- When do I start feeding solids to my little one?
- What can I feed my baby?
In the post below, we will answer these questions and a bunch more about how to introduce your infant to solid foods.
When Do Babies Start Eating Solids?
Introducing your infant to solids is more about getting them used to the idea of chewing and swallowing different foods, rather than for any nutritional gain. For optimal nutrition and health benefits for both mom and baby, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Supplemental breastfeeding is necessary until your little one’s first birthday. For moms who cannot or do not want to breastfeed, formula milk is a good alternative.
The ideal time frame for introducing your infant to solid foods is between four and six months. For developmental reasons, your little one should not start eating solid foods before four months. Before this point, their digestive system is not yet sufficiently developed to process solid foods. Additionally, they are not able to chew and swallow solid foods.
Five Signs that your Baby is Ready for Solids
Your baby’s readiness for solid foods depends on their individual development. Here are five signs to look out for:
- Your little one should show adequate head control.
- Can sit upright when supported, for example, in a highchair.
- They should be grasping small objects with their hands.
- And bringing objects to their mouth.
- Your baby is showing an interest in food. For example, reaching out for food on your plate while you are eating.
How to Introduce Solids to a Baby
When starting with solids, it is easier for your child to eat foods with a smooth consistency. In other words, pureed, mashed, or strained. It can take time for your infant to become used to different food textures. Initially, they might spit the food out, gag, or even cough. As your baby becomes used to the idea of eating solids and their oral skills improve, you can gradually introduce foods with thicker and lumpier textures.
A great way to start with solids is to mix the food that you want to give to your baby with breast milk. If you are not breastfeeding, you can make up a bit of infant formula and add that to the food. For example, to one spoon of infant cereal, add four to five spoons of breastmilk. The familiarity of the flavor of the breast milk or formula might make the transition to solid foods easier for your little one.
Four Tips for Getting Started with Solids
- Introduce only one new ingredient at a time. Allow for two to three days before introducing a subsequent food so that you can watch for allergic reactions.
- Never force your baby to eat. If they are not interested in the food, simply take them out of the highchair, and carry on with your daily routine.
- It is best if your infant learns to like food without any extra seasoning. Therefore, do not add salt or sugar to your baby’s food.
- Create a routine around meals. To help them focus on the task at hand, get them ready for mealtime by washing their hands, soothing them, and sitting them down to eat.
What Foods to Start Feeding a Baby
Many recommend starting with foods such as grains and vegetables that are quite bland. For example, rice cereal, oats, potatoes, pumpkin. Here are some examples of foods appropriate for baby at different ages:
From 6 months:
- Mashed avocado or banana.
- Cooked and pureed vegetables. For example, yams, pumpkin, carrots, peas, and cauliflower.
- Ground and cooked single-grain cereal. Mix with water, formula, or breast milk.
- Meat or poultry – well-cooked and pureed.
From 9 months:
- Cooked vegetables that are cut into small pieces, about ½-inch squares.
- Small pieces of softer fruits such as bananas, peaches, paw-paw.
- Well-cooked meat or poultry. Mince or chop into tiny pieces.
From 12 months:
At this point, your little one can start sharing in family mealtimes! Just be sure to cut pieces into age-appropriate shapes and sizes. Other things that your one-year-old can eat:
- Soft, shredded fish, meat, and poultry.
- Cooked vegetables, cut up small.
- Fruit that is soft and easy to eat.
8 Tips for Preparing Foods for Baby
- When starting out on your baby’s solid food journey, a stick blender or food processor is your best friend! Mash or puree your baby’s food (cereals, fruit, vegetables) until it is smooth and free of lumps.
- Cook food until it is soft enough to mash with a fork. For example, firmer fruit and veg such as apples and carrots usually need to be cooked so that they are easier to mash or puree.
- Finely grind whole-grain kernels of grains and cereals such as wheat, barley, rice, and quinoa before cooking.
- Remove all bones, skin, and fat from meat, fish, and poultry before cooking.
- Cut soft food into thin slices or pieces that are small enough for the baby to fit into their mouth.
- Remove the seeds or pits from the fruit before cutting them into small pieces.
- Spherical foods such as grapes, cherry tomatoes, and blueberries can get stuck in your little one’s airways. To avoid this, cut these in half or in quarters.
- For the same reason, cut cylindrical foods into strips rather than rounds.
What About Potentially Allergenic Foods?
In the US, 90 % of food allergies are caused by milk, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, and soy. If you or your partner has a food allergy you might be reluctant to introduce potential allergy-causing foods to your little one. However, studies show that babies exposed to potentially allergenic foods in their first twelve months are less likely to develop food allergies later in childhood. In fact, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) reports that introducing infants to potentially allergenic foods earlier on can actually prevent food allergies from developing.
The popular opinion is that you can introduce these potentially allergenic foods in the first few months of feeding solids. Do so one food at a time. Always allowing for a few days of observation before moving on to a new food. However, always be sure to chat to your baby’s pediatrician or physician about your and your infant’s particular situation beforehand.
Your Baby is Unique
And so are you! Take it slow. Do not stress when your mini-me spits out more than they swallow. Trust your instincts. Be receptive to adjusting your plan according to the cues that your baby is giving you. Your solid food journey with your little one should be exciting and enjoyable for both of you.