Starting Solid Foods with Your Baby
Celebrating milestones with your baby is one of the best parts of being a new parent. Your baby seems to learn and grow right before your eyes, and it certainly makes the difficult parts of having a newborn all worth it. There's nothing quite like seeing your baby smile, laugh and roll over for the very first time. And then comes time to up their milestone game in the food department. Even though your baby seems quite content with just breastfeeding or their bottle, you've probably been eager to get them started on solid foods.
Starting solid foods with your little one is an exciting time. But it also comes with a lot of questions. Today we're making sure you have all the information you need to get your baby started on solid foods the right way - ensuring they continue to have the nutrition they need (hint - breast milk or formula are still number one!) while allowing you to have some creativity with their meals as they get closer to that one-year mark.
Most parents’ first question when it comes to solid foods is, "When can I start?" Let's get to it.
When to Start Solid Foods
Not that long ago, pediatricians were telling parents they could begin feeding their babies solid foods as young as 4 months, but this is no longer the case. The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it clear that parents should wait until about the 6-month mark to feed their babies solids. What's with the change?
Research has shown that introducing solid foods at a younger age puts children at a great risk for obesity, eczema, allergies, and diabetes. It can be hard to wait when you see your little cutie eyeing your delicious food, but there's really no reason to rush it.
And just because the AAP recommends 6 months, doesn't mean you can't wait a bit longer if your baby isn't quite ready. Here are the signs your baby will give you that they are ready to start solid foods:
- Showing interest in your food. She may watch every bite go into your mouth, grab at whatever it is you might be eating and imitate your chewing.
- Sitting up with proper head control. Without support, your baby should be able to hold his head steady.
- No more tongue-thrust reflex. If your baby keeps pushing solid food out of their mouth with their tongue, they are not ready.
- Eager to take a spoon. You can try this first with an empty spoon and see what your baby does. If they happily take it as if they were eating something, chances are they will be willing to eat!
You will want to look for all these signs in combination. If your baby isn't showing any interest in food or eagerly anticipating that spoon, then wait. It may just take another week or two before they come around. All babies do things in their own time and being ready to eat solid foods is one of those!
What do you do when you see the readiness signs? It's time to decide what you want your baby's first food to be based off some guidelines.
The Best Solid Foods to Give Your Baby - A Timeline
It used to be that every parent started their baby off on rice cereal for their first food. Though that option still works just fine, parents now have a lot more options to choose from.
Here we'll guide you on how to move through your baby's solid food journey from 6 months old until age 1.
Utilize this timeline to determine:
- the best age to introduce your baby to certain foods
- how long to wait between foods to try something new
- when to give high allergy foods for the first time
- how to prepare the food depending on age
Feeding your 6-month old
When starting solid foods, the most important thing is to give your baby pureed, one-ingredient, low-allergy risk foods. These can be a fruit, vegetable, or grain.
For fruits and vegetables, you'll want these pureed to very smooth. It needs to be a consistency that your baby can easily swallow with no chewing.
Look for "Stage 1" jars of food when buying and you'll know the consistency will be perfect for your new eater. We recommend:
- sweet potato
- butternut squash
If you want to puree your own baby food at home, that's a great option, too. Plus, it's cost-effective! But one isn't healthier than the other, so if you don't have time to make your own baby food, that's completely fine! Avocado is another great first food to try and you can mash it with breastmilk or formula to get the proper consistency.
Infant grain cereals are something else to mix with breast milk or formula. This makes them a great first food as it will be a good taste transition for your little one. These could be:
Be sure that you are only introducing a new food every 3-4 days. This is so you are able to have time to look for any allergy signs and be able to pinpoint the culprit. Luckily, most babies won't have any reactions, but it's important that you are paying close attention in case they do.
Feeding Your 7 to 8-Month-Old
Speaking of allergic reactions, around the 7 - 8-month mark is when you should begin to introduce higher allergenic foods such as eggs, peanuts (including peanut butter), tree nuts, dairy, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat. These foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies so be sure you continue to be vigilant about the 3-4 day food introduction rule so you can watch for signs of allergy.
It's possible you've heard conflicting information that you should wait until your baby is one to feed some of these high-allergy foods. But that's actually no longer the expert's recommendation. This article from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology states, " delaying the introduction of these foods may increase your baby’s risk of developing allergies."
During this time you can also continue to introduce any new veggies and fruits your baby hasn't tried yet. It's also a great time to start combining foods together that they've already tried before. Purees are still best at this age.
