April's #NewMoms group conversation: Introducing Solids

The second Saturday of the month is my support group for new moms and babies. Each session starts out with introductions and then goes in our main topic. We leave about 30 minutes for Q&A, then close. With some of regular attendees getting closer to the six month marker, our topic this month was "introducing solids". We talked signs of readiness, dangers of early introduction, purees vs. baby-led weaning and how to tell if baby appears to be sensitive to a certain food. Here's the gist of last Saturday's conversation-

I like to start by asking, "what have you heard?" about whatever our topic is, or a similar question. Moms in last Saturday's group relayed what they had heard from outside sources like their mom or pediatrician's about introducing solids. Some of which was "start with cereal" and "the earlier the better". These answers provided a perfect lead-in to a conversation around signs of readiness. 

Science, evidence-based information, when it comes to information for pregnant women and new moms is very important to me. Anecdotal evidence serves its purpose but when you're seeking real knowledge and not someone's opinion or experience, evidence-based information feels like the only real option in my mind. For the topic of introducing solids, I relied on my breastfeeding bible book (the best book on breastfeeding and beyond that I have found yet) _Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers">Breastfeeding Made Simple_by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Nancy Mohrbacher. This dynamic duo recommends the following four signs of readiness before introducing solids:

  • Baby can grasp food in hand;
  • Baby is interested in food;
  • Baby has lost tongue thrust reflex;
  • Baby can sit on her own.

Some of these just make sense, right? Giving baby food when he can't sit upright can be a choking hazard. These signs of readiness generally show up around six months. But if they aren't there, don't panic. Tongue thrust is usually gone by four months and baby is usually pretty interested in foods around five months but sitting independently and holding food are trickier. They will come in time. And, yes, do wait for all four signs of readiness. Introducing solids too early can lead to allergies, ear infections and digestive issues. Baby's system is NOT ready for solids earlier than around six months, when each of the previous signs of readiness are apparent.

Once you're ready to go, you just need to decide purees or baby-led weaning. Purees are what you think they are: pureed foods given to baby, just like your parents fed you. BLW is a bit different. The Baby Led Weaning book is a terrific resource. I also wrote a bit here about my early experiences with BLW when I first tackled it with my daughter but some basics are:

Give baby a large enough chunk of food, not tiny bites. Baby will work on as much as they want and leave it when they're done. The result is baby dictates when they have had enough instead of dad or mom trying to guess how many spoonfuls are enough.

  • Baby learns to chew, even without teeth!
  • BLW believes that early introduction can help eliminate chance of allergies or food sensitivities. There is little evidence to support this but I can say from an anecdotal perspective, I've found this true for my daughter and other babies I know.

  • No special meals, no special equipment or longer prep times.
  • Anything goes...except honey. Just make sure it is size-appropriate.
  • It'll be messy! Pro tip: I use Shout on every.single.piece of clothing that my daughter stains. It works 9 out of 10 times.

Another key point: try and introduce one food at a time, especially early on. If there are reactions like a red bottom (kind of like diaper rash), redness near the mouth other concerning evidence, you will be in a better position to deduce what food might have caused the reaction. And of course always call your trusted pediatrician if you see something that worries you.

Big takeaways from Saturday-

  • Solids are just fun for the first year. Think of them as another activity for you and baby to engage in. Your milk or formula is ALL THEY NEED for the first year.
  • You're the expert. Do your own homework when it comes to what is best for your baby. 
  • Cereal for babies is like cereal for us: filler and yummy tasting. It adds no nutritional value for a baby nor does it teach them how to chew.
  • Solids DO NOT help baby sleep better. This is a myth.

I hope this summary is helpful for a new mom who may be interested in attending and as a refresher for those who did attend. Our May (5/10) topic is: summer!

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