At What Age Does A Baby Start Eating Baby Food?
Personally, my daughter didn’t really start until she was at least nine months old. Most will believe that she started a bit late. However, she was simply not ready until that point. Since every baby is different, I never judged my daughter for it. Don’t get me wrong, she was showing a lot of signs of interest in what we ate. However, when tried to grind it up and put it in her mouth, she simply resisted and spat it back out.
My daughter might be a special case and finally settled on solid foods late, but generally, you can actually start much earlier than that. You simply have to make sure that your baby has develop the right abilities first.
Babies Need To Develop Some Abilities To Be Able To Eat Solids
Over decades, there have been a lot of view changes for when babies should start eating solid food. However, recently it has been accepted that babies can begin eating solids around 4 to 6 months. You might be wondering why it’s four months, six months or somewhere in between. The reason is because that number is simply a guideline.
There is no real fixed standard as to when your baby should start solids. However, there is a big change to a baby’s behavior when she is at least four to six months old. Generally, during this time, a baby stops using her tongue to push food out of her mouth. This tongue motion is a natural reflex that the baby can not control. It takes time for her to grow out of it.
Another important change that happens at four to six months is that your baby gains the ability to actually swallow solid food. This might seem second nature to you, but it is a developmental process for babies to be able to move the food from the top of their tongue down their throat.
Even though a baby can start eating solids as early as four months old, it is still recommended for your baby to begin eating solids at six months old. In addition to the fact that your baby has gained the ability to swallow properly, she probably has developed good neck and torso strength at this point.
There are two reasons why neck-torso strength is important. First reason is because it decreases the chance of your baby aspirating the food, or in other words; choking. When your baby is sitting with the correct posture, the food goes down the esophagus (food pipe) better. If you, the parent have poor eating posture, you can try to eat with proper posture sometime to see what I mean. It really makes eating a better experience.
Second reason is because eating with proper posture drains less of your baby’s energy. Believe it or not, improper posture is actually very strenuous to the neck and jaw. If your little one feels fatigue every time she has a meal, she would be convinced that eating is a bad thing and refuse to eat and get fussy. You want to make sure that your child feels that eating is an enjoyable thing or else feeding your child can be a very frustrating and time consuming experience.
Of course, having a good eating posture is only possible after your child has developed the muscle tone for it. That usually happens around six months or older. Of course, every child is different, and your child can be earlier or later. If your baby can sit up straight unassisted, then that’s usually a pretty good sign. Just double check with your baby’s pediatrician to be sure.
What If Your Baby Rejects Solid Foods?
Even though your child can have the most perfect posture, if she doesn’t want to eat solid food, there is not much you can do about it. This is exactly what happened with my daughter. Your baby can be six months old or nine months old, this is a process that can not be rushed. The reason she rejects solid foods in the first place is because solid food tastes and feels different from milk.
For the first four to six months, you are supposed to mix breast milk (or formula milk) with pureed foods (one type of pureed food at a time) and try to spoon feed your baby. Don’t feed pureed foods with a bottle unless your pediatrician said it is alright.
This is not simply a strategy to get your baby used to the new tastes and texture of solid foods. Babies actually need the nutrients that exist in breast milk (or formula) for at least a year to develop their mind and body properly. There are even some claims out there that feeding breast milk (or formula milk) until your baby is one to two years old makes your baby smarter.
This is why even if your baby started liking solid foods, breast milk (or formula milk) is still important. However, outcomes are not always how we expect them. If your baby rejects the solid food/milk combo, then you can only wait it out and try again sometime. Double check with your pediatrician to make sure there are no other health issues that’s causing your baby to reject solid foods.
One thing you have to watch out for are food allergies. As I mentioned earlier, you should only introduce one type of food at a time. For example, let’s say you want your baby to try eating shrimp. Don’t mix puree peanuts and shrimp and introduce them to your baby together. Try one type of food per week. This helps avoid heavy allergic reactions if she is allergic to more than one type of food. This also helps you figure what she is allergic to without being confused by the variety of ingredients.
Another thing I have to point out about food allergies is that personally I have them too. I am actually slightly allergic to nuts in general, whether it is peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews or whatever nuts you can think of. However, since I was little I have been eating a lot of peanut butter and other kinds of nutty food products.
Throughout the years, the worst reaction my body had is that I cough very violently after eating nuts for a few seconds. I drink some water and I am good to go. Unlike a lot of people I know. If they eat something they are allergic to, they literally have to head over to the emergency room and take seven shots to calm down their body’s aggressive reactions.
Recently, there’s been research going on that feeding nuts to babies between four months and one year old up until they are six years old might possibly reduce chances of nut allergies in the future. Of course, this is all still being researched so check with your doctor to see if it’s alright to try. Maybe ask for some kind prescription medicine that can help your child in case of allergic emergencies.
What Foods Should You Start With?
The common starting point for many parents are rice cereals. There are genuine reasons for that, but that’s the old way of thinking. You can literally almost start with any kinds of solid foods. Of course, some foods have a lower chance of triggering allergic reactions compared to others, so it is still better to start with some specific foods.
This is why rice cereal is usually recommended because it has less chances of triggering an allergic reaction. However, nowadays, it is no longer as popular because not every baby actually likes eating rice cereal. My daughter certainly did not like it.
My daughter started with bananas, and she loved it. They super soft and there’s no chewing necessary. It was the perfect starting point. You can also tried pureed vegetables (cooked, not raw) if you want. It depends on what your baby is willing to eat. My daughter refused meat (never give raw meat to children) until she was about nine to ten months old. It all depends on your baby’s preferences.
No matter what foods you start with, you will have to combine with either formula milk of breast milk. Don’t let your child convert completely to solid foods too early, because it is not enough nutrition for them as I mentioned earlier.
Also, do not move on to cow’s milk too early (before one year old). You can be endangering your child’s health. Also make sure you feed only whole milk for children under twenty four months old. The reason for that is because whole milk has enough fat content to slow down the flow of the milk down the intestinal tract for digestion.
On the other hand, skim milk is too watery, and can cause unnecessary malnutrition problems and possibly bleeding diarrhea. This is the same reason why breastfeeding mother with over supply of breast milk can give their babies bloody diarrhea. If you want to learn more about that, you can check out my article about the the pink spot in the diaper.
Expect Your Baby To Not Finish
When introducing solid foods, your baby might not even eat more than one teaspoon of it. You might that it is waste of all your effort after you cooked up a whole pot for her. However, as I mentioned earlier, the taste and texture is pretty foreign to her, so you should expect a process for her to adapt to this change.
I hope this was pretty helpful. If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments section below.