Baby’s First Foods: The Best Ways to Introduce Solids to Your Baby

Right when you get into a good groove with breastfeeding or bottles, it’s time to introduce solid foods. If you’re not sure which foods to try or how to introduce them, read on. Here are our top tips to ease your baby’s transition into solids.

photo: iStock/LightFieldStudios 

1. Know when baby’s ready. Around six months, look for signs that your baby is ready to start solid foods.

These may include:

  • Sitting up unassisted
  • No longer has the tongue-thrust reflex (which causes babies to push food out of their mouth)
  • Working on the pincer grip (pointer finger and thumb) and the ability to pick up items in their hands
  • Reaches for, or shows an interest in, the food you’re eating

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding or bottle-feeding exclusively for the first six months before introducing solids.

2. Learn which foods to avoid. Some foods are not safe to feed babies under a year old. Honey can cause a serious illness caused infant botulism, and cow’s milk is too difficult for baby’s system to digest. Very salty or sugary foods should also be avoided. Also, if you and your partner have food allergies, you may want to avoid certain foods or introduce them one at at time. Talk to your pediatrician about which foods you may want to avoid.

3. Breastfeed or bottle feed before the meal. When you first start solids, the goal isn’t for baby to get full. Most of their nutrition and calories should still come from breast milk or formula. Because your baby is learning to eat and may become easily frustrated, it’s best not to do it when they’re hungry. Breastfeed or give your child a bottle about an hour before offering solid food, and your baby may be more receptive to trying the new foods.

photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via Flickr

4. Have the right tools on hand. Not sure what bowl or spoon to get? There are a lot of baby food tools out there, and many can help make the introduction of solids a little smoother. Read our story on the best baby feeding tools, and stock up on a few.

5. Choose the right foods to start with. Talk to your pediatrician about which first foods and feeding methods they recommend for your baby—baby-led weaning or purees, mashed veggies or baby cereal mixed with formula/breastmilk. Grandma may suggest mixing cereal into baby’s bottle to help with sleep before they hit six months, but experts no longer recommend this. If you’re starting with mashed fruits and veggies, popular choices include avocado, bananas, carrots and sweet potatoes.

6. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. The goal is to get your child to eat and explore food, so try different flavors and colors to keep things interested. If you’re starting with purees, offer your child a very soft, small chunk of the same food to see which texture they prefer. Or if you’re starting with baby-led weaning, add some purees to the rotation.

7. Take your time. This is a new experience for both of you. Choose a set time in the day when you can allow yourself enough time to take it slowly, letting your child hold and gnaw on the spoon, figure out how to swallow, stick fingers in the food. You’ll also want to leave some time to clean up a messy baby and eating area.

photo: Kona Gallagher via Flickr

8. Be prepared for a mess. It’s okay (and kind of fun) to let your child get messy with solids. Have your camera ready to capture the super cute moments. Your baby is exploring this new experience and will want to touch, smear and even spit out a few bites. Pro tip: Strip baby down to the diaper and put on a baby bib (here are some of our favorite bibs) before you start the meal.

9. Rejection is normal, and it’s okay. Your baby might spit out, gag and otherwise reject new foods several times before they accept them. That’s completely normal. It can take multiple attempts to get a baby to accept, or even try, a new food. Don’t give up, but don’t push too hard either. And if baby vomits or develops a rash after eating, check with your pediatrician before trying that food again. This could be a sign of a food allergy.

10. Try different textures. At around eight to to months, introduce foods with different textures, beyond the purees your baby is probably now used to eating. Watch your baby’s cues for readiness. Foods like soft pasta, yogurts and other steamed veggies and fruits are great to start with. Remember, your baby’s molars don’t come in until after 12 months, so avoid foods that are tough to chew. Looking for food inspiration? Try these easy vegetable recipes.

11. Avoid choking hazards. As you’re expanding the types of foods you feed your baby, be aware that some need to be cut up into very small pieces so your child won’t choke on them. These include hot dogs, grapes, chunks of meat or cheese, or raw vegetables. Avoid harder foods like seeds, nuts, popcorn or hard candies until your child is older.

12. Remember, every baby is different. Babies develop and learn skills at their own pace, so let that be your guide to when to introduce new foods. Use your well-child visits to talk to your baby’s healthcare provider about your approach, and of course feel free to reach out in between appointments with concerns.

—Jane Putnam

featured image: Aline Ponce via Pixabay 

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