Congratulations on your little bundle of joy. You have spent a lot of time feeding your baby either breast milk and/or formula and I hope you both have enjoyed the experience. You may be wondering when, how and what I should introduce as far as solids go. You may also be getting a lot of ‘advice’ and ‘opinions’ for various people and this can be confusing. My hope is to keep things simple so you and baby can enjoy the feeding and eating experience. Getting off to a good start sets the frame work for raising a normal eater.
When to start solid food depends when your baby is ready. (The American Pediatric Association recommends waiting at least until 6 months to start solids to help avoid allergies). Age is not the best indicator, instead listen to what your baby can do. Can he sit up (alone/supported), hold his head up straight, mouth his fingers/toys, open up when something is offered and stay open if he wants it, turn away if he’s disinterested, keep his tongue flat and low so you can put the spoon in, close his lips over the spoon and scrape food off of it, keep food in his mouth versus spitting it out?
If you start solids too early it will not be a good experience for you both. Keep in mind that babies can get basically all their nutrition needs met via breast milk and/or formula for the first year of life. So if you are worried from a nutrition standpoint you can relax. There is, however, a window where developmentally babies are ready to try eating solid foods. This typically can be between 5-8 months. Keep in mind each baby is different, if you have concerns, talk to your health care provider.
It is best to share control of feeding with your baby. Sit him in a high chair facing you with little distractions in the room. Tell him what you are doing and offer the spoon. Then wait for him to clearly tell you when he is ready. Go as fast or slow as he indicates. Do not put on a show and dance to distract him and ‘get him to open up’. Your baby needs to have a say in the feeding/eating experience. And it is best to listen and respond accordingly to him. So if you have a set agenda of how much food to get in, how long it should take or how neat things should be, you will be disappointed and frustrated. So relax, go with the flow and enjoy this fun experience with your baby. If by chance the feedings are not going well, then stop and try again in a few days or next week.
Iron fortified baby cereal mixed with breast milk or formula is good option to start with. To prevent allergies, use rice or barley cereal, waiting until 8 months or later to start any wheat. Consider warming it up a bit if the milk or formula is cold. Start with quite thin cereal at first and move to a thicker consistency as baby gets better at eating it. It is better to advance through different thicknesses and lumps, than to advance to different foods, so baby can learn to handle different textures well. You may want to offer some water via a cup during the feeding, especially if you have thick foods. Again your baby will let you know what to do.
Once your baby is good at eating a variety of cereal textures you can introduce some mashed or milled fruits and vegetables (see table for ideas). At this stage, your baby shouldn’t need pureed or commercial baby food as he can handle thicker consistency. A benefit of making your own food for baby is there are more varied tastes and textures. This keeps things interesting and teaches baby that food is different sometimes. Additionally, you will save a lot of money by making it. Now commercial baby food is convenient and has a purpose. If you tend to buy a lot of your baby food, consider altering the texture by adding some baby cereal to thicken it up at times.
Offer one new food at a time and try it for a few days to ensure there are no allergic reactions. The chart below is somewhat conservative, but taking your time will help baby adjust to eating solids and reduce the risk of allergies.
|6 months||Rice, Barley, Oat||Cooked Apple or Pear, Banana, Avocado||Sweet Potatoe,
Yam, Acorn or Butternut Squash, Green Beans
|8 months||Rice, Barley, Oat||Apricot, Mango, Nectarine, Peach, Plum, Prune,||Carrots, Peas, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Pumpkin||Chicken, Turkey, Tofu||Plain-Full Fat Yogurt|
|10 months||Rice, Barley, Oat, Wheat, Flax, Graham Crackers, Multi-grain Crackers, Millet, Cherrios, Puffed Rice, Kix, Other Cereal, Pasta, Quinoa, Bread||Blueberries, Melons, Cherries (pitted), Dates, Figs, Grapes (peeled and sliced), Kiwi, Papaya||Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Eggplant, White Potato, Onion, Peppers, Leeks, Mushrooms, Turnips, Parsnips, Olives (sliced)||Egg Yolk, Dried Beans, Legumes, Beef, Pork, Ham||Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Colby and Light Cheddar|
|12 months||Bagels||Berries, Citrus||Artichoke, Beets, Corn, Spinach, Tomatoes||Whole Egg, Finned Fish||Whole Milk, Stronger Cheeses|
It is best to offer a variety of food to your baby. If he doesn’t like something, try again another time and another time and another time. Keep in mind that babies want to explore new things so he may decide that squishing the food with his fingers or smearing it on his face is a good way to ‘try’ it. This is fine, a bit messy, but it allows baby explore the food. He may not be ready to put something in his mouth just yet, this takes a lot of bravery. Be patient with him, eventually he will try it. The key to raising a normal eater is to continue to offer different food and respect his desire to try it or not. Use your judgment when trying new foods to determine if it is a choking hazard for your baby.
See chart below for foods to be cautious about. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions.
|Honey||After 1 yr||Peanut Butter||After 1-3 yrs *|
|Tree Nuts||After 1-3 yrs *||Citrus or Acidic Fruit||After 1 yr|
|Strawberries||After 1-2 yrs *||Corn||After 1 yr|
|Egg White||After 1 yr||Whole Milk||After 1 yr|
|Wheat||After 8-12 months *||Grapes (choking)||After 10-12 months|
|Shellfish||After 1-2 yrs. *||Chocolate||After 1 yr|
*there is some variance as to when to start certain foods. Basically if there are known food allergies, baby is food sensitive, or there is a close relative with food allergies, then it is best to wait until the later age. If the baby is not food sensitive and does not have allergies, the earlier date should be fine.
Any book by Ellyn Satter. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense is highly recommended.
If you have any questions and/or concerns about feeding your baby, his nutrition or growth, please contact Stephanie Brooks, MS, RD at Bay Area Nutrition, LLC for an individual consultation.