Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods
He sat upright and watched my every move, turning his head as I took each spoonful of the ice cream from the bowl to my mouth. He leaned forward with an open mouth as if threatening to take the ice cream off my spoon.
My meal was being stalked and the stalker was my 4-month-old son! He was telling me he was ready for some solid food – “Maybe not ice cream but surely some pureed carrots, Mom?”
Babies are ready for some solid foods – and by “solid” I mean pureed – when they’re at least 4 months old and:
- Show interest in your food.
- Sit in a high chair or infant seat with their head held up and steady.
- Open their mouth if a spoon is offered to them, and can take food off the spoon and swallow it.
Tips for a smooth start:
- Don’t try to feed solid food when your baby is too hungry – they may get frustrated.
- Be ready for a mess – most of the new food may end up on your baby’s face!
- Expect a funny face – it just means the tastes are new, not that they dislike them.
- Follow your baby’s cues. Leaning in with an open mouth means your baby wants more. Closing their lips and turning away means they’re done.
- Encourage your baby by smiling and talking. “Yum!” “Want more?” “All done?”
- Be prepared for a slow start. Your baby may not be quite ready the first time you try, but will eventually get there.
There are few rules about what food to start with. Babies often do well when offered a single-grain infant cereal (like oat or rice), mixed with breast milk or formula. This tastes familiar to them! Be sure to choose an iron-fortified cereal to help prevent anemia. You can also offer pureed veggies or fruits. (There’s no research to support the notion that feeding fruit first will make a baby reject veggies.) After your baby gets used to one food, start adding in new foods slowly – a different one every few days. I suggest you have fun, mix up what you offer, and enjoy learning what your baby likes.
Research now supports offering potentially allergenic foods early – like wheat, eggs, dairy, fish, and peanuts. Doing so may actually help make food allergies less likely. Just be sure what you offer is in the form of a thin gruel, mixed with breastmilk or formula, or pureed. (No PB&J sandwiches yet!)
Talk with your pediatrician first if your baby has severe eczema or an allergy to eggs. Let your doctor know if you’re concerned that your baby has had an allergic reaction to foods – you might notice a rash, vomiting, diarrhea, or blood in the stool.
A few other points parents often ask about:
- During a meal, offer a sippy cup of water. At the end of these early meals you can offer breast milk or a bottle, to be sure your baby is full.
- At first there are no rules about how many feedings a day you should offer. It’s a slow process that ends up at around age 1, with your baby sitting with you to have 3 meals a day, and snacks in between.
Most importantly, have fun and follow your baby’s cues. Babies know when they’re hungry and how much food they need each day. Feeding children – from 4 months to 14 – should be an enjoyable, relaxed experience of family meals!
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This article was originally published August 3, 2017
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