Starting solids for babies

A guide on starting solids, what to pay attention to, breastfeeding and what foods are best

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Breastfeeding mother

Starting solids

I hear from a lot of mothers that they are confused about when to start solids for their babies. In this blog post, I want to share my tips for starting solids for babies, what to pay attention to during this transition, which foods are best for your baby’s early food adventures, and the importance of continued breastfeeding alongside introducing solids. This is based on my own experience, recommendations by my daughter’s pediatrician and my research.

In Germany, pediatricians will recommend you start offering your baby solids from 4 months. Other sources might tell you not to offer any solids until 6 months of age. This can be very confusing. But there is no set timeline for this, you have to pay attention to your baby’s signs of readiness. Every child is unique, and it’s crucial to look for signs of readiness rather than adhering strictly to a predetermined timeline. These signs include:

  • Good head and neck control: Your baby should be able to hold their head steady and sit upright with support.
  • Tongue thrust reflex: The disappearance of the tongue thrust reflex, which causes babies to automatically push food out of their mouths, is a sign that they may be ready for solid foods.
  • Increased curiosity: Showing interest in your food and attempting to grab it is a positive indicator that your little one is ready to explore new tastes and textures.

Best Foods for Baby's First Meals

When starting solids, it’s best to introduce single-ingredient foods and gradually move on to combinations. You don’t need to offer your baby a lot of variety but you can aim to introduce a new food every week or so. Here are some nutritious options to kickstart your baby’s food journey:

  • Iron-rich cereals: Rice, oatmeal, and barley cereals fortified with iron are excellent first foods. Mix them with breast milk or formula to create a smooth consistency.
  • Pureed fruits: Begin with soft, ripe fruits like bananas, avocados, pears, and apples. These can be pureed or mashed to a suitable consistency for your baby.
  • Cooked vegetables: Steam or boil vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and squash until they’re soft enough to be easily mashed. Gradually introduce different vegetables to expand their palate.
  • Mashed legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are fantastic sources of protein and fiber. Cook them thoroughly and mash them for a nutritious addition to your baby’s meals.
  • Yogurt and cheese: Once your baby is comfortable with purees, you can introduce plain, whole-milk yogurt or soft cheese as they provide essential calcium and probiotics.
You don’t have to prepare all of this yourself. You can find very healthy baby food at your local Rossmann or DM. We used those a lot, especially when we were traveling. 
 
If you decide to make the baby food yourself, you can do so by boiling it until it becomes very soft and mashing it. You don’t necessarily need a fancy cooking device for it. 
 
You can offer all of these foods in their pure form, without adding any spices, salt or sugar. It might seem boring and tasteless to you, but all of these foods are new for your baby, so let them get used to natural tastes. You don’t need to make it more “interesting” for them by adding other ingredients.
 
Remember that solid food has a lot fewer calories than breast milk, so you can add a spoon of rapeseed oil to their puree to compensate. However, some weight loss at this stage is normal, so don’t panic.
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Starting solids and continuing breastfeeding

The Slow Transition from only breastfeeding to solids:

Starting solids isn’t an overnight process. Initially, your baby may only take small amounts of food or even push it out with their tongue. This is normal and a part of their learning experience. Be patient and offer a variety of foods over time. they need time to understand that what is in front of them is actually food that they can consume. As your baby grows more accustomed to solids, gradually increase the thickness of the purees or offer soft, bite-sized pieces for them to practice chewing.

Continuing Breastfeeding alongside Solids:

Introducing solids does not mean replacing breast milk or formula. Breast milk remains a vital source of nutrition and immunity for your baby throughout their first year and beyond. Here’s why continuing breastfeeding alongside solids is essential:

Nutritional balance: Breast milk provides a perfect balance of nutrients tailored specifically to your baby’s needs. While solid foods offer additional nutrients, breast milk remains the primary source of essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

Hydration: Breast milk is an excellent source of hydration for your baby. Even as they begin to consume water and other liquids, breast milk continues to meet a significant portion of their fluid requirements.

Immune support: Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect your baby against various illnesses and infections. The antibodies adapt to your baby’s specific needs, providing a boost to their immune system.

Emotional connection: Breastfeeding is not only about nourishment but also a beautiful opportunity for bonding and comfort. The close physical contact and emotional connection created during breastfeeding continue to be important for your baby’s overall well-being.

Transitioning gradually: By continuing to breastfeed alongside solids, you ensure a gradual and smooth transition. Your baby can explore new flavors and textures while still relying on the familiar and comforting breast milk for their nutritional foundation.

Safety measures while starting solids

Introducing solids comes with the responsibility of ensuring your baby’s safety. Here are some important safety measures to consider:

Avoid choking hazards: Choose finely pureed or mashed foods initially to minimize the risk of choking. Avoid small, hard foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn, and whole grapes.

Monitor food reactions: Introduce new foods one at a time and watch for any signs of allergies or intolerance, such as rash, diarrhea, or vomiting. If you notice any adverse reactions, consult your pediatrician promptly.

Maintain hygiene: Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly before preparing and feeding your baby to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Do not force feed: Your child will show you signs that they are full or don’t want any more, please pay attention to these, like it they close their mouth, turn their face away, etc. They know when they are full, so let go of your expectations of how much your baby should be eating. 

Introducing solids to your baby is an exciting milestone in their journey of growth and development. Remember to follow their cues for readiness, prioritize their safety, and gradually introduce a variety of nutritious foods. However, alongside this adventure, continue to cherish and nourish the breastfeeding relationship. Breast milk remains a valuable source of nutrition, immunity, and emotional connection for your little one, supporting their healthy development during this exciting phase of their life.

If you have questions about introducing solids, please email me and I am happy to help you out! I am not an expert and my advice does not replace the expert advice of a pediatrician or midwife.

Read about breastfeeding basics.

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