Introduction To Solids: Let the Oatmeal Shampoo Begin
October 15, 2009 · Posted in Feeding, Infant Development · Permalink


Here is an excerpt from A Mother’s Circle on infant feeding. Bon Appetite!

Now that you have finally got the knack of breast or bottle feeding you and your baby are on to a whole new experience. Real food!

Solid foods can be introduced any time between four and six months. Initially, your baby’s eating experience is just that—an experience. She might swallow a little but most of her food will end up on her chin or bib. Once the baby gets used to the experience of eating from a spoon and has more familiarity with new tastes and textures she will generally turn her attention to actively eating.

Learning your Baby’s Signs of Hunger and Fullness
Hunger and fullness are still your guideposts when offering solids. As important as offering food when you think your baby is hungry is allowing her to tell you when she is finished. This may be after two tablespoons or a bowlful of cereal. Try not to cajole your baby into opening her mouth for one more bite because you want the bowl to be clean, even though it might feel good to you. Let your baby tell you when the meal is over. A baby has some very direct ways of saying this. One is to shut her mouth tightly. Another is to turn her head to the side. Another is to spit her food out. Although this seems pretty obvious, it is hard to know whether she is communicating “No more, thank you” or “I want to play for a minute.” One workable rule of thumb is to offer a spoonful twice after the first rejection. If your baby’s answer is “no” two more times, end the feeding.

Throughout a baby’s first year, eating solids and making a mess are synonymous. A baby will want to touch, squeeze, paint with and smear food everywhere. Her eyes remain completely innocent as she gives herself an oatmeal facial or a carrot shampoo. It may be easier to see the humor in this if you keep in mind that this will not last forever. Most mothers agree, however, that day in and day out, the mess a baby makes with food requires patience, tolerance and plenty of cleaning up.
There is no way to stop a baby from getting messy while learning to eat solid foods. One idea to cut down on the laundry is to let your baby enjoy the messiest meal in the evening, with just her diaper and T-shirt on. Then you can take your baby directly to the bath from the high chair. Remember, a primary goal is for your baby to get a sense that eating is fun—that mealtimes are interesting, positive, and enjoyable, and that she can explore a little bit and control a little bit. Your baby may want to eat and then baby talk and laugh with you, or rub her hands in the food. She is in the process of learning a whole new way of eating.

Appetite Changes
It is not imperative that your baby eats the same amount at every meal. Like adults, babies can be more or less hungry on different days. Don’t worry if there are days when your baby won’t eat much at all. All babies have appetite and growth spurts as well as lulls throughout this period.
Mothers often ask what time of day to introduce the first meal and how to space solid meals and liquid ones. Start the first feeding at a time when both you and your baby can relax into it the most. If you have to rush out to work in the morning, start with dinner, if the morning is your quietest time, start with breakfast. The “dining ambience” is more important than the time of day.
A typical eating schedule for a baby who has increased to three meals a day is outlined below. The milk feedings are breast or bottle feedings. You can offer a “sippy” cup with water along with meals in the high chair. Remember these are approximate times.
7:00 A.M.:    milk
8:00 A.M.:    solid breakfast
9:30 A.M.:    nap
11:00 A.M.:    milk
12:00 P.M.:    solid lunch
1:00 P.M.:    nap
4:00 P.M.:    milk
5:00 P.M.:    solid dinner
7:00 P.M.:    milk

As your baby grows, her desire for independence will increase but not uniformly in all areas of development. Her increase in autonomy regarding feeding may happen at six or seven months or not until the end or even beyond the first year. When it does happen, her opinions will become noticeably stronger and she will want to try to do things without your help. She may want to hold her spoon herself or she may want to scoop up her cereal with her hands. She may reject foods she had been eating with pleasure and show curiosity about new ones.
When your baby begins to show interest in feeding herself, you may not be able to tell the difference between eating and creative play. To allow for your baby’s independent efforts and also get her fed, try using two spoons—one for her to play with and one for you to feed her with. Encourage your baby to feed herself and to try new things but allow her to develop at her own rate. Some days she will feel less ambitious than others and will want you to feed her.
Some babies by nature are simply more finicky about food. This can be frustrating, but it is important to recognize and accept. If your baby wants only to eat four or five different foods and rejects all others, supply what she likes. Eating should not be an arena for confrontation. If you give her  the message that what she likes is alright with you, you will sidestep battles about food that might otherwise last for years. Continue to introduce and offer new foods and encourage new tastes, but don’t force the issue. Her tastes will broaden naturally with time.
People usually think of a balanced diet in terms of a single meal. With babies and young children eating habits are so erratic that this balance usually occurs only over the course of a week or even up to a month. If your baby only wants to eat applesauce and cereal for three days in a row, and then switches to carrots and Cheerios for two days and then will only eat yogurt and macaroni for the next two, any given day seems unbalanced. But judged as a whole, over a longer period of weeks, her intake has been fairly well balanced.

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  1. Blaire
    October 15th, 2009 | 11:13 am

    I remember reading this portion of A Mothers Circle when I started feeding my now 5 year old solid foods. So so SO helpful – as was everything I learned from the book!!

  2. kcf
    October 16th, 2009 | 1:01 pm

    I remember this sound advice, too! Also, I found the book, Mommy Made and Daddy, Too: Home Cooking for a Healthy Baby & Toddler, invaluable. Even if you decide to not make your babies’ food (and, really, it couldn’t be easier), it has a wonderful approach to introducing a variety of foods safely. I swore by this book for both my kids who have and had great palates.

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