Deciding when to pull the trigger and start baby on solids is a tricky one. Start too soon and you might have allergies to deal with later on - wait too long and your baby won't want to try anything other than milk.
In my experience with both R & Z, waiting longer was definitely my preference. With R, I started grudgingly at 6 months with..wait for it..avocado! Very excited at the prospect of trumping the common rice cereal, I began slowly introducing different foods, following the rule of one food a week to rule out any allergies. Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as soon after we started him on banana, my firstborn became constipated. Contrary to popular belief, constipation isn't really about a lack of stool but relates more to the difficulty in passing a stool. Quite possibly one of the worst moments of my life was watching my poor child scream in pain as he tried to poop - 'twas time to roll up my sleeves and find something safe to help alleviate his suffering.
First port of call... reflexology . After reviewing different articles on the web, I was satisfied that this was an easy and pretty harmless treatment - it involves massaging certain spots on the feet (and also hands) that correspond to different parts of the body.
Example of a Reflexology Foot Chart
This type of chart is a great tool (!) to have for any mom, new or otherwise. You can find others on the internet, I chose one I like from a websitethat has some great reflexology information. I have used reflexology to help colds, coughs, UTIs and just to relax my children as well. The technique involves using your thumb to apply firm but light pressure on the spot that corresponds to the problem area. You can massage in circles or just up and down - no hard and fast rule here except that you need to do it often and for at least a few minutes on each foot per session. For constipation, refer to the points above that relate to the liver, colon, intestines, stomach and the rectum all of which have a role to play in getting the body rid of waste.
A good aid in helping with the massage is olive oil. Used often in 'desi' (the somewhat affectionate name for people and culture of the subcontinent) remedies, olive oil is a relaxant as well as good for circulation. My mom and dad frequently told me to massage the kids with oil after baths and especially before bedtime to help them sleep soundly - babies especially benefit from the closeness and warmth of their loved ones' hands and also from the therapeutic qualities of the oil. You can also add a drop or two of lavender essential oil to make it even more relaxing - very safe to use on babies and smells great!
Second port of call..diet! I ditched the bananas and looked for constipation easing foods. Topping that list was mushed up prunes - a few spoons of the yucky stuff and baby R was happily pooping away. Other good fruits for constipation are pears, peaches and plums..all the P's (excuse the pun!).
The combination of both diet and reflexology did the trick and I was a relaxed mom again (not for long though). Needless to say with Z, I waited a little longer and went very, very slowly. In fact, she didn't really start eating properly until she was a year and she never had a problem with constipation (or putting on weight).
NB Both my kids were exclusively breastfed up until they started solids and for a good while after..I'm a big believer in breastfeeding and feel that it is sufficient for the first year but certainly know & understand that it is not possible or ideal for everyone. If you are not breastfeeding, waiting until 6 months or beyond to start solids may not be the best thing to do so please exercise caution, do your research and discuss further with your pediatrician.