When and How to Introduce Solid Foods

Introducing solid foods to your baby is a major milestone, and one many parents look forward to; however, there is a lot of debate over when and how to begin solid foods and which ones to try first. There are so many different flavors, textures, and brands; how do you know where to start?

If you’re a new parent whose baby is approaching the start of solid foods, this article is here to help! We will cover the signs your baby is ready for solids, different ways to introduce solid foods, which foods to try first, and foods to avoid.

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Start Solids

Some old wive’s tales tell you to put rice cereal in your baby’s bottle to help them sleep longer. Unfortunately, adding rice cereal won’t help your baby sleep longer; they will sleep through the night when they’re developmentally ready. The earliest you should even consider starting solids is four months; starting solids too early can create eating problems such as rejecting the spoon, digestive problems, and obesity later in life.

If you are breastfeeding, your breast milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs until six months; baby formulate is designed to do the same. Therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend starting solid foods before six months. 

However, if you are itching to intorfuce some solid foods here are some signs your baby is ready to try solid food:

  • They can sit up independently
  • They have control of their neck and head
  • They open their mouth when food is offered
  • Uses their hands to grasp small objects
  • Brings objects to their mouth
  • Swallows food when offered rather than pushing it out

How to Introduce Solids Foods

When introducing new foods to your baby it is important to only introduce one new food at a time in case of food allergies. Since your baby has never been exposed to any of these foods you have no way of knowing if they have any food allergies.

The first foods you should introduce are cereals mixed with breast milk or formula. Once they have mastered eating cereal you can move onto mashed or pureed fruits and vegetables. 

On average, you should introduce one new food every three or five days; that way, if your baby has a reaction, you will know exactly which food caused it. 

Signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Welts or hives
  • Swelling of tongue, face, or lips
  • Flushed skin or rash anywhere on the body
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

If you notice your baby having difficulty breathing, their face, lips, or tongue is swollen, or they develop severe vomiting or diarrhea, call 911 immediately. Food allergies can be life-threatening in some situations.

Foods that commonly cause allergic reactions:

  • Cow’s Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Tree Nuts
  • Soy
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Fish

If you know your child might be prone to a peanut allergy: you or your partner is allergic, or an older sibling does, your child has eczema or an egg allergy, you should introduce peanuts between 4-6 months. Other potential allergens should be introduced in moderation between 6-9 months.  

Additional Tips for Introducing Solids

  • Cook hard fruits and veggies like apples or carrots to mak pureeing them easier
  • Remove all fat, skin, and bones from meat and fish before cooking
  • Cut food into small bite size pieces or thin slices
  • Remove seeds and pits from fruit before cutting into small pieces
  • Allow your baby the opportunity to hold the spoon themselves and to feed themselves

Which Foods Should You Introduce First?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no specific order that parents need to or should introduce solids with the exception that an iron certified cereal should be first. You should also try a variety of grains when introducing vereal including barely, oats, multi-grain, and rice. After your baby jhas mastered eating iron fortified cereal mixed with breast milk and formula you can begin mixing fruit or vegetable purees into cereal.

When introducing fruits and vegetables start with smooth purees in the beginning but by the age of eight months your baby should be eating a wide variety of foods including dry cereals, like Cheerios, fruits, vegetables, lean proteitns, cheese, yogurt, and grains.

If your baby rejects a food the first time, try again in a few days. It can sometimes take several attempts before a child accept a new food. You can also try preparing foods in different ways and using mild spices and seasonings to add flavor. 

Foods to Avoid

There are some foods parents should not introduce to their baby until a specific age.

Foods to avoid before 12-months

  • Honey
  • Unpastureized foods or beverages
  • Juice or foods with added sugar
  • Cow’s milk
  • Caffeine
  • Food high in salt
  • Anything that poses a choking hazard
    • Whole grapes
    • Nuts
    • Hotdogs
    • Cheese cubes or melted cheese
    • Uncooked hard fruits and vegetables
    • Whole cherry tomatoes
    • Dried fruits
    • Whole beans
    • Marshmallows
    • Hard candy, lollipops, or gum
    • Breads or crackers with whole grain kernels

Starting your baby on solid foods is a fun, exciting, and messy adventure. And as long as you follow a few simple guidelines introducing solid foods to your little one it will a safe and memorable journey for both of you!

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