Introducing Solid Foods: How to Get Your Baby Started
Introducing solid foods is a thrilling yet sloppy adventure for most parents. From sweet bananas and soft pasta to luscious sweet potatoes and tangy cheese, your baby’s palate is about to explore a whole new world of sensations and flavors. This is a time when your little one should have fun experimenting, even if most of the meal ends up on the floor or in her hair.
When to Start Solid Foods
By the age of six months, most babies are ready to begin solid foods. Introducing solids earlier than four months is not recommended. Every baby is different, though, so it’s important to evaluate a child’s individual milestones before introducing more variation into their diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a child is developmentally ready to try solids if they can:
- sit up alone or with help.
- hold up their head and neck.
- open their mouth wide when food is offered.
- swallow food instead of pushing it back out (tongue-thrust reflex is gone).
- bring objects to the mouth.
- grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
- transfer food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.
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Tips for Introducing Solid Foods to Baby
Modeling healthy eating yourself is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating in your baby. Your little one watches what you do closely and will be inclined to follow the example you set. Here are a few other pointers for introducing solid foods to your baby:
1. Strive to work with a happy baby.
A little one who’s overly tired or wants to nurse might not be in the mood to experiment with solid foods. Wait until your baby is alert and happy to try a meal with solids.
2. Figure out timing and don’t rush.
Start with just one meal per day. It should be when you have plenty of time – you’ll both need to practice. You may even want to offer your baby a little formula or breast milk to rev up their appetite, then finish the feeding with solids.
3. Get into position.
Let your baby practice sitting in a high chair a few times before you attempt feeding them. If they can’t sit up on their own yet, they’re probably not ready for solids. Adjust the safety straps and height of the tray, and always use them when your baby is seated. Babies are wiggly and attempting to hold one in your lap while simultaneously spooning in a new substance is bound to go sideways.
4. Invest in good feeding tools.
Put a bib on your child from the very beginning (you can’t own too many). You’ll also want to have plenty of soft silicone spoons nearby. Your baby will want to hold one, you’ll need one of your own, and you’ll probably need a backup for when one lands on the floor.
When it's time for solids, try the OXO Tot Feeding Spoon. This stainless steel Feeding Spoon has a protective food-grade silicone coating that is gentle on your baby's gums and mouth. The soft edges of the silicone can be used to scrape the last bit of sweet potato from the bowl or jar or to gently wipe applesauce from your baby's face.
5. Do some warm-ups.
Place a little spoon of food on your baby’s tray to let them touch it, smash it, and inspect it. They may even put it in their mouth. Next, put a small amount (about a quarter teaspoon) on the tip of your little one’s tongue and see if they swallow. If they do, try spooning in a bit more. It’s not unusual for more to come out than stays in. This is a gradual process, and babies need time to learn how to swallow.
6. Know when to stop.
If your baby cries or turns away when you feed them, do not make them eat. This is not a battle you can (or should try to) win.
7. Expect rejection.
Solid foods are an entirely new flavor and texture experience for babies. Your little one may turn down a new food multiple times before deciding they like it. Don’t push if they turn it down, but it’s absolutely worth trying again on a different day.
8. Show enthusiasm.
Many caregivers do this instinctively. Take a happy, exaggerated pretend bite from the spoon and comment on how yummy it is. Many babies will mimic your behavior.
9. Don’t stress about portions.
Introducing solids is more about the experience for your baby and less about getting their actual nutritional needs met (most of that should still come from breast milk or formula until they’re a year old). Spoon out a small amount into a little bowl for each feeding, and don’t worry too much about how much ends up in their tummy versus on the floor.
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Best First Solid Foods for Baby
What should you feed your baby first? It’s up to you! Whether you’re making homemade baby purees or purchasing jars of baby food from the store, there are lots of choices. Here’s what you need to keep in mind, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- First foods should be extremely soft or pureed to avoid any danger of choking.
- Single-grain, iron-enriched, whole-grain cereals as well as pureed fruits or vegetables are a good place to start.
- Offer only one “single-ingredient” food at a time. Wait three to five days to introduce a new food, and keep an eye out for any possible adverse reactions.
- Fruits can be given before vegetables if you prefer.
- Avoid honey until your baby is at least one year old due to the risk of infantile botulism, a serious illness in babies.
- Incorporate foods that supplement zinc and iron, like meat or iron-fortified baby cereal.
- Research shows that waiting to introduce certain soft foods (soy, dairy, eggs, fish) beyond four to six months does not prevent food allergies. That said, peanut allergy testing is suggested for infants who have extreme eczema or egg allergies. Consult your pediatrician about how best to introduce peanuts.
Once your little one has mastered purees, you may want to move on to soft foods with a bit more texture. These may include:
- minced meat (chicken, lamb, turkey, or beef)
- whole-milk yogurt
- tiny pieces of cheese
- small pasta
- thin strips of tofu
- diced or mashed eggs
- smashed beans
After a few months, your little one should have a fairly varied diet, including formula and/or breast milk, cereal, vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, and meat.
Giving your baby the healthiest start to life begins with feeding them natural and clean foods from day one. BEABA Babycook® Solo Baby Food Maker is the first and best-selling homemade baby food machine that helps parents make fresh, nutritious purees for your baby with natural ingredients they can pick and control.
Preventing Choking When Introducing Solids
Caregivers should stay nearby and closely monitor every bite while babies are experimenting with new foods. Offer only a couple of pieces at a time to keep from overwhelming your baby. In the beginning, keep food very soft and cut into pieces small enough that they can be swallowed whole if the baby forgets to chew. Make sure your baby only has access to food while strapped into their high chair. Eating while crawling or toddling around is dangerous for inexperienced eaters.
You’ll also want to avoid giving your little one any foods that are hard, sticky, chunky, or could easily block their trachea, or windpipe. These may include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- dried fruits, like raisins
- whole, unsmashed peas
- raw, hard, firm-fleshed vegetables and fruits
- popcorn and nuts
- nut butter
- chunks of meat
- hot dogs
It takes time for babies to acclimate to the process of eating solid foods – sitting up, chewing, swallowing, and learning when they’ve had enough. Healthy early experiences with food will help set the stage for healthy eating later in life. If you have any questions about your child's diet, including concerns about your child eating too much or too little, talk with your pediatrician.
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