Babies usually achieve the skills needed to eat solid foods around six months of age. How will you know when your baby is ready?
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solids
When babies learn the following mealtime milestones, they are likely able to start out on their feeding adventure.
- Can they hold up their head? Your baby should be able to sit in a high chair, feeding seat or infant seat with good head control.
- Are they big enough? Generally, when infants double their birth weight (typically at about 4 to 6 months) and weigh about 13 pounds or more, they may be ready for solid foods.
- Do they open their mouth when food comes their way? Babies may be ready if they watch you eating, reach for your food and seem eager to be fed.
- Can they move food from a spoon into his throat? If you offer a spoon of rice cereal and they push it out of their mouth and it dribbles onto their chin, they may not have the ability to move it to the back of their mouth to swallow it.
- Start with half a spoonful or less and talk to your baby during the feeding: “Mmm, see how good this is?” Your baby may not know what to do at first. They may look confused, wrinkle their nose, roll the food around their mouth or reject it.
If you try solids for the first time and your baby spits it out, don’t worry. It’s normal. Remember, they never had anything thicker than breast milk or formula before. This may take some getting used to. Try diluting it the first few times then gradually thicken the texture. You may also want to wait a week or two and try again. (Note: Never put cereal in a bottle because your baby could choke.)
Give one new food at a time and wait at least three to five days before starting another. This will give you a chance to see if your baby has a reaction such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and consult with your baby’s doctor.
By tradition, single-grain cereals have been introduced first; however, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby. Good options are vegetables, fruits, meats or iron-fortified baby cereal. Check with your baby’s doctor for their recommendation.
- Caution: If you make your own baby food, be aware that home-prepared spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots are not good choices during early infancy. They may contain large amounts of nitrates, which can cause an unusual type of anemia (low blood count) in young babies. Commercially prepared vegetables are safer because the manufacturers test for nitrates. Peas, corn and sweet potatoes are better choices for home-prepared baby foods.
- Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastmilk until 6 months of age and then continued breastmilk or formula, with the addition of solid foods, until at least the first year.
When can I start finger foods?
- Once your baby can sit up and bring hands or other objects to their mouth, you can give finger foods to help your baby learn to feed themselves.
- Prevent choking. Make sure anything you give your baby is soft, easy to swallow and cut into small pieces. Some examples include small pieces of banana, wafer-type cookies or crackers, scrambled eggs, well-cooked pasta, well-cooked and finely chopped chicken, and well-cooked and cut-up potatoes or peas.
- Your baby should eat about four ounces at each feeding or the amount in one small jar of strained baby food. Limit giving your baby processed foods that are made for adults and older children. These foods often contain more salt and other preservatives.
- If you want to make your own food then use a blender or food processor. Or just mash softer foods with a fork. All fresh foods should be cooked with no added salt or seasoning. You can feed your baby raw bananas (mashed) but most other fruits and vegetables should be cooked until they are soft. Refrigerate any food you do not use and look for any signs of spoilage before giving it to your baby. Fresh foods are not bacteria-free so they will spoil more quickly than food from a can or jar.
- Avoid any food that requires chewing or that can be a choking hazard. These include: hot dogs (including meat sticks or baby food "hot dogs"); nuts and seeds; chunks of meat or cheese; whole grapes; popcorn; chunks of peanut butter; raw vegetables; fruit chunks (such as apple chunks); and hard, gooey or sticky candy.
Good eating habits start early. Encourage family meals from the first feeding. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family on a regular basis has positive effects on the development of children. Offer a good variety of healthy foods and do not overfeed! Most importantly, enjoy!
Additional articles of interest from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
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