The solids journey & baby’s development

Starting solids soon? Wondering where to start? Here’s a general look at starting your solids journey from a developmental perspective.

As a first time mama, the thought of starting solids was both exciting and anxiety-provoking. The excitement led us to dive right in with the knowledge we had, the readiness signs were very present…but soon, things started to feel a bit all over the show, which led me to question whether I was doing the right thing or not.

Was I supposed to wait a little longer? Was I impeding on my boy’s independence? Perhaps I should have started with Baby Led Weaning..and then kept thinking, let’s hope he doesn’t choke, cause my choking management skills are so 5 years ago!

So, where and when does it all start? 

First thing’s first: STEP ONE: You want to start when you and your baby are ready.

Look for a good combination of these readiness signs:

  • Your baby can independently hold their head upright
  • They can sit for a solid amount of time (see what I just did there, haha) on their own or with moderate support
  • Reaches for food and shows lots of interest in mealtimes and food items (this is the motivation for them to engage)
  • Loses a bit of the front thrusting tongue movements (that’s needed for drinking breast milk/formula)
  • Make sure your baby is NOT younger than 4 months when starting solids to avoid serious health impacts

STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR METHOD.

Okay, now that I know baby’s ready, how do we start this thing called ‘the solids journey’?

Starting solids

BLW vs Traditional Weaning: Which is better?

Truth is, there is no better method. Both methods can have as much independence, skills development and sensory exploration as fostered by you as the parent. It all hangs off what mama feels is best for baby’s unique needs… and as a mom you are the best judge for that. Trust your inclination.

Ultimately, the way in which you carry out either method is important. You want to help your baby develop the necessary skills to eventually feed independently.

With that said, here are a few Developmental Aspects to keep in mind when starting solids:

1. Physical Development 

GRASP – Babies may start their solids journey with a wide or cylindrical grasp – it helps to have wide shaped finger-sized foods or wide shaped utensils for either method.

Around 8-12 months, their pincer grasp (index -thumb pinch) should begin to develop, which can be fostered by introducing smaller chunks of cut food they will need to pick off the plate, such as cheerios, pasta shells, smaller cut strawberries, blueberries, banana slices etc.

MOUTH CONTROL – You want your baby to learn to scoop food off the spoon using their lips which usually develops by 7-9 months.

CHEWING & SWALLOWING  – gradually provide opportunities to practice these skills by increasing texture consistency and introduce lumpier foods / more chewy foods as you see fit for the age and stage they’re in. 

2. Sensory Development

SENSORY – Feeding times will definitely get messy!! And rightfully so, as our babies learn a range of skills through the messiness of mealtimes. Allow your little one the freedom to explore the different tastes, food textures, colours and smells. This provides an opportunity for full sensory immersion, helping them to connect the whole feeding experience…AND bonus bonding time with your baby! If you are enjoying it, your baby will enjoy it too!

Within the first year, you do not need to worry too much about your baby taking in large amounts of food. It may help to keep in mind that your little one’s main source of nutrition will come from their usual breast milk/formula. So, feel free to let them explore during meal times and to follow their cues for food intake.

3. Cognitive Development

COORDINATION – hand-eye coordination develops as they learn to reach and bring food to their mouths – so allow plenty of opportunity for this. The smooth coordinated movement will come with practice. Your little one may start their solids journey by attempting to bring a spoon to mouth and eventually learn to perfect this skill with smooth coordinated movement by 2-3 years old. 

DEPTH PERCEPTION – as their coordinated movement develops, they are also developing their depth perception. This is simply being able to estimate the distance of the spoon from their mouth and in essence, the ability to bring the spoon/food to their mouth without overshooting or undershooting. At 6 months, my boy often overshoots when trying to mouth his spoon and as a result, knocks most of the food contents on his face! Babies already start to develop this skill at 2 months of age…and will usually advance more fully in this around 9-12 months.

