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Dos and Don'ts for Introducing Solids

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Parenting is full of milestones. Transitioning to solid food is just one of them. You want it to be a fun, positive experience for you and baby. Remember, you’re helping your child set up a lifelong relationship with food.

This responsibility can weigh heavily on you, but really – just follow your baby’s cues and you’ll do fine. Also, keep in mind important Do’s and Don’t’s as you start to introduce solid foods.

Do make sure your baby is ready.
Check with your pediatrician before you start any solid foods. Your baby needs to have good head and neck control as well as control over his ability to swallow.

Don’t rush the process.
Your baby has a lifetime to enjoy all sorts of delicious foods. Most pediatricians suggest not introducing solids before your baby is 4 months old. Even this might be too early. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby is getting ample nutrition. Janelle Cashmore, RN, BSN notes that “the current recommendation set by both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics is that babies be exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age.” Breastfeeding can continue up to 24 months, along with the introduction of age-approriate foods.

Do start with the simplest of foods.
Single-grain infant cereal, such as rice or oatmeal, mixed with breast milk or formula is usually the best place to start. Keep him on that for a week or two to make sure it’s tolerated well. You may then start to add in easily-digested fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potato, carrots, avocado and peas. Feed these foods as a thin puree, and increase the thickness gradually over a few weeks to match your baby’s swallowing proficiency.

Don’t add too many foods all at once.
Give your baby a new taste every few days. This way you can watch for reactions or sensitivities and know which foods were likely responsible. Do keep breastmilk or formula as primary in your baby’s diet. It’s usually easily digested and provides important antibodies and nutrients, notes Cashmore.

Do choose the right time of day for feedings.
Traditional meal times might work, and they might not. Consider how you and baby are feeling. If he’s cranky or tired, a solid-food feeding attempt may go very wrong. Opt for when baby’s just awoke from a nap or is feeling playful and adventurous. Likewise, make sure you have the time to sit for a while as your baby explores the process of eating solid food. Relax and take your time in an unhurried atmosphere. Make it fun and interactive.

Don’t force your baby to eat solids.
If your baby refuses a food, don’t get frustrated. He may not be hungry, he may not like the taste, or he may just not be ready. Forcing foods only creates negative associations with meal time, and this can influence his eating habits for a lifetime.

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef and a Certified Nutrition Therapist. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University. She’s the proud mom of two kids, who love dance, rock climbing and animals.

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