Solids Simplified: A Short Guide to Baby’s First Meals

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for baby’s first six months, it is common practice to start giving solid food anywhere between four and six months. With Luke we started at about five months when he showed signs that he was ready. With Eli, we started at four months because he was so big and he seemed to always be hungry. I was hoping it would help him sleep better, but as with Luke, it didn’t improve his sleep.

Although my hopes of sleeping longer stretches at night were not met, we’re having fun trying new foods. Yet as cute as it is to see baby’s mouth excitedly open up like a little bird when the spoon comes his way, it’s also a little confusing to know how to get started. Introducing solids is a bit of an undertaking and an evolution of your daily routine when you’re used to relying on nursing or formula alone. Plus there are a lot of schools of thought on what to introduce first, as well as tactics like baby-led weaning in which you skip purées all together.

Here are the necessities we used to get started, our approach to amount and frequency, and a few other things we’ve learned as we began our food journey.

The Necessities:

High chair – We use one similar to this Graco 4-in-1, which I’m really happy with because there’s a separate booster seat for Luke while Eli uses the main high chair. This one is on wheels, which is really convenient when we want to eat dinner outside or in front of the TV (only for important football games, of course!) For Eli’s first meals, I sat him on my lap and sort of cradled him in my knee so he was at a bit of an incline. He wasn’t a great sitter at 4 months and this helped the food stay in his mouth.

Bibs, bowls and spoons – I’m not especially partial to any specific types or brands of bibs, bowls and spoons. I do prefer cloth bibs rather than plastic so I can easily wipe baby’s face after meals, and spoons should be of the longer variety so they can be easily guided to baby’s mouth.

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Food!

Rice cereal is traditionally baby’s first food. However I try to buy organic for the boys and I didn’t see organic rice cereal at Pubix so I bought Earth’s Best oatmeal cereal instead. For Luke and Eli’s first meal, I simply mixed the cereal with some pumped breast milk. The consistency was extremely runny at first and I gradually added more cereal to make it thicker. I did this for a few days and then in Eli’s case, I realized he was starting to really struggle with his number twos. The problem with only feeding a baby cereal is that there is little-to-no fiber in it and it is iron fortified, which is a recipe for constipation, especially among breastfed babies who are accustomed to the easy-to-digest nature of breast milk. When I realized that it was having this effect on Eli, I started to lay off the cereal and introduce more fruit and veggie purées. I also switched to Happy Baby brand cereal with probiotics, but I haven’t noticed much of an improvement since we made the switch.

Fruit and Veggie Purées – We started with the traditional first foods: pears, bananas, avocados, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, prunes. I’ve been feeding Eli a lot of prunes and pears to help with his poops (P-fruits supposedly work best). I typically buy the Earth’s Best jars, and when they are buy-one-get-one free at Publix I really stock up! I use my Baby Bullet blender primarily for bananas and avocado since you don’t have to cook them prior to blending them. It’s really easy to just throw in the fruit with a little water and have fresh food. A nice perk of owning a Baby Bullet is that it has jars along with a freezer container so you can make a batch and save some for future eating.

Snacks – Teething wafers are about the only snacks available for non-crawling babies. At 5.5 months Eli is starting to get the hang of holding and chewing on them. We buy the Happy Baby brand or Baby Mum Mums. There are many more snack options available once baby reaches the crawling stage.

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How Often:

We started with one meal a day around dinner time and have just recently added a mid-morning meal. Eli seems to already be accustomed to getting his solids because I’ve skipped a meal now and then and he has been fussier. I’m a little worried about how it will affect my milk supply, so I don’t think I’ll introduce another meal for another couple months.

When:

Common advice is to feed your baby shortly after giving a bottle or nursing so the baby gets the majority of his or her nutrients from milk or formula. I tend to feed about an hour after nursing around 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

How Much:

Sometimes I’m amazed at how much Eli will put down. My understanding is that you’re supposed to offer food until they start to turn away from it, and as a result, Eli will easily go through 1-2 jars a night plus 2 tablespoons of cereal. I’ve been mixing cereal with a fruit or veggie and adding a little water so it’s not too thick. I am not really sure how that compares with what other babies eat, so I’m curious what others his age are eating (please feel free to leave a comment!).

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Overall we’re enjoying our ritual of trying new foods. I’m a little disappointed with the constipation that has resulted, and I’m hoping that as Eli’s digestive tract matures, he’ll be able to handle it all better. That’s probably one of the reasons you aren’t suppose to introduce solids until 6 months…oops.

What are your experiences with introducing solids? Please share some tips and tricks!

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