Feeding Your 8 to 10-Month-Old
This is the time period when you can start giving your baby some of the same type of foods that you eat in a similar consistency. Instead of making them their own food for every meal, it's much easier to manipulate what you're having to work for your little one. This can include:
- cottage cheese
- unsweetened yogurt
This is also the perfect timeframe to have your baby try some finger foods that are easy for them to chew. These could be crackers, pasta, dry cereal, fruit and vegetable pieces, and slivers of well-cooked meat.
Feeding Your 10 to 12 Month-Old
By now your baby probably has a few teeth. Even if they don't, they still have strong jaws that can gum and mash food while they chew. It's important to pay attention to your baby's unique progress with handling different types of foods so that you never give them food they're not yet ready for. But by this age, here are some foods your baby can start to enjoy on their own:
- whole peaches
- whole bananas
- grilled cheese cut into bites
- soup with soft cooked vegetables
- pureed vegetables stirred into macaroni and cheese
- baked potato
There are few foods that are completely off limits as long as you can get them to a consistency that's safe for your baby.
This is a great age to start getting your baby adjusted to your family's regular meal times. They can be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner just as you do. You'll want to aim for balanced nutrients, ensuring they're getting a good mix of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and nuts.
Additionally, they'll still be getting most of their calories by way of breast milk or formula until their first birthday.
How Much Solid Food To Give Your Baby and Balancing it with Milk Feeds
Breast milk or formula will continue to be your baby's main source of nutrition until age 1. You'll notice that your baby doesn't take in a lot of food during those first couple months of introduction and that's completely fine! This is the time to introduce them to new flavors and textures while also helping them learn how to start handling a spoon and fork.
In other words, solid foods should never replace breast milk or formula at this stage - think of it as a supplement instead. There's no reason to change your baby's breast or bottle feeding times or amounts just because you're introducing solid food. In fact, you really only need to be offering solid foods once per day in the beginning. As time goes on, you can breast or bottle feed first at mealtimes the way you always have.
You can continue to warm your baby's milk with a bottle warmer like the Baby's Brew and then offer food after. It may only be a couple of tiny spoonfuls initially, then later they will probably eat an entire 4 oz. jar at each mealtime.
You can also offer water at mealtimes after 6 months of age in a sippy cup. Though breast milk and formula have plenty of H2O to keep your baby hydrated, this is a great time for your baby to become more comfortable using a cup.
How to Keep Feeding Time an Enjoyable Experience
Starting your baby on solid foods is an exciting time. And those first few go-rounds are usually full of giggles and laughs watching your baby make silly faces in response to new tastes. It's fun to notice what kinds of foods they can't get enough of and the ones they refuse to eat.
But over time, feeding time can become stressful if you let it.
Here are some suggestions to make feeding time enjoyable for everyone:
- Keep your baby in a highchair. It can be difficult for you to enjoy your own meal if your baby is in your lap all the time. You deserve to relax at the table and enjoy a warm meal.
- Be flexible. If your baby doesn't like the food you're giving them, try something different. You can refrigerate any unused portion and try again the next day. You'll want to keep reintroducing that food, but if they don't want it initially that's completely OK.
- Follow your baby's lead. This great infographic talks about responsive feeding. Babies are able to self-regulate their food intake. They know when they are hungry and they know when they are full. "You provide, your child decides." Be sure to offer your baby food when you're seeing signs they are hungry, and they will let you know when they are done. Don't push them to eat more. If they turn their head away, won't open their mouth, or start throwing food on the ground, those are clear signs they are reading to be done.
- Be okay with the mess. Your baby is not going to be a clean eater. The sooner you come to terms with that, the less stressful mealtime will be. At this age, your child wants to explore everything, and that often ends up in a messy face, messy plate, messy everything. It can all be cleaned up.
What to Never Feed Your Baby
The following should not be given to your baby under age 1 for any reason:
- Honey - this can cause a rare but serious gastrointestinal condition in infants
- Cow's Milk - though your child does need to be introduced to dairy products, cow's milk should not replace your baby's formula or breast milk until age 1.
- Large Chunks of Food - grapes, whole nuts, popcorn, hot dogs etc. can all be choking hazards. Be sure to chop food into pieces your baby can handle. Otherwise, it can become a choking hazard.
- Juice - juice is full of sugar and there's really no reason for your baby to have it