The introduction of solid foods will probably be the first time – but not the last – that you have to scoop sweet potatoes out of someone’s nose with a Q-Tip. Five months is the average age to start feeding your baby solid food. Starting solid foods too early may lead to some food allergies, while starting them too late may lead to a mutiny in the nursery. Your baby may have to start at four months if he goes from consistently sleeping through the night to waking up at the same time every night. If your baby is hungry for real food, you may start having some sleepless nights, unless he is clever enough to be able to raid the fridge at midnight.
Your baby is ready for solid food when he can control his head and neck and sit up with support. Ideally, he will be able to sit up in a high chair. You will also know your child is ready when he starts reaching for your food at mealtime. Sometimes this is also accompanied by whining, grunting, or whimpering – but you really should act your age. He may longingly watch you eat with his mouth open, hoping you may throw a bone his way. In other words, he’s giving you some MAJOR hints, so pay attention!
Infant rice cereal is considered the best starter food for a baby. The baby may not agree, but he really doesn’t get a vote at this point. When you first prepare the cereal, it will look like a bowl of goop. Don’t feel guilty, as though you are slighting your baby; they love this stuff! It’s not like they can compare it to your prime rib.
The first solid food feeding is usually considered a major family event. As the video camera rolls, hopefully Baby will open his mouth and gleefully accept his new gourmet food. Sometimes, however, a baby who is not ready yet for solids will push the food back out with his tongue. It’s not a slight on your cooking abilities; you just need to wait a couple of weeks and try again.
Only introduce one new food a week so you can tell if this food bothers the baby. Signs of a food allergy may include labored breathing, swelling around the mouth, skin rashes or hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. These symptoms usually appear within minutes to a couple of hours after your child ingests the food. Your child should then be taken to his doctor for a full evaluation.
Even more common than food allergies are intolerances to certain foods. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rashes. If you see any of these symptoms, avoid the suspected foods completely until you undergo testing at the pediatrician’s office. The most common food allergies include: milk, soy, egg whites, wheat, peanuts, and shellfish. If your child has a bad reaction to eggs at the age of one, he may outgrow the allergy if you eliminate them completely from his diet for a whole year. The good news is that most young children will outgrow food allergies by the time they are three years old.
The key to solid foods is starting out thin and watery and gradually getting thicker and chunkier. I’m talking about the food, not you. After infant cereal has been mastered, you can start with jars of strained fruits and vegetables. You may discover an ingredient that your baby despises. Babies put everything in their mouths, except sometimes the food you want them to eat. Sand, pebbles, and acorns go in the mouth, but peas? Forget it. Keep trying until you find something your baby loves, and then you can stock up on the jars.