Baby’s First Foods: Tips for Starting Solids
November 15, 2019
As babies grow and develop, their needs change. And time can fly by when watching your child grow up, so certain changes may sneak up on you. One big milestone for infants is branching out from an exclusively breastmilk or formula diet. But what should your baby’s first foods be? For the best and safest guidelines specific to your baby, check with their pediatrician. But, you can start making a plan using these tips for starting solids.
When and How to Start Solids
Doctors and other experts recommend that breast milk or formula to be the primary source of calories and nutrients in a baby’s diet for at least the first six months of life. Depending on your baby’s needs, you might be advised to start introducing other foods earlier (cereal might be recommended if your baby needs extra calories) or later. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a helpful guide on when your baby is ready to try new foods. Some of the signs your baby might be ready to start eating solids include:
- Baby is between 4 to 6 months. Closer to 6 is preferable in most cases
- Baby can sit upright and has head control
- Baby can pick up and hold things between the finger and thumbs
- Baby seems interested in your food
Talk to your baby’s pediatrician to get the go-ahead to try solids. This is especially important if there is a family history of any food allergies to see if you need to follow a special list of first foods rather than the standard one. The pediatrician can also give you some tips on the best ways to introduce baby’s first foods. The AAP also has a great general guide on starting solids. Some basic guidelines include:
- Nurse or bottle-feed your baby before trying to introduce the first solids. At first, it’s a learning process, and you shouldn’t attempt it when the baby is too hungry and likely to get fussy, cranky, or frustrated.
- When offering your baby food for the first time, if he or she pushes the food out of the mouth, then they still have the tongue-thrust reflex, so they may not be ready for solids quite yet.
- Introduce only single-ingredient foods, one at a time.
- Wait 3-5 days in between introducing new foods.
- Start with small amounts of food and gradually offer bigger portions. Be mindful of not overfeeding your baby so they learn to listen to their body’s signals.
- Don’t leave a baby or small child alone with food to prevent choking.
- Start offering food at times when the baby is in a good mood and not too tired.
- You don’t have to start with rice cereal. Even though it’s traditional and it is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, there’s nothing wrong with starting with pureed squash or unsweetened applesauce.
- It’s not true that babies won’t eat vegetables if they’ve already had a fruit first, so you can choose to start with fruits.
- Don’t give up on foods if your baby won’t eat it at first. It can take up to 10 times for a baby to accept new foods. Wait a few days and try it again, or mix it with another food they already like
- If you have the time and resources, try to make your own baby food. This is easier with certain foods like fruits and vegetables you can easily mash or dice.
- When purchasing ready-made baby food, be sure to check the ingredients on the label.
Best Foods to Start With
Your child will develop his or her own tastes as they get older, but it’s a good idea to introduce them to a large variety of healthy foods when you start solids. You’ll find out what they like and dislike, and maybe even get them in the habit of eating certain things that they’ll continue to eat as they grow up.
When introducing fruits, make sure you cut them into small enough pieces to avoid choking, and/or cook them so they are soft enough for your baby to gum and swallow safely. Make sure any seeds or pits are removed from fruits that have them. Try starting with:
- Unsweetened apple sauce
- Small pieces of apples cooked for softness
- Diced avocado
As with fruits, vegetables should either be mashed or cooked so they are soft enough to eat. You can cut them into small pieces as well, but make sure you don’t leave them unsupervised. Some good first vegetables to try include:
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet potatoes – tiny chunks baked or boiled
- Green beans
- Baby carrots
Talk to your pediatrician about what kinds of cereals are best to give your baby. Many varieties are fortified with nutrients like iron, and your baby is probably getting enough of those via breast milk or formula. If they aren’t getting enough of a certain nutrient, then those fortified cereals might be a good option. But otherwise, the following are good foods to start with:
- Whole-grain cereal (single ingredient, prepared with water, breast milk, or formula)
- Introduce wheat later
- Whole grain bread
- Whole-grain crackers
- Remove skins from beans for easier digestion
- Canned beans are fine if they are unseasoned
Meat, Fish, & Dairy
Generally, children should not be given cow’s milk until they are at least 12 months. Check with their pediatrician for advice on when and how to introduce dairy products other than yogurt. But, you shouldn’t be afraid of introducing meat to your baby. Great options to try include:
- Well-cooked chicken, shredded
- Thoroughly deboned fish (remove even the tiniest of bones)
- Pureed chicken or beef
- Unsweetened plain yogurt containing live cultures; Greek or regular (This is safe at 6 months even though cow’s milk is not recommended until 12 months)
Make an Appointment
At Holly Springs Pediatrics, we’re here to provide quality one-on-one care for your child through all stages of life, including when they are in a transitional period. If you have questions about baby’s first foods and tips for starting solids, call (919) 249-4700 to make an appointment. You can also request an appointment online.