Little Emily has now passed the 5 month mark, so I know many will be asking when we’re planning to start her on solids and the truth is we’ve started already. Kind of.
After reading into the subject and talking with some moms, we’ve decided to go the baby-led solids approach, and let Emily introduce herself to foods by letting her gnaw on fresh or steamed chunks of fruits and veggies. Once she’s mastered gum chewing those things, we’ll slowly add in meats and other foods, but we’re in no rush to master everything right now.
Earlier I posted the food chart that we’re following as to when we should introduce various foods, but here I just wanted to break down a bit how and why we’re doing this. Emily has already eaten pear, avocado, melon and broccoli, but she still isn’t 100% ready for solid foods as her little tongue still doesn’t know to get out of the way.
Probably the biggest concern people have with babies getting chunky foods first is that they’ll gag or choke on the food, but other than once or twice when she first had something other than liquid milk hit the back of her throat, Em hasn’t had a problem. Here’s something from the literature I’ve read:
Many parents worry about babies choking. However, there is good reason to believe that babies are at less risk of choking if they are in control of what goes into their mouth than if they are spoon fed. This is because babies are not capable of intentionally moving food to the back of their throats until after they have developed the ability to chew. And they do not develop the ability to chew until after they have developed the ability to reach out and grab things. The ability to pick up very small things develops later still. Thus, a very young baby cannot easily put himself at risk because he cannot get small pieces of food into his mouth. Spoon feeding, by contrast, encourages the baby to suck the food straight to the back of his mouth, potentially making choking more likely.
As parents it is easy to get competitive when it comes to our kids achieving things, but I’ve had to force myself to step back and wait for when Emily is truly ready to eat solid foods, not just jump in when all of my friends are starting their babies. Once in a while we give Em some rice cereal to see if she’s using her tongue to push the food back yet, and slowly she is, but usually she just enjoys the taste of the things she’s eating. Our goal at the moment is to introduce her to many flavours and textures in her food (to reduce pickiness) and ingesting the foods will come as she’s ready.
It appears that a baby's general development keeps pace with the development of his ability to manage food in his mouth, and to digest it. A baby who is struggling to get food into his mouth is probably not quite ready to eat it. It is important to resist the temptation to 'help' the baby in these circumstances since his own developmental abilities are what ensure that the transition to solid foods takes place at the right pace for him, while keeping the risk of choking to a minimum.
Emily loves to grab the pieces of food herself and chew on them, and the gentle resistance the food gives her gums also helps with the pain of her teething, so we’ll continue at this pace and introduce new tastes and textures as she’s ready.
The biggest reason we’ve chosen to do solids this way is that we get to skip over the entire spoon fed/pureed stage (except for her rice cereal) and prepare for Emily the same foods we’ll be eating on our plates. She is learning how different foods feel and working on her picking up and grasping skills (some of those cut up fruits can be slippery) all while also learning how to control her own intake.
If you’d like to read more on the topic, here are two great resources I’ve found: