Is it time to move your baby to solid food?
Scientists recommend shifting your baby over to solid food around 6 months. But as with most things baby, there’s nothing exact about it. Parents often make simple mistakes when they overthink it.
That’s why we’ve put together these 7 common mistakes parents make when starting solids.
Starting Too Early
Nobody wants to delay their infant’s development, but some parents end up jumping the gun for fear of it.
Before 6 months, your baby’s digestive and immune system isn’t prepared for the onslaught of solid foods. Digestion is hard work on the body, as the laundry list of potential dietary problems in adults goes to show. Imagine how much more difficult it is for an undeveloped system.
Parents often interpret a few common behaviors as signs your baby is ready for weaning. These include their little one chewing their fists and a return to waking up during the night. But these aren’t always the best indicators that your baby is ready for solid food.
Instead, aim to begin solid food around the 6-month mark. That’s when most doctors recommend that a baby is ready to digest more complicated foods.
Starting Too Late
Holding off too long presents a different set of problems and is another common mistake.
Postponing the transition to solid foods can lead to eating problems later in life. It may contribute to pickiness, which will make it harder to ensure your baby is getting the nutrients they need.
There’s also a risk that delaying solid foods will impact your baby’s growth. After 6 months, your baby’s requirements will begin to eclipse the nutrition offered by non-solid foods. Breastfeeding remains helpful, though, and doctor’s recommend breastfeeding in conjunction with solid foods even after 6 months.
Too Much, Too Soon
Our bodies become conditioned to repeated activity, and the same is true of your baby’s digestion. Solid foods present a shock to a system that’s only ever dealt with liquids.
Don’t try to go solid all at once. If you’re wondering how to introduce solids, start gradually with purees made from a single ingredient. This will give your little one time to adapt to this completely new way of eating and digesting.
As your baby develops fine motor skills and increased curiosity about food, you can start to move to more challenging foods. The key is to keep it gradual so your baby can adapt.
You can also gradually expand the flavor profile of solid foods as your baby gets used to them. This can help them develop a taste early on for a wide variety of foods, which will make mealtimes go a little smoother for everyone as your baby gets older.
Panicking About Reflux
The sight of your baby coughing up their food can obviously cause distress. But in most cases, this is largely harmless.
A baby’s muscles are still weak, and it’s no different for their internal muscles. The valve that connects the stomach and esophagus hasn’t reached its full strength in young babies, which can cause difficulty keeping food where it belongs.
Unless your baby is bringing up excessive amounts of food or is choking when they eat, there’s not much cause to worry. This problem will go away with time. You can ease the symptoms by helping your baby get rid of excess gas.
Getting the Balance Wrong
Like adults, babies need a balanced diet of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and strong. This is a key point of your baby’s life, so providing them with the right nutrients is vital to their development.
A well-rounded diet should be enough to stave off most nutritional concerns. Babies are at particular risk of lacking fat and iron in their diet, so pay particular attention in these areas. After 6 months, a baby’s iron stores begin to drop off significantly, so iron-fortified foods can help ease them into a grown-up diet.
A lack of nutrition could stunt your baby’s development, leading to slower growth and even delaying the acquisition of skills.
Letting the Sugars Sneak In
Let’s face it, most adults do a terrible job of monitoring their own sugar intake. Trying to get it right for a baby is even tougher.
A baby’s digestive system isn’t fully developed. Their stomachs fill up quickly, so it’s easy to upset their nutritional balance with the wrong foods.
Sugary treats are incredible calorie-dense, so they’ll fill baby up and make it harder to feed them later. That means they’ll miss out on vital nutrients.
And this doesn’t just go for sugary treats. Don’t forget that sugar hides in the most innocuous places, like “healthy” fruit juices. Too much sugar this early will only contribute to bad feeding habits, obesity, and tooth decay.
Spoon-Feeding Too Long
There’s been a lot of talk about one study which found a potential link between obesity and prolonged spoon-feeding. The link isn’t conclusive, but scientists recommend allowing your baby to feed themselves as soon as they can handle it.
Babies learn a lot from engaging with their food. It’s important for parents to let the baby naturally take charge of their own feeding habits and lean into that natural curiosity. This will help them develop an open attitude to new foods, which can be one of the major challenges facing parents even as in older children.
Babies usually become ready to feed themselves around 8 or 9 months. A gradual introduction is useful here, too. Be ready to help your baby figure out how to do it, but also learn to read their cues to see when they’re feeling full.
Starting Solids the Right Way
Starting solids can be a confusing time for parent and child alike. But a little knowledge and some patience can ease many of the common problems. Keep these pitfalls in mind, and you’ll help your baby develop into a happy and healthy young person.
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