Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, the folks who make baby food, recently conducted a survey that revealed more than half of parents don’t know how to properly feed their babies real food. As the mother of a 4-month-old this hardly surprises me. I got the feeling about two weeks before my son’s checkup that he was ready for solid foods. His interest piqued anytime we were eating, his sitting skills were excelling, and he went from sleeping through the night to waking once more for an early morning feed.
“When should we start solids?” I asked our pediatrician with great anticipation.
After reviewing his stats on the growth chart the doctor eyed me over the top rim of his glasses with a serious look. “NOW.”
Okay, great! Momma really does know best! But, she doesn’t know everything. We left with the advice to start him on any fruit or vegetable we wanted, to start him on one food at a time, and to wait three days between introducing new foods in case of an allergic reaction. Simple enough until you get started. Then the questions begin to flood through your mind, one spoonful at a time. How many servings a day? If he likes one food, can we add another or do we have to stop the one to start the other? How often should my baby be eating solids? (In fact, this is really mush. When do we start real solid food?)
Turning to the Internet was of virtually no help thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP advises parents to wait until the baby is 6 months old, then start introducing a variety of foods with different textures. Right. If I had to wait another two months, my son wouldn’t be able to enjoy any food because he would’ve gnawed his hands off in anticipation.
While my doctor advised that we could start with anything in the vegetable, fruit, or single grain cereal families, most websites still run with cereal for starters. Some say one to two tablespoons, others three to four. Some say feed the baby solids once a day, some say twice. Some say integrate different foods, others say one at a time.
And some websites are against traditional baby foods altogether. If you’re following baby led weaning, you aren’t even attempting to feed your children mush at 4 months. You’re waiting until 6 months to load their tray with solids of all varieties, cut up in pieces that they can grab and put into their mouths as they so desire. Some parents love it. Others, like myself, see little ravenous beasts (whose hands need to be held back from the cereal spoon) choking themselves in excitement.
In this case, it’s a good thing most pediatricians ignore the AAP and advise parents that they can begin solids at 4 months. As it turns out, food needs differ depending on the child. Much like big humans, little humans have their own dietary needs and wants. What a shocker! Now if the feeding conversation started with that fact, perhaps it’d make a lot more sense.