As your little one grows, so does their appetite for exploring new flavors and textures. Introducing solid foods is a significant milestone in your baby's development, and practicing responsive feeding is key to ensuring a positive and healthy start. In this quick guide, we'll share the must-knows for parents embarking on this exciting journey.
When to Start Solids
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods around six months of age when your baby shows signs of readiness. Look for cues such as:
Sits upright (head and trunk are controlled, but a little support at the hips is okay if needed)
Shows interest in food
Has some hand control, can reach for and bring toys or food to their mouth
Understanding Responsive Feeding
Responsive feeding is an approach that emphasizes tuning into your baby's hunger and fullness cues, allowing them to take the lead in the feeding process. This method promotes a healthy relationship with food from the very beginning, fostering self-regulation and body autonomy. To do this successfully, it's important to learn how your baby communicates hunger and fullness cues.
Some common ways babies might demonstrate hunger include:
Leans toward food
Puts hand or food to mouth
Shows excitement when food is nearby
Uses specific sounds, signs, or words to ask for a food
Some common ways babies might demonstrate fullness include:
Pushes food away
Spits food out
Plays with or throws food
Loses interest/is distracted
It can be hard for some parents to let baby stay in control of the feeding process. Once we start to interfere by pushing baby to eat more, restricting foods if we perceive they've had too much, or encouraging baby to eat certain foods over others, the feeding relationship can become strained and baby may lose interest in learning to eat altogether.
Choosing the Right First Foods
Opt for nutrient-rich, age-appropriate foods to support your baby's growth and development. While many parents tend to start with fruits and vegetables as baby's first foods, you may be surprised to know those aren't our top picks at this stage!
Prioritize iron-rich foods first as baby's iron stores are depleted by about 6 months of age and they need this critical nutrient through food. Examples of iron-rich foods are: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and oatmeal. It's also helpful to focus on calorie-rich foods like those high in fat as baby needs lots of fat (and overall calories) for their growing brain and body. Some examples of high-calorie foods are: avocado, sweet potato, and whole milk yogurt.
Lastly, go ahead and serve those fruits and veggies as we know they are critical for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. This is a great time to expose baby to a wide variety of nourishing foods as they may become less willing to try new foods as they reach the toddler years.
Encouraging Self-Feeding with Baby-Led Weaning
Baby-led weaning is an approach that encourages babies to self-feed from the start. While many parents perceive baby-led weaning as offering table foods instead of purees, the philosophy is actually much less about what foods are being served and more about how we are serving them. As long as you are allowing baby to self-feed, you're practicing baby-led weaning. You can choose to offer age-appropriate finger foods in a safe environment and let your little one explore textures and tastes at their own pace. Alternatively, you can start with purees if you feel more comfortable doing so. Simply pre-load the spoon for baby and then let baby reach for and bring the spoon to their own mouth. It's also a great idea to let baby get a little (or a lot) messy by diving in with their hands!
Establishing a Routine
Create a consistent feeding schedule that aligns with your baby's natural rhythm. While routines provide a sense of predictability, remain flexible and responsive to your baby's needs, adjusting meal times as necessary.
Responsive feeding is a cornerstone in the successful introduction of solids to your baby's diet. By staying attuned to their cues, offering a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and embracing self-feeding, you set the stage for a positive and healthy relationship with food that will benefit your child for years to come. As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that every baby is unique, and responsive feeding allows you to tailor the experience to your little one's individual needs.
For more detailed guidance on starting solids, consider our toolkit that's packed with helpful information including red flags to look for, how to introduce allergens, our top starter foods, and more!
Or book a one-on-one session if you'd like more individualized guidance. You can schedule a free discovery call to learn more right here.