Tips for Starting Infants on Solids the Healthy Way

Today we’re really excited to feature a guest blog post from a mom who’s also a feeding expert. I know that I (Christa) had tons of issues when it came to making mealtime work with my preemie daughter – and I also know I’m not the only one. Hope this helps some of the mamas of babies out there!

mom meet mom - infant feeding issues Hello Moms! My name is Danielle Shea Tan, Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Founder of Healthy Mamas for Happy Families. Mom Meet Mom was kind enough to invite me to write a guest blog post about the healthy way to start infants on solids, a topic I’m very passionate about, as I recently introduced solids to my infant son and often speak on the topic at venues around Boston.

I LOVE food. I really do. When I wake up in the morning my first thought is typically “What are we eating today?” Now, my husband loves to eat. But, there’s is a difference between loving to eat and loving food. He never wonders what’s for dinner as long as there’s food. I, on the other hand, want to enjoy every morsel that I put in my mouth so I’m always thinking about the next meal.

What kind of relationship do you have with food? Understanding our own relationship with food is an important question to think about before starting your infant on solid food. The initial food introduction experience is often rushed through and overlooked as a formative step in your child’s development. But I would argue that helping your baby develop a positive relationship with food is one of the most important jobs you’ll have as a parent. Considering a study by OECD, which found that Americans spend on average 74 minutes per day eating (that’s 19 days per year!), it’s one of the top five activities we’ll do most in our lifetime. Plus, study after study is proving that the food we eat is what fuels our mind and body to perform its best at school, at work and in our constant battle against acute illness and disease. The good news is it’s been shown that children’s food preferences are malleable through preschool so you’ve got time to create a healthy eater. But, the sooner the better! This is exactly why I love helping with my mom clients through the starting solids process. Here are five guidelines to help you start your baby on solid food the healthy way:

mom meet mom - starting solidsTake it slow. Transitioning from breastmilk or formula to solid food can take as long 1.5 – 2 years, sometimes longer. For at least the first year of life, 100% of your baby’s nutrients should come from breastmilk or formula. (This equates to 24-32 oz of formula or breastmilk per day.) Instead of thinking of the first few months of eating as meals, think of it as a time to introduce your baby to different flavors and textures of food. At six months, if your baby is ready to start solid food, begin by offering small amounts of food between milk and formula feedings. Gradually, you can increase the amount of food and frequency of times you offer food. Taking it slow will not only allow your baby to enjoy the experience but will also give your baby’s digestive tract time to learn how to process solid food effectively.

Make it a positive experience for all. Start by introducing solid food during a time when you are least rushed and stressed. This will allow you to sit patiently and enjoy this new experience. As you’ve likely discovered, your baby can sense your energy and the more relaxed and happy you are, the more s/he is likely to be. Take your time and allow your baby to explore the food with their eyes, fingers and tongues. When spoon feeding, allow your baby to open his or her mouth to welcome the food. This process may take longer, but you’re helping your baby develop independence while making a new experience positive rather than scary. Imagine if someone blindfolded you, tied your arms down and shoveled a new food in your mouth. That’s a sure way to develop a fear of new foods!

Skip the processed cereal. Yes, this advice may go against everything your parents and perhaps even your Pediatrician (if he/she isn’t trained in nutrition) may say. But, if you have the means to supply your baby with quality fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and other whole foods, the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms there is no medical evidence that indicates starting your baby on processed cereal is beneficial. Yes, it’s fortified with many vitamins and minerals, but the reason why it’s fortified is because it’s highly processed to make it digestible (phytic acid in grains is even difficult to digest for adults) for babies. The manufacturing process often depletes food of its naturally occurring nutrients, hence the reason for synthetic fortification. Processed cereal is commonly recommended to make sure infants are consuming enough iron since iron stores start to deplete after 6 months of age. Ensuring your baby gets enough iron can be as simple as combining foods high in naturally occurring iron such as blackstrap molasses, flaxseed or chia seeds with a food containing Vitamin C such as breastmilk, avocado or broccoli. Wouldn’t you rather start your baby on the freshest ingredients possible, rather than processed foods?

Choose nutrient dense foods. You might be wondering if processed cereal is out, what the heck do I start with now? The food introduction process may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose foods with the highest content of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to give your baby the biggest nutrition boost possible. Plant foods are the best options and with so many to choose from, you and your baby will have a ball exploring the different colors and textures. Avocado, sweet potato, squash and broccoli are a few of my favorites.

Be a good model. In the first few months, your baby will be less interested in what you’re eating and more interested in what’s on his/her plate. But, before you know it, baby will be back to reaching for mom’s food. Eventually, that casual reach will turn into actual requests and eventually demands. So, now is the time for you to fall in love with healthy eating. If not for the sake of your own health, do it for the sake of your child’s health. Studies show moms who eat healthy raise kids who eat healthy. With the right support, it’s possible to expand your own palate and develop a love of foods that nourish your mind and body.

Want to learn more about starting infants on solid food?

If you are local to Boston, consider attending one of my upcoming starting solids and infant nutrition seminars. Not local – no problem. Sign-up for my virtual teleseminar on starting solids hosted by MommyBites Boston. In the meantime, you can also follow me on my blog, Facebook and Pinterest. Visit www.healthymamasforhappyfamilies.com for more information on my nutrition and lifestyle coaching services and to receive a free gift that will help you along your healthy lifestyle journey. As a special for all Mom Meet Mom blog readers, you can save 15% off any of my programs with coupon code “MMM15” through December 31, 2013.

Do you have an idea for a guest post for the Mom Meet Mom blog? Email it to christa@mommeetmom.com!

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