By Erin Ollila
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents can start introducing food into their babies’ diets around six months old. But, how do solids work with childcare? The change from drinking their meals to eating them can be challenging for both parents and caregivers. Don’t stress. Here’s what you need to know to get started with this big life transition.
Educate Your Caregivers on Your Wishes
There is no one-size-fits all approach to feeding. Some parents choose to start with pureed foods, others first try baby cereal. Some parents skip both entirely and go straight to serving their children what they eat, such as with baby-led weaning.
The best way to feed your baby is to go with whatever feeding method makes you the most comfortable, while also following your baby’s cues. Once you’ve figured that out, take the time to explain your approach to anyone who watches your child. You will want to dictate what foods are okay to feed your little one and how often they should be eating.
Remember, the AAP recommends that breast milk or formula should be the primary source of nutrition and calories for your baby’s first year.
Know the Signs of Choking
Babies need to learn how to eat their food and because that takes time, choking is a serious concern for parents, especially if other people are helping to feed your child. Anyone who is watching your child should know what choking looks like, especially because babies are too young to speak and tell us what is wrong.
Some of the most common signs of choking are coughing, gagging, or a high-pitched, noisy breathing sound. It may also appear that your baby is beginning to cough or gag, but is unable to “clear” their throats and complete the action.
There may also be discoloration of the baby’s lips and skin. They may turn blue. Finally, older babies and toddlers may grab their neck with both hands to indicate something is wrong.
Take Precautions on Potential Food Allergies
While choking is extremely serious, it shouldn’t be your only concern when it comes to introducing solids to your baby. Have you talked with your caregiver about food allergies?
The AAP reports, “The eight most common allergenic foods are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.” When introducing these foods to your little one, it’s best to plan exposure at a time you’ll be home, and then, when you’re feeling confident that your child is not allergic, you can allow your nanny or daycare center to incorporate these foods into your little one’s meals.
However, it’s still important to plan for the worst case scenario. Keep an antihistamine where your caregiver can easily access it with written instructions from their pediatrician’s office on how much to administer for an allergic reaction. And remember, in the case of a serious reaction, call 911 immediately.
3 Ways to Feel More Confident About Solid Foods & Childcare
1. Supply Your Own Food
Some daycare centers provide meals or snacks. If introducing solids is new to your family, you can choose to bring in food from your home instead.
“I supply the baby food purées,” says mom of three Laura Blanchard. She continues, “As we move on in texture and type of food at home, I will provide the same for daycare.”
This is especially important for any child with an identified food allergy. By providing your own food for your child, you won’t have to worry about exposure to allergens during preparation in the kitchen. Well-labeled meals make it clear that your child has special food needs that must be addressed.
2. Test All New Foods At Home First
When you’re working through potential allergenic foods, you might feel safer if you’re the only person who exposes your child. This way, you can fully control the outcome (as best as humanly possible) if your child does have a reaction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest waiting “3 to 5 days between each new food” to determine if that food option causes a problem or not. Then, when you’re feeling safe with a new food, you can add it into the meal rotation.
3. Show the Caregiver Your Feeding Routine
It might feel like overkill, but when you’re introducing solids—especially food that needs to be chewed before being swallowed—it can be helpful to show your caregiver exactly how you prepare and serve a meal.
“I was paranoid about choking and would prepare tiny bite-sized meals and provide them for the sitter,” says mom of two, Amanda Santos. “I would also purposefully feed my daughter breakfast in front of the sitter at the beginning so that she would see how I did it. She caught on quick to what my wishes were.”
If you’re not able to spend the time showing your nanny or caregiver how you feed, it might still be helpful to take pictures of proportions so you know the adult in charge knows precisely what size to cut the babies food.
Pro tip: Only hire a caregiver who is certified in infant CPR! All Guidepost at Home nannies are CPR and First Aid certified.
It can be tough to leave your baby in someone else’s care during a big transition, such as the introduction of solids. Just know that your caregiver is looking to you for guidance and will follow any of your wishes, so speak up and enjoy the fun of feeding your little one new foods.