The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend infants start to be introduced to solid foods at 6 months of age.
There are many varying opinions across cultures on what is suitable practice, but for the sake of this article I will be supporting the research and knowledge of these organizations. Starting solids too soon can have negative affects, so it is best not to rush it.
How to know if your baby is ready?
When your baby starts approaching the 6 month mark you may notice they become interested in anything you are eating or drinking. They may begin to reach for things you have in your hands, like your water bottle. You may notice them salivating as they watch you scarf down a sandwich.
These are all positive signs that your baby is ready to begin trying solid foods.
Important milestones your baby should be able to do before having solids are:
- Sitting with support
- Have good head and neck control
- Push up onto elbows during tummy time
- Showing sign of readiness by placing different toys in their mouth
- Leaning forward and opening mouth showing interest in food
- Be able to turn head away showing disinterest or fullness
How do we start?
If your baby is showing all of the above signs and you are ready to begin the introduction of solid foods, hooray! This is another milestone in and of itself. The most important thing to note is that at this point solids are only a SUPPLEMENT to the breast milk or formula. Meaning, you give your baby their regular feeding with boob or bottle, wait an hour or so and then offer solids. Most of their calories should still be coming from breast milk or formula.
Step 1: Rice Cereal
- The first food you should introduce to your baby is a single grain rice cereal. It is the least likely food to cause an allergic reaction and it is gentle on their little bellies.
- The very first time you give this, you should mix a teaspoon of the cereal with 4 teaspoons of breast milk (or water if formula fed). The initial consistency is going to be very, very thin. Your baby needs to learn how to take food from a spoon and how to swallow it safely. You do not want to risk your baby aspirating (taking food into the lungs). You gradually reduce the amount of milk or water you mix it with to thicken it over time.
- You start with one supplemental feeding a day of one teaspoon and gradually increase it to 4 Tablespoons twice a day. Do this slowly over the course of several weeks. Your baby is just learning how to do this, and their bellies are growing slowly to accommodate the extra food.
- Your baby may appear to dislike the taste or texture the first few times. This is normal and expected. It is completely new to them. They have never experienced anything except breast milk or formula before.
- Don’t give up and don’t force it. If your baby won’t accept it, then stop and try again the next day.
- Don’t heat cereal in the microwave! This can lead to uneven heating and potential to burn baby’s mouth. If you prefer to warm the breast milk first under warm water in the bottle, then add to cereal. But NEVER microwave.
- Never add rice cereal to bottles, unless you are specifically instructed to by your pediatrician.
STEP 2: Introducing Pureed Fruits, Veggies & Meats
- Once your baby is taking rice cereal at a thicker consistency you can start to introduce new baby foods.
- Start with single-ingredient pureed baby foods.
- The best foods to start with are: sweet potato, pears, banana, green beans, apples.
- The goal is to get your baby used to different textures and tastes. Initially the actual amount they eat is less important.
- Do NOT add salt, sugar or other seasonings to food.
- You must wait at least 3 days in between each food you introduce to be able to identify possible allergens.
- By the time your baby is 8 months of age it is recommended they take approximately 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of vegetable and 1/2 of fruit per day.
- Once your baby has gotten used to single ingredient foods and can sit independently you can start the multi-ingredient foods.
- It is best practice to always have baby in the high chair during feedings.
Step 3: Finger Foods
- Your baby will be your guide as to when they are ready for finger foods.
- Ensure you only offer your baby foods intended for infants. You may not realize something as simple as a raisin can be a huge choking hazard for your baby.
- Foods should be finely chopped and soft.
- Always supervise your baby while eating.
- Again, best practice is to only have them eating while in the high chair. Eating is second nature for adults and we can do it without thinking about it really, but for your baby it takes every bit of concentration.
Follow these guidelines when introducing your baby to solid foods, and it will be a fun experience for you both.