It seems like every stage of parenting presents a new reason to feel anxious. First, it was all about making sure I was producing enough milk and that my newborn was getting the nourishment she needed. And just as soon as we found a great rhythm and I was feeling confident with breastfeeding, it was time for a new stage that caused me anxiety—introducing solids.
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Our pediatrician recommended starting solids between 4 and 6 months of age, so I started about one week shy of my daughter’s six-month appointment, feeling like I couldn’t put it off any longer. While some parents describe introducing solids as a fun and exciting part of babyhood, I didn’t feel the same way at all. I was terrified of choking and only wanted to give my baby purées (which she promptly rejected and appeared to hate).
I had been curious about baby-led weaning, but the fear of choking made me hesitate. Couldn’t my child just learn to love purées and eat those until, I don’t know, she’s 10? Obviously I’m exaggerating, but the thought of my tiny little baby with barely any teeth eating real food was terrifying.
Eventually I did get past the anxiety. I introduced solids and we worked our way through what I felt was a somewhat frightening stage. I found some tactics that worked for me to overcome the anxiety and also spoke with Alisha Grogan, a licensed pediatric occupational therapist and the owner of Your Kid’s Table to get some expert advice.
If you’re feeling the same fear I went through when starting solids with your little one, here are some things to consider to make it a smooth transition.
Use the system that works for you
There are a number of theories and arguments about what is best when it comes to purées versus a baby-led weaning approach. I felt very bombarded with all of the research and benefits around baby-led weaning, which made me want to go in that direction, but my anxiety around choking was holding me back. “I think baby-led weaning works well for some babies, others it does not. Because of that I don’t like to recommend baby-led weaning for all babies, some will gag often and eating becomes a negative experience,” said Grogan.
If you’re feeling similarly nervous about a specific style of introducing solids, understand that maybe that’s not the right fit for your family. Always make decisions for yourself and your children that you feel comfortable with.
Grogan recommends parents talk to their pediatrician about the best age for introducing solids. “There’s actually a window of time that babies instinctively learn to chew that closes around 11 months. Of course, they can be taught to chew after that point, but it’s more of a challenge,” said Grogan. Every baby is different; it can be helpful to talk to your pediatrician for the best approach for your child.
Arm yourself with safety knowledge
Before my daughter was even born, my husband and I took an infant CPR course. The course covered both CPR and how to respond to an infant choking. While I felt educated after the course, I still assumed I’d freak out and forget everything I learned in the case of a real emergency. Even so, knowing I took the course made me feel more empowered. If I was ever feeling extra nervous or like I couldn’t remember what to do, I’d watch a video on YouTube as a refresher. Plus it doesn’t hurt to post the information on your refrigerator, a place you will have handy should your mind go blank in an emergency.
Take a baby feeding course
Another way to make sure you feel confident in your path is to take an online baby feeding course. Many sites offer free workshops, while others offer courses you can do at your own pace at a reasonable cost. Having a blueprint to follow may help you to feel more educated on how to safely introduce solids in a way that will be fun for you and your child. These courses can also help you to recognize the difference between gagging and choking. It is common for babies to gag occasionally, so knowing what this looks like can alleviate some of your concerns.
Start with the easy stuff
Introducing solids can certainly be a little stressful, but if you start with the right foods, it can be more fun than scary. Purées are one option of a low-stress way to start with solids, but there are other options too. “To help parents feel more secure I recommend starting with solids that are crunchy, but melt quickly. These are widely available and include foods like puffs and yogurt melts,” said Grogan. While these puffs might look big for your tiny baby, they will melt in their mouth if they aren’t chewed right away.