An Exciting Beginning: Baby and Solid Foods
There are many “firsts” a new baby will experience. Her first breath, first smile, first clap. Every new smell, sight, texture, and taste is exciting for a new little baby who is beholding each for the first time. A big milestone for growing babies is the introduction of solid foods. Though the term “solid foods” implies that your baby eats the same texture of foods an adult might eat, it’s not safe to feed hard foods until she is older.
Is your baby ready for solid foods?
At first, your baby will be consuming only breastmilk or formula. This is known as a liquid diet. While some babies can handle solid foods sooner than others, between 4-6 months of age is generally a good time to introduce solid foods as a supplement to breastmilk or formula. Your baby might be ready for solid foods if she:
- Shows interest in your food when you eat
- Chews on her hands or other objects
- Holds her head steadily in an upright position
- Can sit with support
Sometimes babies will refuse solid foods, especially at first. It is a new texture and new taste, after all. Don’t be discouraged and don’t force your baby to eat. Simply try again in a week or two. If problems with solid foods persist, talk to your baby’s physician.
Beginning solid foods
When beginning solid foods, the idea is to start simple, then add new foods every 2-3 weeks. All the while, your baby should still be eating breastmilk or formula.
- Baby cereal. Solid foods for babies begin with single-grain cereals, such as rice or oatmeal, that have been iron-fortified. It often comes dry and needs to be mixed with breastmilk, formula, or water when ready to consume. The consistency should be a bit runny at first, then gradually thicken as baby grows accustomed to eating something other than the liquids she is used to. Always help your baby sit upright when eating, and allow her to eat at her own pace.
- Pureed fruits and veggies. Next, she’s ready to try pureed fruits and vegetables. These need to be fresh, single-ingredient foods with no added sugar or salt. When introducing a new food, wait three days before trying another to make sure baby doesn’t have a negative reaction to the new food.
- Chopped or mashed foods. By 10-12 months old, baby should be ready for finely-chopped foods. You can give her the same food you eat, three meals a day, in chopped or mashed varieties. Soft foods that are easy to swallow, such as cheese, pasta, crackers, vegetables, and fruits, make good options for a baby who doesn’t have many teeth.
What not to eat
Until your baby is at least 12 months old, do not offer cow’s milk, dairy products, or honey. Be watchful for foods that raise a choking hazard, such as whole grapes, hot dogs, and hard foods. Sticky foods like peanut butter or marshmallows can be hard for babies to swallow. If you would like to give your baby juice to drink, make sure it’s only 4-6 ounces daily of 100% fruit juice with no added sugar.
By 12 months, babies are very interested in doing the same things they see older members of the family doing. Helping your baby feel included at mealtime will encourage her to try new foods and develop good eating habits. Enjoy those messy cheeks and hands!