Kathy Sasser, IBCLC
When it comes to first foods, think outside the cereal box!
Sometime in the second half of the first year, babies become ready for foods other than breastmilk or formula. But bland cereals offer little nutrition or flavor compared to fruits and veggies – so it’s fine (even preferable) to go right to soft, real foods.
Baby is ready for solids if he can sit up unassisted, shows interest in solid food, and has lost the tongue thrust reflex. In other words, he doesn’t push solid food out of his mouth with his tongue. This is an inborn protective reflex that keeps little babies from choking. They lose the reflex when they’re ready to eat. Still got the reflex? Baby’s not ready and you should wait.
Weight and age are less important than development. So don’t be pushed in to starting a young baby on solids just because he has hit a certain weight or a certain age. Let him show you he is developmentally ready for this big step.
So when you’re both ready…
Avocado is a great first choice – it’s creamy, high in nutrition and offers healthy fats which are important for a growing baby. Some babies will eat avocado by itself, others prefer it slightly sweetened by combining it with mashed banana or expressed breastmilk (or both). Avocado is easy to cut up into cubes and put right on the high chair tray. Let your little eater just go for it. There will be mashing. There will be squooshing. There may even be some eating. But bite for bite, avocado packs a healthy punch, so whatever gets in the tummy is good for him.
Sweet potatoes contain a ton of great phytonutrients and fiber. You can mash it and spoon feed it or cut it into small cubes and let junior tear in himself. Babies often prefer sweet foods and this is one that you can offer totally guilt free. Just like avocado, if it’s too thick you can mash it with a bit of expressed breastmilk or water to soften it.
Very ripe pears are soft, sweet and have a ton of fiber. Constipation is a common issue among babies just starting solids and many common first foods (apple sauce, mashed bananas) can make the issue worse. Pears don’t tend to cause the same problem. If they are very, very ripe and soft, you can cube them and let baby squoosh and mouth the chunks to his delight. Slightly firmer pears (but still soft and ripe) can be grated with a cheese grater to make a pile of fruit strings. Just make sure the pear is ripe enough that the strings just fall right apart when picked up. This one will be sticky. But yummy. (And don’t those two things always go together anyway?)
No matter what, remember that at this early age, offering solids is as much about baby learning tastes and textures as about the amount getting into their tummies. Breastmilk or formula is still the foundation of their diet.
So go enjoy a messy, green avocado together. Bon appetit!