Starting solids is such an exciting time! It is really one of the first things your child is going to do independently. They need you for everything else, but feeding, that’s their first step in learning to do things on their own.
One of the most important parts of starting solids is making sure your child is physically ready to safely start. Exhibiting all the physical signs of readiness will ensure your child is prepared to safely begin self feeding.
Generally, most babies show all of the signs by about 6 months old. Some a few weeks sooner and some a few weeks later. Don’t feel the need to rush them! Formula or breastmilk will still be their main source of nutrition so make sure when you are starting solids, you are doing so safely by waiting until your child is ready.
For babies who are born prematurely, you will use their adjusted age for starting solids.
When first starting solids, you will start with “Stage 1” while letting your baby self feed. This stage is full of preloaded spoons and long, stick shaped soft foods for baby to explore.
During this stage, your baby will most likely drop lots of things, spit things out and occasionally gag. All of this is really normal!
The learning curve will self feeding is generally pretty quick so the more practice they get, the sooner they will master these self feeding skills and meals will slowly become less messy.
Both spitting things out and gagging are a part of the learning process too. Babies are just now learning the limitations of their mouth and how to use their tongue to manipulate food around. The don’t gag or spit things out because they “don’t like it” – usually it is more because they took a bite too big or are still learning to manage that texture.
During Stage 1, which is generally just the first 4 weeks of self feeding, it is okay to let your baby start with just one solid meal per day. This helps ease them into it and also helps prevent constipation when first starting solids.
To incorporate self feeding into your schedule, your day could look something like this:
Of course, you can change up the times to best fit your schedule but this can help your set the cadence of your day.
When creating meals for your baby, what goes on the plate is really important to ensure that they are exposed to a variety of foods and learn to like enough to meet their needs in a few months when solids will become their main source of nutrition.
Building a balanced plate for your baby and then following their cues for if they are still hungry or full will ensure they begin to develop a healthy relationship with food, helps to keep meals positive experiences, and also ensures they get enough to feel full.
Every meal will look different. Sometimes they will eat a ton while other meals maybe only a bite or two. This is also normal! Read more about Responsive Feeding here.
Starting solids is so fun but don’t feel the need to rush them and go into it without expectations! Some foods will instantly be a hit while others might take time. Keep your focus on making mealtimes a positive experience and enjoying your food too to model the behaviors you want your child to follow.