INDEPENDENCE – Ultimately, we would like to achieve healthy independence for our little ones. When choosing feeding utensils, for example, keep in mind – you want this to be a fun experience, which means baby will get involved as much as they can to practice their newfound abilities. To aid in this, have smaller sized spoons with a wider neck and bowl of the spoon itself. This helps with easy handling and may prevent pushing the spoon too far in the mouth (see Munchkin feeding accessories).

Be patient as your child learns this wonderful skill – include them in family mealtimes as a social experience so they can model what they see and eventually learn to eat independently. Remember kids will more likely model what they see than what they are told! 

SOME-NEEDS-FOR-STARTING-SOLIDS

Our Solids Journey Update: Where are we now?

It was tricky,  I definitely needed to start M on solids as he was a lot more hungry and all the signs indicated readiness. So we did. It was so much fun starting out, but then meal prep became a shlep for a little while. We picked it up again by prepping for a whole week at a time OR when making my own food, I would leave a piece of sweet potato, pumpkin or even egg aside to mash for him. (I usually do not cook with salt. It is recommended NOT to add any salt to baby’s food!) This worked so much better for us! We’re now on 2 solid meals a day and 1 snack in between.

Breakfast and Lunch

After a light morning feed (if really necessary), we’d get up, start our morning routine and get ready for breakfast. Breakfast would range from single or mixed pureed/mashed fruits, such as berries, banana, apple, etc or mashed up hash-brown and eggs as well. I usually leave aside a piece of whatever I am eating for breakfast (which is usually appropriate) and mash it up for him.

Lunch would include mashed veggies or meat. We started out with sweet potatoes and M loved this! We now have butternut, carrot, pumpkin, spinach, etc, blended meat, mashed up chicken, and lentil mixtures too. One of the main nutritional needs for babies would be iron-rich foods as their iron stores do decrease with less breast milk/formula intake.

Another important thing to note is food allergies. It’s recommended to introduce allergenic foods earlier on in the weaning journey, rather than later. In fact, waiting to introduce these types of foods, can increase the risk for developing allergies in babies. We, fortunately, do not really have a history of food allergies in our family, so we were not too strict on waiting too long before introducing a new food. Usually introducing the same allergen food 3-4 times can give a good indication if there’s a reaction or not.

Side Note: It is not recommended to give your baby cow’s milk before they are a year old.

M’s Snacks

Includes avo, cucumber, berries, banana and other fruit/veggie that he can hold and munch on and practice his chewing skills. Fruits that may be too chewy for the age and stage he’s in, we’d place in the Munckin food feeder to prevent choking. We also loved trying out the SquishFood pouches for our snack time!

Occasionally, I’d prep for a whole week of meals for M, place them in a sealed container and store in the freezer. If I knew I’d be using it, I’d store in the fridge for 2-3 days max – usually, by then he would have finished them!

Here are a few basic things you may need before getting started:

  • High chair – If you would like a post on how to choose a highchair – do leave me a comment!
  • Feeding utensils – baby cutlery, baby bowls, plates that grip. We are currently using our 2-in-1 Grippo placemat-plate that stays put! So handy.
  • Feeding bibs – we’re using our Hungr Hippo 2-in 1 apron-bib with a handy pocket feature to catch all the spills!
  • Storage containers/bags or ice cube trays that actually seal (stores milk or food)
  • Baby’s drinking cup
  • Last but not least, of course, your recipes and ingredients!

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this blog post is in no way an alternative to any medical advice. If you have any concerns, please contact your local paediatrician/doctor.


starting solids My name is Tasha-Leigh, I am a first-time single mama to my 6-month-old son and an occupational therapist with a passion for paediatrics, women and youth empowerment. I also enjoy writing as a liberating form of expression with the hopes that it may bring both inspiration and encouragement to all those who encounter it.

This is a blog post I wrote recently to share with first-time mamas starting the solids journey. My website is www.ot2mama.com.

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