Solid baby foods mark a tremendous milestone for your baby and for you. It’s likely you have a photo or two of your first bites of cereal and you will soon have a page in your album dedicated to your child’s. Those first few bites of solid food are exciting, but can also be confusing.
Until very recently it was recommended to start solid foods between four and six months of age. Now it is more often recommended to start solids closer to six months. Speak to your doctor about starting solids to determine if your child is ready and if it is an appropriate time.
You can look for indications your child is ready to start solid food:
- He watches you eat your food with great interest.
- He can sit up with support – preferably without.
- He can hold up his head.
- He open his mouth wide when offered food on a spoon.
- He uses his lips to remove food from the spoon.
- He turns his head away from food when he is full or disinterested.
- He has lost the tongue-thrust reaction which pushes food back out of the mouth.
- He can chew on his gums.
- He seems to be hungrier more often for an ongoing amount of time.
You should start solids when your baby is ready, which might not be until closer to eight months, and not because you think solids are necessary for any other reason. Solid foods have not been shown to help babies sleep better. They also are not required because a baby is larger or smaller than average. The nutrition in formula and breast milk is enough to meet the dietary demands of a baby until eight or nine months, so there is not a nutritional reason to start solid before your child is ready.
The Solid Food Progression
Your child will work his way into solids by starting with just a few tastes of one item. The first item often given to babies is rice cereal. The rice should be mixed with formula or breast milk and should be just above runny in consistency. You don’t want to feed a thick spoonful to your child. Let your child practice with the rice cereal for three to five days before moving on. Rice is used because rice is not linked to many allergies.
You can introduce foods in any order, but meat and dairy product should be avoided until baby is closer to a year in age. Most parents opt to start with various grains followed by fruits and vegetables. You should wait three to five days after each new item to be sure your baby doesn’t have sensitivity to an item. Most food sensitivities at this age are resolved naturally as your child grows. If she does react, put that food aside for now and try again in a few months or a year. It will take months to make it through all the possibilities in grains, fruits and vegetables. When possible avoid using combination meals in baby food jars as these often contain filler items and are not as nationally sound as the straight fruit or vegetable.
You can make your own baby foods by pureeing cooked items with water to reach the right consistency. As your baby learns to chew and swallow more effectively you can increase the texture of the foods until you reach a mashed state – this is the ideal time to move to table foods.
Around nine months to a year your child will be ready for the same foods you’re eating at mealtimes with some exceptions. Avoid foods that are hard to chew, such as meat, as your baby is still forming teeth. You should also avoid foods that have a high risk of choking such as uncut grapes or hot dogs, popcorn, hard candy and peanut butter. Finally, delay the introduction to potentially allergenic foods until the first or possibly second year. These include strawberries, egg white, chocolate, nuts and honey – which is a health concern as well.