If you’re like most moms, there have been countless times over baby’s first months when you wish you had a “how-to guide” to help you tackle a variety of concerns and milestones. And, the introduction of solid foods into your baby’s diet is likely to be one of these times. It’s of course a great idea to have a detailed discussion with your pediatrician about this topic, but here are a few of our top tips that may help you out in the meantime:
1) Discern when your baby is ready to try solid foods
- Can he/she sit up in a high chair, without help?
- What about keeping his/her head up?
- Does your baby show interest and curiosity in food?
- Can he/she move food from mouth to throat without spitting it out?
You want all of these answers to be “yes” before you start trying solid foods. Your baby needs to be over the “extrusion reflex” where food gets pushed out by the tongue—and it’s even better if your baby opens its mouth when food is offered. Pediatricians generally recommend that you move to solid foods between 4-6 months, and one suggested benchmark is when baby has doubled its birth weight.
2) Introduce one new food at a time
Don’t overwhelm your baby with a smorgasbord of new tastes and textures all at once. For one thing, it’s smart to observe how your baby reacts to a new food before moving to the next. With the prevalence of food allergies, you’ll be able to keep your eyes out for signs that a certain food doesn’t agree with baby (diarrhea, rash, or vomiting). And, you want to give baby time to acclimate to the variety of new sensory experiences. When you try offering a new food, use a small spoon that’s designed to avoid injury, and place a small amount of the food on the tip. Hold it up to your child’s lips and let him/her explore and taste. If baby is uninterested in a particular food, just let him/her smell and/or touch it for now—and revisit it again later.
3) There’s not necessarily a “best” first food—or set order of introduction
Many moms start with whole-grain baby cereals (like oatmeal, barley, and brown rice). These have appeal for their mild flavors and fortification, but they aren’t the only option. If your baby is breastfed, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually suggests that you might try meat as a first food, due to the iron content. Other ideas include pureed bananas, pears, sweet potatoes, and apples. See what your baby responds to—and also don’t exclude foods because you might not like them.
4) Be patient—and safe
The first few weeks of solid foods are a time for baby to get used to the concept and explore new tastes. And he/she will probably continue to consume as much milk/formula as usual. (But don’t worry—by 12 months, baby will be eating three meals a day!) A few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure baby is alert and wide awake before you start trying new foods
- Start slow and let your child dictate the pace of eating; don’t force a food when it’s clearly not working
- Don’t give up on a certain food if baby turns up his/her nose or spits it out on the first try—or even the first few tries
- Know which types of foods are choking hazards (large chunks of anything, raw vegetables, nuts, etc.) and how to remedy any choking incidents
- Watch out for indigestion, and keep your pediatrician apprised of any concerns
For more information, check out these Tips for Introducing Solid Foods from the American Academy of Pediatrics.