Looking back, I remember feeling so excited about introducing complementary solid foods to my babies. For me, it represented a celebration of growth, a time of bonding, and messy adventures! How I miss those picture-perfect moments of upside down spaghetti bowls and messy heads. I definitely don’t miss the confusion of when, how and what to feed my babies!
Recently, experts from Health Canada, The Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and The Breastfeeding Committee for Canada released new evidence-based guidelines about starting your baby on solids.
Today I want to break down 6 myths about:
- when to start solids;
- what foods to start with; and
Myth 1: Babies need to start solid foods at four months of age
Fact: In North America, the recommendation to introduce iron-rich solid foods is at about 6 months of age. Babies who start solid foods too early may be at risk for obesity later in life. At 6 months, babies are developmentally ready, so watch for these cues:
- Holds their head up
- Sits up in a high chair
- Opens their mouth wide when offered food on a spoon
- Turns their face away from food if not interested
- Closes their lips over the spoon
- Keeps food in their mouth and swallows food
Myth 2: I should stop breastfeeding once I introduce solid foods
Fact: Solid Foods complement breastfeeding. Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and up to two years of age or longer. Breast milk continues to be the most important source of nutrition for your baby throughout their first year.
Myth 3: Infant cereal should be the first solid food introduced to a baby
Fact: At around six months of age, a baby’s iron stores start to deplete. When solid foods are first introduced they should be iron-rich. Although fortified infant cereals are iron rich, there are many other suitable choices that can be offered such as meats, beans, eggs and lentils. Begin by offering iron rich foods twice daily.
Myth 4: To avoid choking, my baby should only eat puréed foods at six months
Fact: The thinking around introducing food textures has changed. A delay in offering a variety of food textures can lead to feeding difficulties down the road. At six months, with supervision, it’s safe to offer: lumpy, mashed, ground, minced, and tender-cooked foods. At this age, babies are also interested in learning to self-feed, so provide them with a spoon, bowl and an open cup. Just keep a warm soapy cloth on hand!
Myth 5: Vegetables should be offered before fruits
Fact: Years ago, the thinking was that babies would develop a sweet tooth and reject veggies. There is no evidence to support this theory. In fact, many vegetables are just as sweet as their fruit counterparts. When choosing your veggies and fruit, make colourful choices as they contain the most nutrition.
Myth 6: For my baby to grow and develop they should eat everything offered at each meal
Fact: It is normal for a baby’s appetite to fluctuate, just like ours! Watch your baby for hunger cues. As a parent you are responsible for what, when and where your baby eats – not how much they eat. Consider the following factors at mealtimes:
- how they are feeling
- the presence of distractions (phones, TV, iPads, etc.)
- the time of day
- their breast milk intake
- their appetite and ability to eat
- The energy richness of the complementary foods
So grab a bib, high chair and wheel your baby over to the family table, then let the fun begin! Whether your baby squeals with delight or puckers in protest, this is a special time for everyone. Enjoy!
Coming soon! Stay tuned for Part II about food safety/allergies.
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