Most of you probably know that I have my bachelor's degree in dietetics (nutrition).
I feel like I have a pretty good science-based background so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on starting solids.
Of course, it's not like my way is the best for everyone. This is just what I've found works for me and Ainsley while applying my knowledge. Above all, listen to your mother's intuition!
(first time with non-rice cereal solid)
The most common recommendation is to introduce solids between four and six months. Determining when they are ready can be more about development than nutritional need. Babies will tell you when they're ready. They may grab food off your plate and the reflex they have to spit everything out will begin to disappear. When to start solids is somewhat controversial though. The earlier you start solids, the stronger correlation with developing food allergies. However, I've done a lot of research and I feel like it's not just about when you start, but if the foods are organic and GMO free. It's a little hard to explain but basically research is showing that the genetic modification can modify the baby's genes too. The leaky gut babies have can make them more prone to developing antibodies and therefore allergies. Ainsley hasn't eaten 100% organic, but I'm trying to as much as possible. Still, I believe babies will show you when they're ready. Starting food too late could possibly cause problems as well. I'm not sure how strong the research is, but they've shown introducing solids after six months to have an increase in diabetes and pickiness in the child. Basically, there's no cut and dry answer. Do some research, but go with what your gut (and your baby!) tells you.
We gave Ainsley her first solid food at about four months and three weeks. She had been grabbing food off our plates for some time and even whining for it and mouthing for it. We gave her some rice cereal mixed with pumped milk. It was hardly even thickened by the rice cereal. I think when you begin introducing cereals you should start with what they know. You can mix it with formula, breast milk, or water but I would start with formula if you formula feed and breastmilk if you breastfeed. Solids are a whole new ball game for these little people so I think you should make the transition very slowly. They have to get used to using a spoon, the new texture, new tastes, etc. Be patient. A few weeks later we tried rice cereal again....and then about a week after that.. and then another week....then a few days after that...basically we very gradually got her used to the rice cereal. The first two times we gave it to her she spit out the very large majority of it. We started only giving her a few spoonfulls of cereal very dilluted and progressed to more and thicker cereal as I felt she was ready for it. We gave her her first puree at about five and a half months after she had been taking the rice cereal very well. We started with peas. We still incorporated it very gradually. We started with a very small amount, maybe a spoonful. Every few days we'd give her a very small amount of rice cereal or other food. Some of the first foods we gave her were peas, avocado, squash, and carrots. She LOVED the avocado. We didn't consistently give her solids until she was about six and a half months (as in I'm just now starting to). Now I give her some kind of food (almost) every day. For a few days I will give her rice cereal, then give her some puree, then rice cereal a few more times...you get the idea. It's all about slowly incorporating. And that's where we're at right now. She's still eating mostly rice cereal and a small amount of purees and other similar foods like avocado. She LOVES food.
While I certainly use purees, I practice some baby led weening as well. BLW doesn't have anything to do with cutting out breastmilk. It's basically leaving everything up to the baby. You put normal foods on their tray like carrots, bell peppers, etc and they just chew on it! No purees! BLW is shown to help the kids to not be picky. So far we've let Ainsley eat carrots, bell peppers, celery, avocado, and banana BLW style. She really seems to enjoy it.
Oh, and you've probably heard of introducing vegetables before fruit so they don't learn to favor sugar too early. This is controversial, but I went ahead and did it anyway. It can't hurt. She hasn't had any fruit yet (except a taste of banana) and I've started with less sweet vegetables. I plan on holding off on fruit for another few weeks or so.
(first time with rice cereal)
I feel like nutritionally, they get more out of "baby food" (and the rice cereal helps them get the iron they need) but as far as development and cultivating a positive relationship with food, BLW is best. That's why I have incorporated both. Plus, she loves chewing on veggies!
Now, if there's one thing I've learned about healthy eating it's that it starts with a positive relationship with food. This is soooo important, maybe even the most important, when introducing solids. First, accept that it's going to take a lot of time and it's going to be messy. Sometimes we will spend an hour at a time in the high chair! I listen to audio books or music so I'm not tempted to get impatient. Remember that this whole solids thing is completely new to them. Let them hold the spoon. Let them put their hand in the food. Let them make a mess. I often get out several spoons when I feed Ainsley so that when she grabs the spoon I'm using to feed her, I give it to her to explore and I have back ups that I can use to continue to feed her. When we're done I let her play with the dish the food was in. I let her set the pace. NEVER try to shove food in their mouth. Sometimes she takes bites consistently, sometimes it's five or ten minutes between bites. You want it to be a positive experience for them and not be too pushy. I feel strongly against forced feeding and strict schedules because I feel that it can interfere with their instinct to listen to their hunger cues, something most adults have lost. My personal opinion is that in the beginning, it's more about helping them develop a positive relationship with food and make a smooth transition than it is about nutrition. Additionally, I do my best to practice the three day rule. You only introduce a new food every three days so that you can tell if they have allergies. Also, if they reject a food, don't give up. It often takes a handful of times to introduce a food before they'll accept it. Don't just write it off as they don't like something and never offer it again.
Take your time. They're learning, just like with crawling or rolling over or anything else.
We're just at the very beginning of this solids thing. I don't anticipate feeding her purees for very long and plan to start feeding her from my plate really soon. We also haven't cut out any breastfeeding yet. At this point, I don't think she's getting a whole lot of calories.
Here's a really cute video of her gnawing on a carrot, after I fed her pureed carrots.
Basically, she's a happy, healthy, BIG baby and this is what's working for us right now. :)
p.s. as far as other liquids, I don't feel like babies should have juice for the simple reason that they don't need it. After the processing of juice, there is such little nutritional value that it's basically just straight sugar. The oxidation that takes place in the making of juice destroys the antioxidants, like vitamin C. For additional liquids I give Ainsley water. At home I let her drink out of my cup or if we're out I'll bring a bottle of water for her since it's so blasted hot in Arizona right now.
I know this post was all over the place but hopefully there was some that was helpful or at least interesting!
Again, I'm not trying to say this is the right way, just what works for us.
Now go figure out what's best for you two and do it! :)