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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

They Grow Up So Fast: Starting Solids

At approx. 6 months, most babies are ready to start trying solid food. Heck, if I'd only been eating one thing for that long, I'd be ready for more variety! ;) Lots of Moms typically start off with a little bit of rice or multi grain cereal mixed with either water, breast milk, or formula (or some combination). But once you get the ball rolling, it's nice to have some kind of idea how you'd like to try introducing everything else. Today's post will hopefully give you some useful information about how you can offer your baby new foods.

When to Start With Solids


As with pretty much everything these lil critters throw at us, there is no 'one way' that is right for everyone. So how do you know your bumpkin is ready to start solids? There are a few tell- tale signs:

- They watch you eat (ie they follow that fork from the plate to your mouth & back again)
- They can hold their head up 
- They've lost the tongue thrust reflex (ie they don't simply push the food out of their mouth)

On that last point, your baby may not like their first taste (or few) of solids, so they may push the food out of their mouth, but that doesn't mean they're not ready for solids. Keep trying; maybe mix up the cereal a little thicker or thinner or try something different (see the list of good first foods below).

Another tip: From 6- 9 months, nurse or bottle feed your baby first, followed by solids. From 9- 12 months- and as you wean- offer solids first, followed by nursing/ bottle. This helps ensure your baby is still getting the nutrients they need while you begin introducing a more varied diet. By 12 months, breast milk or formula alone are no longer sufficient enough to meet your baby's nutritional needs. (Also, this will hopefully help keep your milk production up; I had a hiccup with mine at 6 months, which made me have to run out and buy formula so Ari was still getting enough to eat. For tips on this, see the end of this post).

What Foods Are Good to Start With?

Since a baby's stomach has never digested anything other than breast milk or formula, it's recommended to start off with foods that are on the bland side. Options include:

- Cereal
- Banana
- Apple
- Pear
- Avocado
- Sweet potato/ yam
- Zuchinni
- Squash

For foods such as banana and avocado that are soft, you can simply mash them to a mushy consistency that your baby can 'gum' and swallow, or puree them. Foods such as apple, yam, etc that are hard can be boiled or steamed and then mashed or pureed (When I started Ari on solids, I tried to offer her mashed versions of foods, so she could get a sense of the texture and consistency of the food she was trying; if there were any lumps, they were small enough that she couldn't choke on them). Mixing the new food with breast milk or formula may help, since it's something your baby is already used to.

Some of my friends noticed that their babies had a preference for temperature in addition to flavour and texture. So keep all of this in mind; if your baby doesn't seem to like something, try a few variations. If it's still a no- go after a day or two, maybe try mixing it with another food they liked, or try something else for a few days before trying again.

Some recommend introducing one food at a time over several days so you can watch for reactions. I also know Moms who simply started feeding their babies mashed up samples of whatever they were eating. This falls into the category go with what you are comfortable with doing. If you have allergies in the family, it is probably better to introduce things one at a time to watch for reactions. It may also be wise to consult your doctor if you have concerns (ie if there are life- threatening allergies in the family).

How Much Food Should I Give My Baby?

Refer to the chart below for a rough guide of what and how much to feed your lil one at different ages.


Age
Liquids*
Solids*
Options
Consistency
6 months
540- 1030mL/ day
(18- 36 fl oz)
4-5 times per day
Served in a bottle or cup
30- 60 mL
(2- 4 tbsp)
2-3 times per day

·      Breast milk
·      Formula
·      Iron- fortified infant cereal
·      Cooked & pureed/ mashed veggies
·      Pureed/ mashed fruits
·      Pureed
·      Mashed
·      Semi- solid
7- 8 months
540- 1030mL/ day
(18- 36 fl oz)
4-5 times per day
Served in a bottle or cup
30- 60 mL
(2- 4 tbsp)
3- 4 times per day
·      Above, plus:
·      Cooked whole grain pasta

