Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods

Starting your baby on solid foods is an important milestone that can be intimidating to a new parent. Be sure to be patient as it may take some time for your baby to adjust to the new changes in her diet. Start with bland foods, such as a rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, before progressing to pureed fruits and vegetables. Introduce new foods slowly, adding one new food per week to screen out allergies and intolerances.

When to Introduce Solid Foods

Many doctors advise beginning solid foods when your baby is around 6 months of age.

How Do I Know if My Baby is Ready for Solid Foods?

Babies are usually ready to start solids somewhere around 6 months of age, but every baby is different. Your baby should be able to sit up well on her own before you offer solid food. She may have begun to take interest in your food, watching you eat and perhaps trying to take food out of your hand.

Younger babies have a reflex that helps them avoid choking. They automatically push food placed in their mouth forward with their tongue, and so will not swallow most food when offered. This reflex decreases around 4-6 months of age.

Your baby's pediatrician will advise you on when to first offer solid food to your baby.

How Do I Start Solid Foods?

Begin by offering your baby some rice cereal mixed with formula or breast milk. The cereal should have a very liquid consistency. Try dipping your finger in it and giving it to the baby to suck, as this may be easier for him than trying to eat from a spoon.

Don't be surprised if the baby does not seem interested in the cereal or spits it out. After all, eating solids is a completely new experience for the baby and is likely to feel somewhat unnatural! Offer the food again at the next mealtime.

As your baby becomes accustomed to being fed, give him another spoon to hold while feeding. It will be quite a while before he is able to operate the spoon on his own, but holding it will keep his busy hands occupied.

What Other Foods Will my Baby Enjoy?

Babies are often fond of the sweeter orange vegetables. Try cooking carrots, sweet potato, and squash and pureeing them in the food processor. Also offer the baby pureed peas and green beans.

Alternate offering introducing a new orange or green vegetable each week.

Babies often love applesauce, pureed pears or peaches. Try mixing mashed banana and avocados. The healthy fat in avocados is great for babies.

If you know that your baby can tolerate lactose, try feeding the baby some plain unsweetened yogurt.

Foods to Avoid

Babies should not be fed foods that are common allergens, like nuts and strawberries. Avoid citrus fruits in babies under 1. Honey should never be fed to babies under 1.

When your baby is ready for finger foods, be sure to offer pieces the baby can handle. Never feed your baby popcorn or sliced hot dogs (the perfect size and diameter for choking on.)

Signs of Food Allergy

When beginning solid foods, offer one new food to your baby each week. Watch your baby for signs of a possible food allergy, and if you detect any of these signs, discontinue the new food and contact your pediatrician. 

Signs of a food allergy in babies can include:

  • crankiness
  • diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • rashes
  • runny nose

Safety Tips

IMPORTANT: Your baby must never be left alone while eating. The best way to prevent choking is to ensure that children always eat sitting down.

The idea that giving cereal to a very young baby will help the baby sleep through the night is an old wive's tale. Eating solids will probably not affect your baby's sleep habits. Never add cereal to a baby's bottle in an attempt to get the baby to sleep longer.

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