Introducing solid foods to your baby is an exciting milestone! Parents have a lot of questions about when to start solid foods, what baby food to introduce first, and more. Well-meaning family and friends might tell you to start your child on solid foods around three months old or give outdated advice. Parents need up-to-date recommendations from experts.
To answer all of your questions, we put together a guide on how to get started with solid foods. Check out what you need to know.
When Should You Give Baby Solid Food?
The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods around six months old. Some pediatricians recommend starting solids between four and six months old. Parents must watch for signs of readiness to help them decide when to introduce solid baby food.
The signs of readiness are:
- Baby holds his head steady.
- She can sit independently.
- She is curious about things around her, including what you are eating.
- The tongue thrust is gone. This reflex causes babies to push food or objects out of their mouth, such as the pacifier.
- Baby acts hungry after a full day’s worth of milk.
- Babies reach these milestones around five to six months of age. Watch these signs to know the appropriate time to introduce solid foods.
Breast Milk or Formula First
Breast milk or formula must be the primary source of food for your baby for the first-year-old life. After a year old, parents can introduce cow’s milk, but the AAP and World Health Organization encourages breastfeeding mothers to continue nursing their child for two years or longer.
You will need to experiment with what works best for your baby, but it is best to offer breast milk or formula first. After, give your baby solid food. This time is perfect for him to learn about the act of eating while he learns the different flavors and textures of food. Offering their milk first ensures your child receives all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients required for proper growth.
What if My Baby Refuses Solid Foods?
If your baby refuses to eat solid foods, that is fine! Don’t worry about it. Some babies refuse solid foods up until nine months old or longer. Solid foods are complementary to breast milk or formula for the first year of life. The primary reason that parents introduce them around six months old is to help develop fine motor skills.
What Foods Should Baby Eat?
Parents can decide what foods to their baby, and making that decision is fun! Here are some suggestions.
- Single-Grain Cereals: Parents can introduce single-grain cereals between four and six months. Your baby has iron stored in his system from the placenta after birth, but their storage of iron depletes by nine months old. Doctors recommend iron-fortified cereals as an early food.
To make a bowl of cereal, mix one teaspoon of cereal with four to five teaspoons of breast milk or formula. As your baby gets used to eating food, you can thicken it with more cereal.
- Pureed Veggies, Fruits, and Meats: From four to eight months, parents can introduce a variety of vegetables, fruits, and meats to their baby. Some people may tell you that you should introduce a vegetable first or you risk causing a desire for sweeter foods. However, no proof shows it’s true, so feel free to give your baby apples before peas.
Make sure there is no salt or sugar added to the fruits and veggies!
One at a Time
Start with one food at a time when you start to introduce foods. Doing so allows parents to identify foods that may cause digestive problems for their child. Introducing one food at a time gives you time to pinpoint food allergies as well.
Here is an example of how this might look.
- Day One: Introduce carrots
- Day Two and Three: Continue with just carrots
- Day Four: Introduce apples
- Day Five and Six: Give apples and/or carrots
- Day Seven: Introduce bananas
- Day Eight and Nine: Give bananas, apples, or carrots
Continue offering single fruit, veggie, or meat baby food until your child has had several foods. Once you know that your child has no reactions, feel free to mix them. Apples and carrots make a delicious combination! Apples and bananas taste well together as well.
How Often Should I Offer Solid Foods?
Once you introduce solid foods around six months old, offer foods once per day. Between seven and nine months old, try to gradually increase the feedings to two per day if your child shows interest. At nine to 12 months old, offer your child three meals per day.
Bring your child to meal times with your family. Place your baby in a high chair and let them enjoy family time. Doing so encourages their eagerness to eat solid foods, as well as improving relations with family members and vital communication skills.
Between eight and ten months old, parents can offer chopped finger foods. Babies can handle small portions, such as:
- Soft fruits
- Steamed vegetables
- Well-cooked meats
- Baby crackers
- Dry cereal
Avoid Giving These Foods to Your Baby
Now, you know what foods to give your baby, but it is important to know what NOT to give your child. The list is rather small, thankfully!
- Honey: Never offer honey before the age of 1. Honey might contain spores of bacteria that lead to infant botulism.
- Cow’s Milk: While you can offer dairy products before your child turns one year old, don’t offer cow’s milk as a replacement for breast milk or formula. Cow’s milk doesn’t meet a child’s nutritional needs and isn’t a source of iron.
- Don’t Give Choking Hazards: As your child gets older, their options increase to include different finger foods then mashed foods. As he progresses with eating solid foods, avoid foods such as hot dogs, grapes, raw veggies, or large chunks of cheese and meat.
Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby
Giving your baby solid foods for the first time is an exciting milestone. Purchasing a high chair, spoons, and utensils make a fun shopping trip, and parents love to see their child’s reactions as they try new foods. Make sure you take it slow and don’t offer food before six months old. Don’t stress if your child isn’t interested in solid foods.
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