It’s time to turn the tables on everything you (and maybe your mom) thought you knew about feeding your baby. Recommendations about starting solids have changed over the years, and what your friends or family members may be telling you might be outdated thinking. Check out these feeding solids myths that seem to persist and learn what the truth actually is.
1. Myth: Food must be introduced in a specific order.
Truth: There’s no rule that says your baby’s introduction to solids must follow a specific order. Want to start with avocado? Go for it. Sweet potato? Yup… that’ll work. Cereal? Sure… though try to make it wheat, quinoa, or oat cereal instead of rice (rice cereal is bland, and too much rice, which contains trace amounts of arsenic, can’t be good for a baby). Pears? Broccoli? Peas? Eggs? Fish? Yes, yes, and yes. No need to stick to a specific order of foods.
Even allergenic foods don’t have to be in a specific order (or served only after other food has been introduced). Studies have clearly demonstrated that delaying the introduction of allergens increases, rather than decreases, the risk of allergies developing. Which is why current recommendations suggest that the earlier you introduce allergenic foods to your little one, the better.
2. Myth: If you start with fruit, your baby won’t like vegetables.
Truth: Have you been told that starting with fruit will turn your baby off to the sharper taste of veggies? Well, that ship has sailed, since babies are already born with a preference for sweet stuff, not to mention that breastmilk and formula both taste sweet. While you certainly can start with vegetables, doing so won’t make your baby more likely to eat them. But offering a variety of foods, flavors, and textures in whatever order you want will make your baby a more well-rounded eater.
3. Myth: You have to choose either purees or finger foods.
Truth: This myth is just not true. You don’t have to choose between only purees or only finger foods (baby led weaning). You can stick to one of these methods if you want… or you can offer both at the same time, right from the start. Learn about both these methods in depth in my book Bite-Sized Parenting.
4. Myth: You should serve only one food for a few days before introducing another.
Truth: Unless your baby’s pediatrician has specified otherwise, most experts agree that you don’t have to wait days between serving up new foods. While past recommendations suggested a waiting period between new food introductions to make sure your little one doesn’t show signs of allergies, research now indicates that waiting days between new foods will only stretch out exposure to a wider variety of foods, possibly leading to a delay in the introduction of allergenic foods, which isn’t beneficial. You should, of course, watch your baby carefully to see how he reacts to any new food, but remember that it’s unlikely your baby will be allergic to most, if not all, of the foods you introduce.
5. Myth: Baby food must be bland without spices.
Truth: There’s no reason why you can’t spice up your baby’s life with flavor, even when first starting solids. Sure, you shouldn’t be pouring on added salt or sugar, but herbs and spices can (and should) find their way into your baby’s meals. Flavor what you’re serving baby with garlic, basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, turmeric, and plenty of other seasonings in your spice rack to help expand that newly developing palate.
6. Myth: Gagging is the same as choking.
Truth: Sometimes parents delay the introduction of finger foods out of a fear of baby choking. Or they’ll confuse the very normal (and not dangerous) gagging with the dangerous choking. Learning the difference between gagging and choking will help you overcome your fears and encourage you to feel safe offering finger foods to your baby as early as 6 months old. Learn about the difference between gagging and choking. And take a first aid class so you can be prepared in case choking does happen. Watch a first aid and choking lesson here!
7. Myth: Food before one is just for fun.
Truth: You might have heard this phrase before, and while it’s catchy, it’s just not true. Yes, breastmilk and formula play the largest nutritional role in a baby’s first year. But solid foods are important from 6 months on. Not only do they provide extra nutrients (especially nutrients such as iron and vitamin D, which are found in low quantities in breastmilk), but they also help a baby learn about taste and texture, colors and shapes. And don’t forget about the important motors skills (large and small) that eating solids promotes — chewing, swallowing, and perfecting the pincer grasp — as well as important skills such as self-feeding, independence, appetite control, and general exploration. In other words, saying that solids have no importance in the first year is misleading. They’re definitely for fun, but they’re also a lot more than that!
8. Myth: Babies need teeth to eat solids.
Truth: It’s a question plenty of parents have, but happily, the answer to “How can I give my baby finger foods if he doesn’t have any teeth?” is that a baby doesn’t need teeth to eat solids. He’ll just chew the food with his strong gums, which are more than capable of mashing and even grinding up all types of food. That makes lots of sense if you think about how you chew — with your molars (those are the back teeth), not with your front teeth, which are the first teeth to make their appearance in a baby. Your little one won’t get his molars until after his first birthday. In other words, no need to wait until teeth have made their appearance before starting solids… even finger foods. Just make sure the food you’re offering is soft enough to mash between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
9. Myth: My baby will sleep better once solids are introduced.
Truth: This myth is unfortunately not true, despite what you may have heard from your well-meaning friends or grandmother. Eating solids is a developmental skill, not a way to get your baby to sleep through the night. And the truth is, most babies will start sleeping through the night anyway around 4 to 6 months of age, precisely when solids are being introduced. Not convinced? One small study that seems to suggest a connection between starting solids and better sleep shows only a 15-minute increase in the amount of sleep per night — certainly not something that’s going to materially change your baby’s (or your) night. There’s also no evidence to suggest that putting cereal in a baby’s bottle will promote better (or longer) sleep — plus it’s dangerous to do so.
Curious about how much food to serve up? Check out my blog: How Much Food Will My Baby Eat?
Looking for more information about starting solids? My book Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year covers it all and includes these topics and more:
- Signs your baby is ready to start solids
- Starting solids using puress
- Starting solids using baby-led weaning
- First foods to feed your baby
- What to do if your baby gags
- Serving allergenic foods
- Foods and drinks to avoid in the first year
- Serving water to your baby
- Teaching your baby how to chew food
- Eating with your baby
- Messy eating
- What to do when your baby doesn’t want to eat food