Our Mommy MD Guides’ reply: With my older son, I followed the standard way of introducing foods. I made all of my own food, even cereal, from scratch!
But with my younger son, I’ve tried something different: Baby-led weaning. This eliminates all of the work of baby food. One key to this is understanding that when babies are learning to eat solid food, they are still getting most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. Rather than starting solids on the clock at four months, you wait until the baby reaches the development milestones of being able to sit unassisted which is usually about six months. Then instead of starting with pureed food, you start with soft finger foods. It’s awesome!
My son’s first week, he got almost no food into his mouth, but then he started to learn how to feed himself. I gave him cut up avocado and bananas. Because the baby is sitting up well, he’s not likely to choke, and if he picks up a piece that’s too big, he’s likely to spit it out.
My baby was cheerfully eating quesadillas when he was 6 ½ months old, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, anything he could pick up off of his high chair tray. This past Thanksgiving was a joy; we put turkey and stuffing on his tray, and he ate it.
Baby-led weaning requires no extra prep work. I simply give my son small pieces of what we eat. We can go anywhere and give him anything. It was funny, we recently went to lunch with my aunt, and she said, “That’s what we used to do!” Somehow we’ve created this whole baby food industry, which dictates you have to introduce foods in these regimented steps. Baby-led weaning is much easier. And it’s fun.
—Rebecca Reamy, MD, a mother of six- and one-year-old sons and a pediatrician in emergency medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: With both of my kids, I practiced exclusive breastfeeding for the first four months, and then I introduced them to rice cereal and fruits like peaches, mashed banana. I know conventional wisdom says start with vegetables. But let’s say I chickened out. I watched a lot of green peas go to waste. Fruits are sweet, and I found my babies developed their sweet teeth early and responded well to the fruits.
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I started to feed my daughter vegetables and meat when she was five months old. I always used a food grinder, out of concern for the MSG and preservatives they add to prepared baby foods. So my daughter always had the same thing the adults ate for dinner. I had to grind her vegetables up with soft cheese or she wouldn’t touch them.
—Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, MD, a mom of one 30-year-old daughter and a child and adolescent psychiatrist in New Plymouth, New Zealand
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: When my sons were four months, we started them on rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. It was all over the place at first; they were smeared with it.
Then when they were six months, I introduced baby foods. I started with orange and yellow vegetables first, and then I went through green vegetable, then fruits. I gave them one new food every five days to watch for allergic reactions. It went very well. My sons might not have been good sleepers, but they were good eaters!
—Jill Wireman, MD, is a mom of 14- and 11-year-old sons and a pediatrician in private practice at Johnson City Pediatrics in Johnson City, TN
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I think that many parents transition to solid foods before their babies are physically ready. We get a lot of pressure from other parents, including our parents, to do so.
I waited to introduce solid foods until my daughter could sit up without support in her high chair, open her mouth in anticipation of the food, close her lips around the spoon, and not thrust her tongue out at the food (a reflex that most babies lose around 4-6 months.) My husband and I started pulling our daughter in her high chair up to our table when she was around four months old. We often fed her while we ate. When our daughter was around five months old, we gave her some rice cereal. She was ready for it, and it was a very positive experience.
I had thought that I’d be one of those moms grinding up organic food, but I couldn’t get my act together. So I bought organic baby food instead.
Sometimes I did blend up our own food for my daughter, such as squash or sweet potato. By nine months she was eating most of our table food. I just mashed or cut it up so that it was safe for her to chew and swallow.
When my daughter was starting to eat table food, I introduced new foods by putting a blob on her lip to taste. I gave her a minute to taste the food before popping a spoonful into her mouth. Most important, I remained calm, pleasant, and reassuring throughout the meal.
I’ve found sneaking and tricks aren’t the way to go. That can backfire with kids. If you’re being sneaky about it, I think you need to step back and look at the big picture. We enjoy a variety of wonderful foods, including vegetables. I think that eating meals together and modeling the enjoyment—without pressure—is the key.