If your baby has mastered basic purees and can swallow them with ease, it may be time to replace that mushy stuff and baby cereal with chunkier and thicker pieces of food. As compared to stage 1 baby foods, stage 2 baby food is more interesting and involves trying lots of new flavors, textures, and colors. There’s an armful of new foods to introduce as well as endless combinations on this new expanded menu. Like many other aspects of parenting, this milestone is a process of gradually increasing the independence and self-mastery of your little one combined with a gradual stepping back of the parent. Your feeding relationship is about to grow beyond nursing and expand into a much more complex interaction. This phase of food is not a replacement for breastfeeding / formula milk, but it’s definitely an interesting addition to it. Most babies are ready to start this solid food phase around 8 months old.
Signs Your Baby is Ready
Just like what you experienced with introducing stage 1 solids, your baby will start to show subtle signs that he/she is ready for the next phase of solid foods. Feeding time is about to get a lot more amusing and you’ll know your baby is ready by keeping an eye out for the following signs:
- When little or no food comes out of her mouth while she’s eating. By now your little one should have lost any form of the tongue thrust reflex that was necessary for breastfeeding earlier on. This lets them move food more easily from the spoon to the back of the throat for swallowing.
- Wants more food at mealtimes. If you find your baby eating more and more often, or showing even more interest in the food that’s being eaten around him, it’s time to increase the complexity of the current menu.
- She’s developing more teeth.
- She can sit well in a high chair. When introducing stage 1, your baby should have been able to hold her head up with the support of the high chair, but now she should be able to sit comfortably in the high chair will little or no extra support needed.
Characteristics of Stage 2 Foods
While these foods do share some qualities with stage 1 foods, there a few things that set them apart:
- Thicker, chunkier, and more textured consistency.
- Add meat and spices to the menu.
- Low on the allergy scale but wheat and dairy products are often introduced.
- Typically more fibrous, a little more acidic, and contain a high amount of protein.
- Raw fruits can be introduced.
- Single food introductions followed by more complex combinations.
When introducing solids foods in this phase, they should always be a pureee or chopped into smaller pieces or mashed to prevent choking. You can use a food processor, blender, or chop finely with a knife of your choice. They should be easily chewed between gums since babies won’t have their molars until 14-18 months. During this stage, it’s easy to make your own baby food. Just like when you make your own dinner, homemade baby food can be more affordable and you know exactly what’s going into your little one’s food.
Foods to Try
Keep in mind that while the menu has drastically expanded, breastmilk and/or formula should still be your infant’s main source of vitamins and nutrients. These foods should be introduced on an allergy schedule, which means just 1 new food every 4 days. If your infant experiences vomiting, diarrhea, or rashes, consult with your pediatrician as these may be signs of allergies or sensitivities.
- Fruits: blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, fig, grapes, kiwi, papaya. Fruits can now be served raw, but should be grated or cut into smaller pieces.
- Vegetables: asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant. onion, peppers, potato, spinach, zuchinni. All vegetables should be cooked soft and possibly mashed.
- Meat/Protein: beef, chicken, egg yolk, fish, pork, beans/legumes, turkey. Meats are good sources of high-quality proteins, iron, and zinc, and provide greater nutritional value over cereals, veggies, or fruits. Make sure they are always chopped into very small pieces for easy swallowing.
- Dairy: hard cheeses such as cheddar, jack, colby; cottage cheese; cream cheese; whole milk, unsweetened yogurt.
- Grains/Cereal: buckwheat, flax, pasta, quinoa. Pasta should be soft cooked, not al dente.
Also serve the foods seen on the stage 1 baby foods list such as carrot, butternut squash, oatmeal, peas, peaches, and rice cereal. Use all of these options to create combinations of fruit, veggies, meat, and dairy for a wide variety of flavors and textures. Usually by 9 months, your child’s taste preferences are mostly set – one of the many reasons to include a large variety of foods during this phase. Avoid a picky in eater in the future by expanding the menu now.
Foods to Avoid
Even though this phase is about expanding the menu, there are still certains foods that should be avoided. This especially includes any foods that have a potential to be a choking hazard such as hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat, uncut grapes, popcorn, and raw veggies. You should also still try to avoid foods with added sugar, processed foods, and honey. Sugary drinks / juices add unneeded calories and can harm your baby’s teeth, so those should not be introduced either.
During this time, you should offer foods that are healthy and either homemade or made for babies of this age. Start early and form good habits by including vegetables in every meal (even snacks!), not forcing your baby to eat more when she’s full, enjoying mealtime as a family, and sampling a wide variety of foods.
Stage 2 and Breastfeeding
During the first year of life, your breast milk (and/or formula) will continue to provide the majority of the necessary nutrients your little one needs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), even after she has started eating solid foods, you should continue nursing until at least 12 months. You can continue to breastfeed after 12 months if you and your baby desire to do so. These first foods should always complement milk/formula and should not replace it yet.
Unless you intend on weaning soon, be sure to continue to breastfeed whenever she desires – this will ensure a continuing milk supply. It may become necessary to express milk manually on occasion to ease breast discomfort if her decreasing demand leaves you with an oversupply. The slow introduction of solid foods is mostly for your baby’s benefit, but it also is for your benefit in the sense that it allows your body time to adjust slowly to the changing demand. Spreading out the process across the span of a couple of months allows plenty of time for a smooth and painless adjustment to the supply-and-demand relationship.
Other Tips for Success
- Spoon feeding. Most babies don’t master the use of a spoon until 18-24 months, but now is the time to start the process of teaching your baby to feed herself. Start letting her hold the spoon and fiddle with it. Also put small, soft chunks of food on her tray, allowing her to pick them up and feed herself.
- Iron. Your baby’s natural iron reserves start to run out during this time period. It’s important to get enough iron so use iron fortified cereals and proteins, and possibly consult your pediatrician about a supplement if you feel like she’s not getting enough.
The amount of breast milk / formula will continue to decrease over the course of the next few months as the amount of solid intake increases for your baby. Take the time to enjoy this new feeding relationship – it is full of firsts, funny faces, and food covered babies. Before you know it, your little one will be ready for stage 3 baby foods!
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