Introducing Your Baby To Solid Food
One bite at a time.
Your little one is growing up fast! Can you believe how far you’ve both come? Your baby has made leaps and bounds in their development, and the time for them to graduate to solid foods may be fast approaching. If you're wondering when to start solid food, how you go about introducing solid foods, and what baby foods you should avoid, read on. We’re delving into solid foods for baby to help make your infant’s introduction to their first foods a success—and help set them up for a life of healthy eating!
When To Start Solid Foods
As we know, every child is different. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid food at around six months old, there are a few other developmental milestones they should hit in order for your baby to be ready for solid foods.
They should be able to sit upright with support and hold their head up in a steady manner. If they’re putting their fingers, hands, or toys in their mouth, or showing an interest in your food, they may also be ready for baby food. Around this age is also when your little one starts to learn to move food to the back of their mouth to swallow, rather than pushing it out of their mouth with their tongue. If you think they’re in a good place to introduce food, confirm your hunch with your pediatrician before dabbling in mashed or pureed food.
Also, be sure to avoid well-intended advice from family and friends if they mention introducing solid food before six months old. There’s a fairly common myth that solid foods will help calm a fussy baby, which leads many people to start introducing solids too early, at three or four months of age. This is not only misguided, it’s been associated with infants becoming overweight or obese during both their babyhood and childhood. So, resist the urge to pick up the baby spoon too soon.
What Are Good Feeding Habits?
Establishing good eating habits from the get-go is key to setting your child up for eating well throughout their life. These include sitting up while eating, getting food from utensils, taking a break between bites, and knowing to stop eating when they’re full. The following tips below can help make mealtime more manageable and enjoyable too.
Have family mealtime: From the time you first introduce solid foods into the mix, encourage the whole family to dine together. Research has shown that regular family meals can positively affect the development of children.
Spoon out individual servings: Instead of feeding your infant from the jar or a container of baby food, portion out small servings in a dish. That way, their saliva-covered spoon won’t contaminate the rest of the food. You can safely refrigerate open jars or containers of baby food for two to three days.
Encourage exploration: Playing with their food is one way in which your baby learns about the world around them, so there’s no need to discourage them at this age. Just be sure the food you’re providing is soft and easy to swallow.
Introduce utensils: Get your little one used to holding utensils by giving them a spoon to hold, while you feed them with another spoon. This will help improve their dexterity. Then, eventually you can encourage them to feed themself with the spoon.
Use a cup: Give your baby breastmilk or formula from a cup. This will get them used to the feeling of having the rim on their lips, and by about nine months, they should be able to use a sippy cup all on their own.
Don’t force-feed: Your infant may turn away from their food or cry when they’ve had enough. As long as they’re growing as they should, they’re likely getting enough nutrients. Also, some may think that feeding your baby as much as possible before bedtime can help them sleep, but there’s no evidence that it helps anything. If your infant is being fussy, there are ways to calm them down.
How To Introduce Solid Foods
By now, you might be wondering what foods you should start introducing to your baby and how to go about doing so. Below is an easy-to-follow guide.
Start with the basics: The first solid food that you offer your growing infant should be pretty basic, made up of only a single ingredient, with no added sugar or salt. These include pureed foods like banana, sweet potato, apple, or pear, for example. You can buy them pre-packaged, or make them yourself at home with a blender.
Proceed gradually: Only introduce one ingredient at a time to be sure your baby doesn’t have a negative reaction to it, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or a rash. Give it three to five days before you introduce another single-ingredient food. Once you’re confident that your little one won’t have a reaction to certain ingredients, then you can combine them at feedings.
Incorporate key nutrients: Nutrients, particularly zinc and iron, are especially important for your baby’s development from six months to 12 months old. You can find zinc and iron, along with other nourishment, in pureed meats and single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal.
Slowly increase food’s consistency: Speaking of baby cereal, start out by mixing it with four tablespoons of breastmilk or formula, giving your baby one to two teaspoons of it at a time. Then, gradually decrease the amount of liquid in it and increase the overall serving size as your infant gets used to swallowing it.
Say hello to finger foods: When your baby has gotten the basics down with mashed or pureed foods, as long as they can sit up and bring their hands or other objects to their mouth, you can introduce them to finger foods and the concept of self-feeding. Just make sure any finger foods you give them are soft, easy to swallow, and cut into small pieces. These could include morsels of banana, baby puffs, dry cereal, cheese, scrambled eggs, peas, and well-cooked pasta, chopped chicken, and potatoes. By a few months into the solid food game, your little one’s diet should be filled with variety.
Don’t avoid potential allergens: Previously, there had been a school of thought that potential allergens shouldn’t be introduced to babies until they’re older children to lessen their likelihood of developing allergies to them. However, there is no evidence to back that theory up. In fact, introducing potential allergens early, around six months old, could help prevent your infant from developing an allergy. So, go ahead and offer your child soft, small portions of eggs, dairy, soy, peanut products, and fish.
