily feed themselves with fingers, encourage Baby to enjoy well cooked and well mashed food from your family’s healthy dinner menu of vegetables, fruits and proteins.

Oh, and about Grandma. She may tell you that starting cereal will help Baby sleep more soundly through the night. In fact, there is no evidence to back up that advice!

Do you have questions about starting Baby on solid foods? Just call 708-424-7600 or click here.  You can also arrange a telemedicine visit to get trusted answers by clicking here. We here at Alzein Pediatrics are here to help!

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