With my first child, I was really excited to start solids. So excited in fact that I even read a book about how I was going to do it. The big 6-month mark came. I threw some avocado on her tray — and nothing happened. She wasn’t coordinated enough to really do much with it. Spooning it to her resulted in her spitting it out. And that’s when I realized that introducing solids can be a little anticlimactic.
Yep, that’s my youngest “eating” asparagus. Hashtag proudparent hashtag greatrecovery hashtag babiesarethebest.
I’d read about baby-led weaning and it made a lot of sense, so I was pretty sure that that’s what I was going to do. But as we learn as parents, our plans go by the wayside when real life and baby personalities intervene and force us to change up how we do things. Turns out, my first two kiddos were barely interested in solids until closer to 9 or 10 months, so letting them play with food was mostly a game and their actual food intake came from anything they were spoon fed. I’ve learned a lot in the course of introducing solids to three kids, so here are just a few of those helpful tidbits I’ve learned along the way!
1. Watch their cues. Most babies are ready for solids anywhere from 4 to 6 months. Jenn’s baby was lunging toward her food at four months. Mine couldn’t have cared less until much, much later. Let your baby guide you!
2. Don’t tie yourself to any particular method. Don’t feel like a failure if you want to try baby-led weaning but can’t stick with it all the time. I’m doing a combination of giving our baby what we’re eating and up until she was about 10 months, giving her baby foods. Over time, she started eating more and more “table food” and less and less baby food as her fine motor skills and eating abilities improved. Now, at 11 months, she eats what we eat, albeit in smaller pieces and more slowly and messily.
3. Making your own baby food isn’t rocket science. Store-bought baby food is super convenient so I always had some on hand, but it’s also pretty easy to make at home. I have a Baby Bullet, but I didn’t even break it out until baby 3. I was missing out! It purees foods in seconds and you can adjust consistency as needed, and it came with handy containers for freezing. In her early solids days, I’d throw some chunky soup in so it’d be smoother for her to eat. Any blender will do the trick, though.
4. Prunes. When you’re introducing solids, babies’ poop changes for the worse. And when they’re not on an all-liquid diet, it’s extremely common for them to get stopped up. My pediatrician is all about constipation prevention because it’s so much easier than dealing with constipation once it’s set in, so she recommends daily doses of prunes and pears (and their diluted juices). I mix some prune or pear puree into baby oatmeal and voilà! Breakfast!
5. Bibs with pockets. Before I was a parent, nothing grossed me out more than the thought of bibs with pockets. But in reality, they are the best thing when you’re feeding a baby. Sure, the amount of grossness that gets caught is off the charts, but it’s a lot of junk that’s not on the floor or in their lap. Win!
6. Don’t get lazy with the bibs. Sometimes you’ll find yourself thinking, “Oh, this won’t be messy! We don’t need a bib!” When you have this thought, give yourself a wake-up slap to the face and track down a bib.
7. Expect a mess. And more frequent bathing. Because babies make a mess when eating (see No. 6). Whether it’s rubbing their hair with a fist full of crumbs or throwing a plate onto the floor because gravity is fun, your days of just dealing with spit-up messes are over.
8. Expect surprises. Babies are sneaky. You’ll think your kiddo is such a good eater! They ate everything! Until you lift up the tray and find their bib pocket full of food or their lap completely full of food pieces. Likewise, you’ll give a food you expect your baby to hate and they’ll eat it all (asparagus). You’ll give a food you think they’ll love, and they won’t touch it (mac & cheese). Babies are little mysteries.
9. Get used to the gag. Before they know what they’re doing in the eating department, babies gag. They’re often so excited about food that they forget that they have to do something to get it to go down. You’ll see a Cheerio just sitting at the back of their tongue and you’ll just wait for them to gag. The best trick? When you see that something is just sitting on their tongue, start imitating chewing. If I over-exaggerate what eating looks like, nine times out of 10 the kiddo will close his/her mouth and work the food around, preventing a gag.
10. Never leave them unattended. Choking is real.
11. Know what to do when they’re choking. Unlike gagging — which usually gets the food worked out of the mouth in either direction — choking is when the windpipe is actually blocked. I’ve had two of three kiddos choke at various times to the point where I’ve had to smack them on the back. It’s terrifying. Be sure your high chair tray can be easily and quickly removed to access the baby, and know what to do if it happens.
I’ve also come to realize that like most things with your third, you’re way more relaxed. I don’t stress nearly as much as to whether she’s eating enough or getting the proper portions of anything. We eat. She eats. The end.
Have any cool tricks or tips for other parents about to take that first foray into solids? —Erin