First Foods: how to start offering solids

by Katja Leccisi, MS, RDN
, Breastfeeding Today, October 2016

The second part in our Starting Solids series. This series explores the many aspects of feeding your baby, from tasting first foods through the first year.

Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
Part two: How to offer first foods to your baby

In part one we discussed how to know when your baby is ready to start solid foods. So now you are ready with a high chair and cute little baby dishes at the ready. The advice is flying in from all camps: “Let him feed himself” or “Start with puréed foods” are just two of the potentially conflicting pieces of advice you may hear.

Starting foods is a big step, the first in the weaning process. Recommendations have changed over the years, and I find that sometimes parents are not sure what the latest news is. In this second part of the Starting Solids series, I will give you the most up-to-date information to the questions parents most often ask me about how to start feeding their baby.

Q: What is the best way to introduce foods to my baby?

A: There is no single correct way.

The form of the first foods you offer to your baby—purées or pieces—will depend very much on his stage of development and your personal preferences. Some parents like to begin by offering their baby purées first (before progressing to textured foods and pieces): a necessary approach if your baby is younger than six months old and is not yet showing all the signs of readiness to eat. For babies who are ready to eat solids, you can offer more textured foods and larger pieces of foods right away so that your baby can feed himself.

Q: What does it mean to be a responsive feeder?

A: Listening and responding to your baby’s cues.

Responsive feeding means listening to the early cues your baby gives you to communicate that he’s hungry or has had enough to eat. As a breastfeeding mother, you’ve probably been doing this since birth. You simply want to continue being attentive as your baby starts to eat complementary foods. Responsive feeding means that you are present with your baby when you offer food, in a safe and comfortable environment, making eye contact and giving positive verbal encouragement, but not pressuring him to eat. Being a responsive feeder allows your baby to exercise his innate ability to self-regulate the amount he eats, that is, to eat as much as his body needs to grow and thrive.

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