The breast is best when a baby is born, and there are a lot of great breastfeeding tips to make life easier and better during that time. But when should you start moving to solid foods, and which solid foods should you introduce first?
First step? Talk to your pediatrician who knows your baby and can make suggestions. That’s always the best starting point. But as a general rule, most professionals recommend waiting between four and six months before giving your child anything solid. You’ll likely know your child is ready because he or she will start showing interest — like reaching for solid foods other people are eating. Additionally, your child may have developed oral motor skills early enough to where it can chew and move food down the throat. When this time comes, these are the foods you should ideally start with.
Pureed Fruits, Vegetables and Meats
There is no specific order you need to follow when it comes to feeding your baby solid meals. (Although we do have a list of foods you shouldn’t give them.) Some parents mistakenly believe if you give your baby fruits before vegetables, then it will have a lifelong preference toward sweeter foods. However, no solid research exists that backs this up.
Some great foods (because of texture and allergies) to get your baby started on at six months include:
- Sweet potato
Important Tip for Introducing Solid Foods
When you get your baby started on fruits and meats, you want to wait two to three days between starting a new food. Your baby may develop an upset stomach from eating something, and you want to know exactly what it is. This also allows you to determine if your child has any allergies to a certain food. You need to definitely watch out for this if you have a family history of allergies.
6-Months: Single-Grain Cereals
Cereals are great to start your child on because they typically contain iron. At around nine months, your baby will lose a lot of iron he or she gained in the womb. Around six months, you can start your child on about one teaspoon of single-grain cereals. It will be easier for your baby to get this food down if you add five teaspoons of formula or breast milk to the meal.
As soon as your child gets used to eating cereal with some milk, you can gradually take the milk away. This teaches your child how to chew grains properly. During this time, you should also offer your baby a variety of grain cereals. For example, you can offer your child barley, oatmeal or rice-based cereals. This allows them to get used to various textures.
9-12 Months: Mashed, Ground and Chopped Foods
Between nine and 12 months, you can get your baby started on mashed foods. You want to gradually transition your child away from pureed foods and onto more chopped meals. You should incorporate more finger foods into the mix so that your kid learns to pick things up during mealtime. This is also the time when you can get your baby started on casseroles and soft rice.
Important Tip on Finger Foods, Cow’s Milk, and Other Hard Foods
You do not want to offer any raw, hard foods like carrot sticks and apple slices before the one-year mark. Make sure all vegetables and fruits are soft enough to mash together when you apply just a little bit of pressure. You can offer a wedge of avocado after a certain point because it is easier for your kid to handle.
Unless recommended by a pediatrician, you should avoid giving your baby cow’s milk in the first year because it does not contain the essential nutrients your baby will need. You also want to avoid honey because the spores contained within can result in infant botulism. And, obviously, you want to avoid any foods that could be a choking hazard.
Other foods to skip in the first year include:
- Globs of nut butter
- Whole grapes
- Chunks of cheese or meat
- Raw vegetables
- Hard candy
- Hot dogs
It is paramount to build the foundation for healthy eating when your baby is still young. After a few months, you want to get your child started on other foods right away. This will get your child used to an array of flavors so that he or she will have a more eclectic diet later. Not only is that healthy, but it can also be a lot of fun.