Signs, Tips, & Recipes for Mamas
Introducing your baby to solids is a milestone most parents are excited about, however it can lead to many new questions and worry for first-time parents. I am a mama with a culinary degree currently studying towards my degree in nutrition, focusing primarily on pregnancy, postpartum, and baby nutrition. I want to help ease the worry many parents have and answer those common questions regarding key signs to look for that show your baby is ready for solids, recipes for stage one food introduction, and pro-tips to help ease into the transition.
My experience transitioning my baby, Stella, was similar to many parents’. I was SO excited to get her started on her first solid foods! I wanted to see her face light up when each new flavor danced cross her taste buds for the first time. I knew that six months-old was the recommended age to start babies on solid food by many experts and doctors, but I had also heard to look for cues and signs before you jump into giving them purées . I also heard in my parent group that some babies start showing signs as early as three to four months. I decided to follow my instincts and wait for Stella to let me know when she was ready, and so she did! After consulting with our doctor (*Always consult with your physician before starting solids*) she gave me the go ahead at four months.
There are many signs your baby can express when they are ready to try solids. And sure, you might read all these articles and go “Well, my baby has been doing this since two months!” or “My baby does not show that sign, but he does exhibit this one.” Listen! Your baby might not show every sign and that’s OK. Look for a few key ones and talk to your physician. The recommended age used to be strictly six months, but studies now show the earlier you introduce foods, the better chance you have of avoiding or eliminating some allergies. So follow that mom instinct if you think your baby is showing you signs.
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods:
1. They are eager to eat everything you are eating. My daughter, Stella, would smile and laugh and move her lips, then reach for our food if she thought she was close enough to swipe. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, babies who grasp for the plate and fork are developmentally showing you they’re ready for solids.
2. Your baby can hold their head steady while sitting. This is an extremely important sign when deciding to introduce solid foods. Being able to hold their heads up while sitting, even with assistance, will ensure the baby can have a safe feeding. Imagine trying to feed a bobble head...yeah, not fun. Stella was holding her head up for long periods of time with no assistance. I felt confident I could sit her in a high chair and feed her safely.
3. Your baby drools less. This is a great sign as newborns have what’s called tongue-thrust reflux, meaning they naturally push food or drool so as to not choke. The sign of less drool means they’ve stopped thrust-refluxing and can swallow.
MOM HACK: A great trick for testing if the reflux thrusting has stopped is to take a small amount of puréed baby food and put it into your babies mouth. If your baby spits the food right out or gags he or she may not be ready but if your baby swallows the food with no issues then it’s time to start looking up recipes. You can do this test every week if your baby is starting to show other signs.
4. Consult with your pediatrician. If your baby is exhibiting some or all of these signs, it is now time to talk to your pediatrician to make sure they agree it is time to try solids. Once they give you the go-ahead, your baby is official ready for solid foods!
Once I knew Stella was ready to eat, I had about a million questions. What in the world are baby food stages? What food do I give her for the first time? But after some experience and experimentation, I can tell you these things for sure:
Keep it as simple as possible.
This will not only help your child, but it will REALLY help you, mama. As a chef, I had all of these recipes in my head ready to go, but I was quickly reminded that simplifying the process makes it easier to understand what your child likes, how they are adjusting to solid foods, and how YOU as the mom are dealing with the transition. So go easy on yourself and make it as simple as possible starting out.
Start with a single fresh fruit or vegetable.
Stage One foods, or the first foods you start feeding your child, should be a single type of fresh fruit or vegetable. Puree the produce into a smooth soup-like consistency that’s easy for the baby to swallow. Sticking with a single food allows the baby’s taste buds to develop and understand flavors before switching to a new food.
Introduce one new ingredient each week.
This is one of my biggest pro-tips! Give your child a week to get used to a single food. It will help reduce the chances of your child developing allergies associated with that food and give them time to learn to enjoy the flavor.
For Stella, we decided to first introduce bananas, beets, avocados, apples and carrots in her first few weeks with solid foods. A baby’s first foods can help develop their future food preferences, so I was encouraged to introduce both sweet fruits and savory vegetables. A good variety of foods can help ensure your child will like a wide variety of foods as they mature.
Need a recipe to get started?! Here is a great standard recipe for carrot purée that can be used as a base recipe for all Stage One vegetables.
Carrot Purée for Babies
2 Fresh Organic Carrots Washed and Peeled
1/4 cup of water
1. Steam the two fresh organic carrots for about 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Let cool for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the carrots to your blender. Slowly add water, breastmilk or formula to the purée until it reaches your desired consistency. Remember for this stage the baby food purée should be smooth and easy for baby to swallow.
This recipe is as easy as it comes and if you have a baby food maker, it’s even easier. You can also make this in bulk for the week and freeze. I love to use baby food approved silicone molds for freezing the puree since the molds come in all shapes and sizes that can help you portion out.
Now that you're ready to give your baby solids, the final step is to RELAX AND ENJOY the process! This is a beautiful stage of your child's life, so try and be present for every new thing they experience. Don't stress about every little detail and you'll have this wonderful shared experience with your child.
Have any more questions or want to talk to a mom who is also starting her baby on solids? Download SocialMama to meet thousands of women walking a similar path!
About the Contributor:
Holliann Barry is a military wife currently stationed in San Francisco. She has a culinary degree and is passionate about food and health. Holliann recently enrolled into another nutrition program that will focus on pregnancy, postpartum and baby nutrition. She recently launched an Instagram page to help mamas make healthy choices, learn recipes and guild them on how to make homemade baby food. Holliann is also a MentorMama for SocialMama.