Although we should note a couple of exceptions: If your infant has eczema or other food allergies or risk factors, it’s best to have your pediatrician evaluate them prior to introducing a potential allergen.
Be prepared for gassy bouts: Your baby’s digestive system is still in development, which means they can be gassy, especially when new foods are introduced. Be prepared for these moments and have Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in dye-free or our original formula. They work quickly to help break gas bubbles down to help your little one naturally expel them. And, no worries, the medicine won’t get absorbed into your baby’s system; it will simply pass right on through to their diaper. Plus, it’s safe to give after every feeding—even for newborns—up to 12 times a day.
Promote healthy digestion: You can also help your infant’s fledgling digestive system along by giving them Infants’ Mylicon Daily Probiotics every day. They replenish the “good” bacteria in your baby’s tummy and help support healthy digestion, as well as their immune system. Bonus: When given daily, over time our probiotics can help reduce crying and fussiness associated with colic by 50% or more!
How To Prepare Solid Foods For Your Baby
As we covered, it’s pretty easy to throw a single fruit or veggie, or combination of them, into a blender at home. But, it’s interesting to point out that some parents choose to skip pureed foods altogether and wait to introduce solid foods until their babies are ready to feed themselves soft finger foods. Although there hasn’t been much formal research around this method, it may help give your infant a sense of control over their mealtime—plus, they’ll be able to have little bits of some of what the rest of the family is eating.
This method may also help develop your little one’s dexterity and hand-eye coordination, as well as foster decision-making. It may help them recognize when they're hungry or full, as well as open up the number of different food tastes and textures to try.
Keep in mind, however, that this approach isn’t a one-size-fits-all. If your infant was premature, has trouble gaining weight, or has any developmental delays, it may not be the way to go. There’s no steadfast right or wrong way to start introducing solids, so, as always, talk to your pediatrician about any changes you're making to your baby’s diet and the dos and don’ts to follow. Just take it slow and follow your doctor’s advice.
What Foods Should You Avoid For Babies?
Just like us, babies benefit from a diet that’s varied, but there are some general things you should avoid.
Hold the juice: You may be excited to share new tastes with your little one, but hold off on giving them juice until they’re at least one-year old. It isn’t a necessary part of their diet, and giving them the real thing such as diced fruit is much more valuable to them nutritionally. Juice can also contribute to weight problems and diarrhea, as well as tooth decay.
That said, if you just can’t help yourself, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises waiting until your baby is at least 12 months old and younger than three years, and giving no more than four ounces of 100% fruit juice a day.
. . . and the water: As long as your baby is healthy, you shouldn’t have to supplement their diet with water. Both breastmilk and formula provide an adequate amount of fluids. If you want to give your infant a little water to, say, help those solid foods go down or if it’s a hot day, hold off until they’re at least six months old, and give them no more than one cup (eight ounces) a day.
Delay introduction of cow’s milk: Milk from a cow doesn’t meet any of your baby’s nutritional needs. It’s also not a great source of iron, and giving it to your child before the age of one may increase the risk of them developing an iron deficiency.
Ditto with honey: You should also hold off on introducing them to honey until they’re older than 12 months. Honey may contain spores, which can be toxic to an infant.
Be aware of culinary choking hazards: There are some foods that increase your baby’s risk of choking. So, be sure to avoid quick grabs such as hotdogs, including baby food “hot dogs” and meat sticks, chunks of meat, cheese, fruits, or veggies, whole grapes (slice them up, instead!), nuts, seeds, and raw veggies; cook the latter to soften them.
What To Do If Baby Is Not Eating Solids
First off, take a deep breath. There’s usually no reason to worry if you’re having trouble trying to get your infant to transition to solid foods. The tastes and textures are new to them, so there can be an adjustment period. It’s quite normal for an infant to refuse solid foods at first, or just suck or gnaw at them (which is how they learn). And you may have to be more persistent than you think.
Sometimes, it can take 10 to 15 attempts with the same food over a period of months for your baby to accept a new food. Try not to get discouraged, and space out when you offer said food by about a week.
Let your little one see you, and even other members of the family, indulge in the food you're having a difficult time getting them to accept. They’re more likely to try it if they see you and their peers enjoying it. If their resistance to solid food persists for too long, or if you feel they’re being too indulgent, however, it may be time to speak to your pediatrician.
Lastly, if your precious little one is still finicky as they enter toddlerhood, learn 12 Tips For Picky Eaters.
Next: New foods are a huge step for your baby, but with them, gassy bouts may follow as their little systems adjust. We’ve got you. Learn How To Relieve Infant Gas.