Introducing Solid Food to Your Baby
During a baby's first year of life, they will accomplish several milestones that include, holding their head up, reaching for objects, rolling over, tracking objects, teething, sitting, holding a bottle, sleeping through the night, first words, standing, and eating solid foods. Introducing solid food to your baby can be fun and exciting for both of you as they will begin to experience new and exciting flavors and textures. Start off with pureed foods and as your baby grows and progresses begin adding soft finger foods that your baby can pick up themselves and explore eating on their own. It is important not to rush your baby into eating solid food and while most babies are ready between 4-6 months, not all babies are, so be patient and take your time and begin feeding your baby solid food when they are ready. Below are some tips on when and how to safely introduce solid food to your baby.
When to introduce solid foods?
While most parents begin introducing solid food to their babies between 4-6 months, it is important to understand that all babies are different and as a parent, you will know when your baby is ready to begin eating solid foods. Before a baby can start eating solid food it is important that they can hold their head steady while sitting, they have stopped reflexively thrusting their tongue, they are eyeing and reaching for the food you are eating, they open their mouth when they see a spoon coming towards them, and they have doubled their birth weight.
What kind of foods should I start with?
When you begin introducing solid food to your baby it is best to start with an iron-fortified cereal that is combined with formula or breast milk, then you can begin introducing other pureed fruits and vegetables (Gorin). As your baby begins eating pureed foods regularly with no problems you can begin introducing soft finger foods that your baby can pick up themselves like slices of banana or avocado. It is important to only introduce soft foods at this point babies are not ready to eat harder foods like carrot sticks and you should never feed your baby honey before they are at least 1 year old as it contains a bacteria that causes botulism, no cow's milk your baby should still keep consuming formula or breast milk, and foods like popcorn, whole grapes, and nuts are choking hazards and should not be given to babies (Gorin).
How to introduce solids to your baby?
When you first start introducing solid foods to your baby you should do so around normal times that people eat like breakfast, lunch, and dinner so your baby can begin establishing a normal eating pattern. Make sure you use a soft-tipped spoon to keep from injuring or irritating your baby's gums and put the food in small dishes so you can store unused portions without worrying about bacteria growth that can happen when you feed your baby straight from the jar (Introducing solids). When you first begin feeding your baby iron-fortified cereal you should mix 1 teaspoon of cereal with 4 or 5 teaspoons of breast milk or formula and as your baby begins to start swallowing the cereal easily you can start slowly thickening it with more cereal (Gorin). When you begin introducing new foods start 1 at a time and feed it to your baby for 3-5 days to make sure they do not have an allergic reaction to the food and then you can introduce another new food.
It is important to make sure you keep feeding your baby breast milk or formula until they are 1 year old as solid food is not meant to replace formula or breast milk and babies are still getting a majority of their nutrition and calories from breast milk or formula (Introducing solids). Babies will still need to consume from 24-48 ounces of formula or breast milk along with 6-8 teaspoons of fruit, 9-12 teaspoons of vegetables, 6-8 teaspoons of protein (meat), and 8-12 teaspoons of cereal (Sara DuMond).
One of the joys of parenthood is watching your baby go through all the milestones of their first year and beyond, but it is important not to rush or compare your baby's progress with other babies because all children develop at different rates and it is best to let your baby progress at their own rate. Introducing solid food for the first time is fun and exciting for both you and your baby; babies are learning a whole new way to eat and discovering how tasty and how much fun solid food can be while you can enjoy introducing new and exciting foods to your baby. During their first year, it is important to make sure they are still getting enough breast milk and formula because this is where most of their nutrition and calories will come from and solid food is a way to introduce new and different tastes for your baby to explore until they are old enough to feed themselves. Be sure to add new foods one at a time so that if your baby has a food allergy you will know what food caused it, and most importantly relax and enjoy the time you spend introducing new foods to your baby it only happens once in their life.
- Jennifer Akiyama