By: Caitlin Delaney, PA-C
Starting Solid Foods
How do I know when my baby is ready for solid foods? The answer is when your infant is able to sit with support, hold his/her head in a steady/upright position and grab for things to put in his/her mouth, it’s time to begin introducing solid foods. This usually occurs around 4 months but you can introduce foods anything between 4-6 months. Ok great! I think my baby is ready, but what do I start with?
- Start with baby cereal. Mix 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal with 4 to 5 tablespoons (60 to 75 milliliters) of breast milk or formula. Many parents start with rice cereal. Even if the cereal barely thickens the liquid, resist the temptation to serve it from a bottle. Instead, help your baby sit upright and offer the cereal with a small spoon once or twice a day. Once your baby gets the hang of swallowing runny cereal, mix it with less liquid. For variety, you might offer single-grain oatmeal or barley cereals. Keep in mind that some babies eat cereal with gusto right from the start. Others are less enthusiastic. It may take 5-6 introductions before your baby may accept a new flavor. Be patient and keep trying.
- Add vegetables, fruit, and pureed meat. Once your baby masters cereal, gradually introduce vegetables, fruits, and pureed meat. Offer single-ingredient foods at first and wait 2-3 days between each new food. This approach will allow your infant to become used to the taste and texture of each new food. It can also help you identify any food sensitivities or allergies that may develop as each new food is started. Allergies to foods are generally not subtle (for example, diarrhea, vomiting, rash). Contact us immediately if symptoms develop that seem to be related to particular foods, and it is always a good idea to keep Benadryl in the house!
- Within about 2 to 3 months after starting solid foods, your infant should be consuming a daily diet that includes not only breast milk or formula, but also cereal, vegetables, fruits, and meats, divided among 3 meals. Around 9 mos of age you can also introduce sippy cups with 1 oz of water– just to practice getting used to picking up and drinking from a cup. But the primary source of nutrition should still be formula and/or breast milk- between 20-32 ozs/day. As long as your baby is thriving and growing- they are getting the right amount of food and milk!
- Offer finely chopped finger foods. By ages 8 months to 10 months, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods: such as soft fruits, well-cooked pasta, cheese, scrambled eggs, soft avocado, steamed veggies, beans/lentils, and ground meat. As your baby approaches his or her first birthday, mashed or chopped versions of whatever the rest of the family is eating will become your baby’s main fare. Continue to offer breast milk or formula with and between meals.
Some other rules to keep in mind:
- Food must be soft and squishy so baby can easily gum it and swallow
- Do not give any food a primary relative (mom, dad, sibling) is allergic to
- No need for cow’s milk until after 12 mos (nutrition will still be from breastmilk/formula) but other dairy like cheese/yogurt is fine
- No honey until after 1 year old
- Check expiration dates on any store bought foods
- No need for any juice or sugary drinks (unless they are constipated- prune juice is ok)
Keep in mind: Choking hazards. Small, slippery foods- such as whole grapes, hot dogs and hard candy. Dry foods which are hard to chew- such as popcorn, raw carrots and nuts. Sticky or tough foods- such as peanut butter and large pieces of meat.