Introducing Solids: Traditional Methods and Alternatives

Introducing Solid Foods, Part 2gerber

The “traditional” method of introducing solid foods has been around for decades: spoon feeding single-ingredient, pureed “baby foods” and gradually increasing variety and texture as baby becomes older.
As we discussed in part one, the “Traditional” method of introducing foods to infants in the US is actually unsupported and increasingly contradicted by research, and may be gradually falling out of favor. Even so, most pediatricians and baby books still recommend a slow and careful introduction of spoon-feeding specific pureed foods and avoiding others.

The “Feed Baby Almost Anything” Method
Several alternatives to the “traditional” method exist. One option is to continue to offer pureed or modified table foods but introduce a much wider variety of food types and flavors (including egg, fish, wheat and combination foods) sooner. Earlier exposure to these foods, rather than avoiding them, may actually help reduce the risk of allergy and celiac disease. Dairy foods and protein foods (pureed meat) are also offered much earlier than in the traditional method. Check with your pediatrician for specific advice.

Baby-Led Weaning (or, Baby Self-Feeding)
Another option rising in popularity is called “Baby-Led Weaning”. I’d prefer to call it “Baby Self-Feeding” because here in the US, “weaning” commonly refers to the reduction or stopping of breastfeeding. In Europe, where Baby-Led Weaning first became popular, “weaning” refers to the introduction of solid foods. This method is all about allowing a baby to explore food on her own terms and gradually learn to chew and swallow. Spoon-feeding purees are not used, and the saying “Food Before One is Just for Fun” narrates the attitude that the amount of food the baby eats may be minimal, and that’s ok. We’ll talk more about “finger foods” vs Baby-Led Weaning/Baby-Self Feeding in Part 3.

Traditional Method of Introducing Purees:
If using this method, it is common to first introduce a cereal, then an orange vegetable, a green vegetable, and then a fruit. Then, simply alternate remaining single-ingredient fruits and vegetables one by one, adding one new food every few days until all of the following have been introduced. This should take several weeks or a month. Remember, there’s no rush or reason to push. These foods aren’t particularly nutritious, are less caloric than your baby’s milk, and won’t help your baby sleep longer: in fact, feeding too close to bedtime can cause gas and digestive upset.

Cereals, Iron-Fortified: Oatmeal, barley cereal, brown rice cereal, mixed with breastmilk, formula (if already introduced) or water.
Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, peas, green beans, beets.
Fruits: Applesauce, peaches, pears, apricots, plums/prunes, bananas, avocado.

Continue to offer cereal at each meal, along with the fruit and/or vegetable. Cereal is the bulk and the main calorie source of the “meal”. The vegetables and fruits are fairly low in calorie and high in water. Peas, bananas, avocado, sweet potato are about twice as caloric than green beans, carrots, winter squash, applesauce, peaches, pears.

Remember that your baby’s milk source is still their primary source of nutrition and is a complete food, and in fact is more caloric and nutritious than these “solid foods” you’re offering. 4 ounces of breastmilk contains about 100 calories and the perfect mix of fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals for your baby to grow. 4 ounces of applesauce or pureed carrots contains less than half the calories of breastmilk or formula, and only trace nutrients.

Try to avoid any tension or struggling over feedings and do not push to finish the portion or play the “just one more bite” game. You have far too many years of feeding your child ahead of you to create struggles over food!

Dairy foods are traditionally offered starting around 7 months (unless there are special concerns about cow’s milk protein sensitivity – check with your pediatrician). Start with whole-milk (full fat) plain yogurts. You may feed it plain or stir in some pureed fruit.

Protein foods are usually introduced next, around 7 to 8 months- pureed chicken, turkey, beef, tofu, egg, small amounts of low-mercury fish like scrod and salmon. Check with your pediatrician for recommendations about giving whole egg vs. egg yolks, and if fish or shellfish should be given or avoided.

Purred meats are thick and pasty. Try adding a tablespoon of pureed chicken to applesauce and feed it alongside a vegetable or cereal.

Again, these suggestions follow the “traditional method” of introducing solid foods, and many experts feel they are outdated and unnecessary. However, they are still the most common recommendations given by pediatricians and baby care books, and many parents feel most comfortable using this traditional method as a guide.


Next up: Making or Buying Baby Foods, Is Organic Important, Finger Foods and Baby Led Weaning


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