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Starting Solid Foods Part I

Introducing solids to a baby for the first time can be incredibly daunting.  As the time grew close for us to expand Madeleine’s cuisine (it seemed mere minutes after she was born!) I began to panic (surprising, I know) and emailed all my girlfriends.  I was convinced I’d poison/choke my baby.  The whole idea was so overwhelming to me: I didn’t know where to start, what to start with, when to do it, how to feed her, everything.  Wanting to save you gals some of the angst I went through, I’ve typed up a bit of what I’ve learned.

When to start?  Most experts agree that it’s best to wait until a baby is six months old before introducing solid foods; his stomach’s more ready to handle “foreign” foods, he’s outgrowing his gag reflex, and beginning to get teeth for eating.  Pediatricians will often tell parents they can do so at their four-month visit, but it’s more for the parents than for the child at that point.  See, four months is when most moms and dads turn their eyes toward sleep training, and feel better leaving their child to self-comfort (that is, cry) if their angel has a “full belly”; we know intellectually that in general, babies four months and older do not nutritionally need to nurse at night (though younger than that babies DO need to nurse throughout the night!), but hearing your infant cry at 3 a.m. and convincing yourself it’s not hunger is a difficult thing to do.  Somehow, feeding your child rice cereal a couple hours before bedtime makes you rest more easily with the sleep-training thing. 
Unfortunately, that’s a bit misleading.  Ounce for ounce, breast milk or formula has way more calories than solid baby food.  The difference is that breast milk is very easily digested, so passes through more quickly, while cereal takes longer to work on.  So baby’s stomach is full, but isn’t getting any more calories out of the cereal than the milk.  In addition, some babies sleep more poorly because of the difficulty digesting cereal.  We sleep-trained Maddie at 5 months, and since she was so entranced by our eating habits –following our forks to our mouths, smacking her lips at our food – we decided to try the cereal thing.  She ate maybe an ounce a couple nights in a row, but it made absolutely no difference in her sleep so we shelved solids for another month (and were glad to, based on our research).  When you do so is up to you and your pediatrician; you can also read up on the best time to start solid foods at any of these excellent websites:
Wholesome Baby Food
Ask Dr. Sears
Kelly Mom
Before you begin solid foods:

Talk to your pediatrician, to make sure she thinks your child is ready.  Some signs, like being able to support his own head, should be non-negotiable for choking reasons.

Be very sure you understand all the high-allergy foods such as nuts and cow’s milk, and know how long you need to wait to introduce them.
Discuss any family history of allergies with your pediatrician, in case she wants you to wait longer on a particular food.
Read up on the websites I recommend if you’re thinking of making your own food.  It’s easy, but there are a few guidelines.
You’ve talked to your pediatrician and are cleared for solid foods.  Your baby’s giving you cues that she’s ready herself.  On Monday, we’ll talk about getting started: the early days.


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