·      Above, plus:
·      Crunchy, but easy to dissolve
·      Ground or soft
·      Finely chopped
9- 12 months
540- 960 mL/ day
(18- 32 fl oz)
3- 4 times per day
Served in a bottle or cup
3 meals & 2 snacks
·      Above, plus:
·      3.25% cow’s milk (homogenized)
·      Yogurt
·      Cottage cheese
·      Pasta
·      Rice
·      Well/ hard cooked egg
·      Pancakes
·      French toast
·      Family dishes
·      Above, plus:
·      Bite- size pieces
·      More texture
·      Coarsely chopped
·      Finger foods
12 months +
500- 750 mL/ day
(16- 25 fl oz)
2- 3 times per day
Served in a cup
Same as above; larger portions
·      Above, plus:
·      Cubes of cheese
·      Whole grain crackers
·      Meat, fish, poultry
·      Scrambled eggs
·      Fresh fruit & veggies

·      Above, plus:
·      What the family is eating (bite size)
·      Variety of textures & foods
* Serving sizes are approximate; watch for cues that your baby is full
Table adapted from Enfamil’s Your Growing Baby: When and How Should I Introduce Solid Food to My Baby


I think one of the next questions you're going to ask is How do I know my baby is full? The answer is simple: watch for your baby's cues. This may include pushing food out of their mouth, refusing to open their mouth, turning their head, or a general lack of interest when food is offered (ie they start looking around the room, rather than focusing on the food being offered to them). As with every new phase, this can be frustrating because your baby will probably eat varied amounts at different meals/ snacks. Try and take a step back and think what could have affected your child's appetite: was there al lot of activity that may have lead to an increased appetite? Or was it a slow, relaxed day, without much stimulation? Are they sick? Teething? Just like their grown- up counterparts, babies will eat more or less depending on the kind of day they had.

Making Your Own Baby Food


Another choice you get to make is whether you would like to make your own baby food. As with everything, there are pros and cons to this. The two obvious pros are the cost savings and ability to control exactly what your baby eats (no added sugar, preservatives, etc). The cons are the added time and effort it takes to make, portion, and store the food, and perhaps the less convenience of having to pack it yourself, rather than simply grab a jar or pouch.

If you decide to give it a try, it can be as simple as preparing the food of choice (ie peeling, coring, and boiling apples), pureeing them, and freezing portions in ice cube trays. Once the batch is frozen, you can store the cubes in bags or containers in you freezer and thaw the next day's food in the fridge overnight. There are so many options and ways of doing this, that I'll save it for another post. However, there is plenty of info out there if you feel you'd like to do further research.

Help Maintain/ Increase Your Milk Production
At around 6 months (and sometimes sooner), it isn't uncommon for some women's milk production to decrease. If you're finding that your baby is clingy/ grumpy after they've nursed (ie they're still hungry) and/ or you notice your breasts don't feel full before you start a feed, there are several suggestions to help:
- Keep drinking lots of water, Mama!
- Try a nursing Mother's tea, which should have ingredients including fenugreek and blessed thistle
- Fenugreek capsules
- Try mixing a cup of warm milk with a tsp of turmeric
- Have 2 hard boiled eggs as part of your breakfast
- Domperidone, a prescription you can request from your doctor

When I noticed my milk supply seemed to be going down, I tried pumping after feeds (especially the afternoon and dinner feeds, since that's when my milk was at it's lowest) to keep my milk supply up. If you're unsure about how much you're producing, approx. half an hour before a feed, pump to see how much milk you get. This will give you a rough estimate of what your baby is getting, so you know if you need to supplement with formula and/ or try to increase your milk production. This can be stressful and tough; it really bothered me when I thought I might not be able to nurse Ari for as long as I wanted. It wasn't something that I thought would bother me, but it did. Knock on wood, with some hard work and perseverance I think I've been able to increase my milk supply. Some aren't able to, and if this is the case, try to make peace with it and move on. It can tug at your heartstrings (and your wallet, since breast milk is definitely more budget friendly), but be proud of what you were able to do. Just think back to the new born days and remind yourself how challenging nursing can be. As much as we think it's natural and simple, it isn't.

I hope you have found this post interesting and useful. Beginning solids is an exciting phase- with lots more mess!- and just another reminder of how fast these lil critters grow up! Please note, this post is based on my own experience and those of people I know. Please consult your doctor if you have serious concerns about your milk production and/ or if you think your child has had a serious reaction to a new food.



Image Sources: 
http://makingitlovely.com/2011/02/02/mix-spoon-set/
http://clueyblog.com/avocado-face-masks
http://honestfare.com/hungry-baby/