Sleepless parents rejoice! Your baby is now four–six months (depending on who you speak with…) and has been given the OK to start solids! This means to most parents better sleep for you and baby (or does it… personally, the gloves are off when your child starts teething)! But this article isn’t about sleep, it’s about getting ready to expand baby’s pallet! And what an excitingly messy adventure it is!
Let’s start with the tools of the trade:
Believe it or not, this isn’t as easy as picking any high chair from your local baby store. You’ll need to consider several things when choosing a chair for your child:
Space– Do you have a lot of room in your dining area? If you need a space saver, there are plenty that fold up practically flat!
Style– Are you a traditionalist? Modern? Have a need to match everything with your other baby gear?
Padding or no Padding– Have I mentioned that feeding time is messy? Imagine having to clean fabric every day. Yep. Just another thing to launder!
Travel– How portable is your high chair?
Convertible– Do you like one that can have a variety of uses?
We use the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat. Since we travel out of town or are out to dinner a lot, it’s a great portable chair and it’s so easy to wipe down!
Bowls– You actually don’t need a bowl until they’re much older, other than for warming up portions of food or spooning out a smaller serving. But, there are many cute bowls out there!
Spoons– I tried to take the lazy route and used a Nuby Travel Feeder (which is like a Boon Squirt spoon, but better because it’s see-thru), except I kid you not, my child REFUSED to eat from it. He also didn’t like the texture of the Hot/Cold spoons and we have now ended up using these cheap ‘take and throw away’ spoons. Believe me, I thought there was something wrong with him because it took us trying from month 5-7.5 before he ate willingly from a spoon. I thought I was clever one day and used the Nuby feeder again, except he refused to eat from it unless I spooned it out onto his cheap spoon. Lesson learned: keep a variety of spoons handy.
Bottle or Sippy– Feel free to use a bottle with water/breastmilk/formula/juice to “wash” down their food in the beginning. And when you’re ready, check out our Sippy Cup Battle to see what we recommend for sippies (by the way, Dr. Brown’s Sippy is all that and a bag of chips. I went through 3 sippies before going out and getting one. Kid took to it right away, go figure!).
Bibs– I highly recommend putting away your cloth bibs when feeding solids and getting a waterproof one. Not all waterproof bibs are made equal though! I prefer the ones that are thin and sturdy (like Bumkin’s bibs), but the ones from Dex Baby are really cool too (especially with the easy to snap off “catch all” pocket!).
Rice cereal/oatmeal (made especially for babies)– A baby’s first recommended food! Mix this with breastmilk or formula (follow the directions on the package or your pediatrician’s recommendations). Some people use this to thicken up other pureed foods, but it’s a personal preference.
Make your own– It’s easy to make your own food, whether you use a dedicated baby food maker or you use good ol’ pots, pans and a food processor (a fellow mommy told me her Magic Bullet was her go-to item for making food). The great part about making your own food is that you can make several portions ahead of time and then store it in the freezer for later use, not to mention the wider variety of food and flavor combinations you can create! Remember; keep your salt and spices in your cupboard!
Jarred food– There are plenty of jarred food choices out there, even organic!
Snacks– A favorite in our house are Mum Mums and Puffs! These “melt” in a baby’s mouth and are great for practicing chewing and that pincer grasp! Plus, they’re great for distracting a bored baby (say at a doctor’s waiting room perhaps?)!
Messy Mat– If you have a little one that’s fond of throwing food everywhere (or, some parents do resort to stripping their kid down to the diaper and feeding them on the mat), a messy mat can save you some time (and keep at least part of your floor clean).
Washcloth– For wiping down your little ones sticky hands and mouths!
Mesh feeder– To encourage self feeding and to prevent baby from swallowing large chunks by accident (and possibly choke), a mesh feeder is a great way to get your little one in on the feeding action.
First time feeders– Start with rice cereal or oatmeal mixed with breastmilk or formula. The idea is NOT to replace a feeding when starting out, but rather get your child used to eating from a spoon, going through the motions of having something textured in their mouths and moving the food from the front of their mouth to the back. Rather than dumping the food onto the tongue, try letting your child play with the spoon for a bit to get used to something other than a bottle nipple/mommy’s breast in their mouth. Then, when you feed them a little bit of the mixture, scrape the food on the roof of the baby’s mouth.
Moving on to purees– Introduce a new food once every three days to make sure your child does not have an allergic reaction.
Baby doesn’t like solids and screams/cries– That’s ok! As I mentioned before, it took me 2 ½ months before he was excited about solids and WILLINGLY opened his mouth for food. Stop once you see your child getting frustrated about having to sit in his chair (as you don’t want to turn the experience of eating solids into a bad one). If this means that sometimes you have to distract baby with Daddy in the background dancing a jig before baby opens their mouth and you sneak-attack a dollop of food in, so be it! And for others, it may mean that your kid isn’t interested in purees. A friend of mine had many woes about her child disliking purees, but loved to “self-feed” and it never occurred to her that maybe her child preferred eating that way until I pointed it out. As with everything else, do what works and remember, for the first year of their lives, breastmilk/formula is their main source for nutrients.
Balancing breastmilk/formula vs. meals– Check with your pediatrician on how much breastmilk/formula they recommend your child takes once you start on solids. Finding a balance of providing three meals a day plus giving breastmilk/formula is a little daunting at first! What I did was take my pediatrician’s recommendation, split that recommended amount into the equivalent of 4 bottle feedings and then inserted the solid feedings in between those. It worked the same way when I was breastfeeding. When first feeding purees, you can start with a partial amount and then top your child off with breastmilk/formula and then gradually increase the amount of puree while decreasing the breastmilk/formula and then moving to water/juice to accompany the meal.
Moving on to non-pureed foods– As your child gets older and starts to “chew” on their food, you may consider giving them small chunks of table food (i.e. bread, fruit, soft veggies, etc.). The guideline for table food is to make them about the size of a pea or smaller (which is about as wide as their throat is) and then gradually increase the size as their chewing gets better.
It’s messy!– I did warn you, didn’t I? My child’s favorite thing to do is to stick his little fingers in his mouth after every bite and then rub his face. When the washcloth fails, head to the sink for a little rinse!
Happy feeding folks!
-Contributed by Ann