Introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet is a huge and exciting milestone! For me, it has been a really fun experience to introduce my two children to all the yummy and fun new foods that the world has to offer. Below we‘ll talk about how to introduce solids and what types of foods are best for those early months.
Disclaimer: Always talk to your child‘s pediatrician before starting solids and if you have any questions about special needs that your child may have. These are basic guidelines but always follow your pediatrician’s advice if they offer differing opinions regarding your child‘s needs.
The best time to start solid foods is between four to six months. During this period most children have met the following guidelines indicating readiness to try solids:
- Baby can hold their head up and sit in an upright position.
- Baby should have approximately doubled his birth weight and weigh at least 13 pounds (5.8 kg)
- They show an interest in food. Like trying to take food from your hand.
- They shows no sign of the thrust reflex that pushes food from his mouth.
- They are hungry even after getting a normal, daily amount of formula or breastmilk. (Approximately 32 oz of formula or 10 breastfeeding sessions).
Traditionally, American families start feeding babies with infant cereal. However, there is no advantage to taking this approach. A baby can start eating puréed fruits and vegetables right away with no need for infant solids to be added to their diet. However, many cereals are enriched with iron which many breastfed babies need after 6 months. So if you omit infant cereal make sure to include iron rich foods in your baby‘s diet. Some iron rich solids include: winter squash, sweet potatoes, greens, grains, lentils, kidney beans, egg yolks.
Many parents start with spoon feeding to introduce solids. In recent years, however, baby-led weaning (BLW) has become a popular method for introducing solids. We won‘t dive deep into the ins and outs of BLW in this article, but it mainly consists of providing your baby with easy to grab, soft foods that they feed themselves. No spoons required.
You, along with your pediatrician, should decide what feeding method is best for your baby and your family.
To start, try single ingredient puréed foods with no added ingredients other that salt and sugar free spices (spices can actually help your child become a more adventurous eater.) The earliest foods should be puréed, then you can try mashed foods and then finger foods. Watch baby‘s cues to determine when to move to the next food level. But give baby plenty of time to get used to each type. There‘s no need to rush the process.
Starter solids ideas:
- Rice or oatmeal cereals
- Fruits (banana, applesauce, pears)
- Vegetables (sweet potato, peas, green beans)
- Protein (turkey, eggs, chicken)
At first your baby will probably only take ½ to one tablespoon of food. Or she may completely refuse food. That‘s ok! These early months are mostly about exploration of food rather than taking in massive amounts of calories from solids. Give your baby plenty of time to get used to eating real food and follow his cues on when to offer more.
One of the most important aspects of introducing solids is understanding that, like we said above, solids at this point are most for exploration and discovery. Your baby is actually learning to eat at this point. Eventually it will become second nature, like it is to us. But for now, solids are not where your baby will get her nutrients and calories from. Your baby should still be getting the majority of calories and nutrients from breastmilk or formula, even when your baby is eating three solids meals a day. Continue to feed breastmilk or formula until your baby is one year old. Your baby can then be introduced to cow‘s milk or a milk alternative like soy milk.
A quick note on allergies: if your baby may be predisposed to food allergies (parent or sibling has food allergies or baby suffers from severe eczema) then you should talk to your doctor about what foods to avoid, if any. Check out this great list from Wholesome Baby Food on forbidden foods and recommended ages to try allergenic foods.