Solid Advice on Introducing Your Baby to Solid Foods
Your beautiful baby is about 4 months old now, and you are beginning to think about giving him solid foods. But you are not quite sure when and what you should feed your little darling. Worse, you have visions of mashed peas being hurled through the air, covering your hair, and hitting the floor and the walls.
Breast milk or fortified formula are the only foods your baby needs for the first 4-6 months. Breast milk or formula should remain the core of the baby's diet for the first year of life.
Your baby's development partly determines when he is ready to begin eating solid foods. Most babies are ready to begin solid foods at about 6 month of age. Starting solids sooner than four months could put the baby at risk.
Your baby may be ready to begin eating solid foods if he:
Eating From a Spoon
Your baby should learn to eat semisolid and solid foods from a spoon and with fingers. Never give your baby semisolid or solid foods from a bottle or infant-feeder because the baby could choke or take in too much food at once. Eating from a spoon and with fingers is the first step toward independence and will help your baby develop chewing and swallowing skills.
Here are some tips that can help you and your baby make an easier transition:
What to Feed Your Baby
Consider Starting With Cereal
The first solid foods given to infants are usually iron-fortified infant cereals. They are easier to digest and help meet your baby's iron requirements. Try to start with rice cereal. Cereal should be thin at first—one part cereal to four parts breast milk or infant formula. Your baby will be ready for thicker cereal when he develops eating skills.
Do not use cow's milk to mix cereal because it is difficult for babies to digest until after one year of age. Give only about one teaspoon of cereal twice a day, at first, and then gradually increase to two or three tablespoons twice a day. Other grain products such as rice, soft breads, cooked pasta, and teething biscuits can be added a little later.
Try Vegetables and Fruits Next
After your baby is comfortable eating cereal, introduce strained vegetables and fruits—one at a time. Vegetables should be introduced before fruits because vegetables often have less taste after eating fruit. At the beginning, give mild flavored vegetables such as green beans, yellow squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Next, add applesauce, peaches, and pears. Once your baby has accepted several vegetables, give him two different vegetables a day.
After Vegetables and Fruits, Try Meats
After your baby eats vegetables on a regular basis, introduce strained lean meats—one at a time. Offer a variety of pureed or finely chopped meats, including chicken, beef, and turkey.
Start With Single Foods
Offer single cereals, vegetables (such as carrots, squash, green beans, peas, etc), fruits (applesauce, pears, peaches, bananas, prunes, etc), and meat (turkey, ham, beef) rather than combination foods. Also, wait a few days before introducing new foods. This will allow you to see any signs of a food allergy and to know which food caused them.
Signs of food allergy may include:
Extreme and life-threatening allergic reactions include difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, decreased blood pressure, and passing out.
Try Smooth Foods First
When your baby is able to make chewing motions and teeth appear, he will be able to eat mashed or finely chopped foods. When your baby gets more teeth and wants to feed himself (usually between the ages of 9-12 months), you can introduce finger foods such as cooked vegetables and soft fruit without seeds or peel.
Offer a Variety of Foods
Eating a variety of foods will help your baby have a well-balanced diet and develop good eating habits for the future. Also, be sure to offer your baby foods that vary in color and texture.
Avoid Foods That Could Cause Choking
Babies less than three or four years old should not eat small, hard foods, such as chips, pretzels, raw carrots, celery, raisins, popcorn, snack puffs, nuts, or seeds. Slippery foods should also be avoided—candy, cough drops, chewing gum, whole grapes, frankfurters, sausages, and large or tough pieces of meat and poultry.
Do Not Add Sugar, Salt, or Other Seasoning
Babies do not need added sugar, salt, or seasonings. They need to develop a taste for the natural flavor of foods. Avoid adding seasonings to your baby's food. If you buy commercially-prepared baby food, read the label to make sure sugar, salt, and seasonings are not added.
Do Not Give Cow's Milk Until 12 Months
After 12 months of age, most babies do not have as much difficulty digesting cow's milk and can be given whole milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. Children under two years of age are not advised to eat lower-fat diary products because they need the fat for brain development.
It may take a while for your baby to get used to solid foods. If if he refuses, just try again in a few days.
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Dietetic Association
About Kids Health
Dietitians of Canada
American Heart Association. Heartsaver First Aid With CPR and AED. American Heart Association; 2006.
Duyff, RL. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide . Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Publishing; 1998.
Food allergy. EBSCO DynaMed web site. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed May 21, 2012.
Switching to solid foods. HealthyChildren.org website. Available at: http://www.healthy.... Updated February 27, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD