Starting your baby on solid foods can feel daunting for any new parent. Hopefully these answers to a few frequently asked questions will help prepare you and your little one for the big transition.
Question: When can my baby start solid food?
Answer: Babies can have an upset stomach, gas, pain and constipation if their digestive tract isn’t ready for solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of a baby’s life. After that, they recommend that moms continue to breastfeed and introduce complementary foods until their infants are at least 12 months old. After baby’s first birthday, you can keep on breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby desire.
Before starting solids, babies should be able to hold their heads up, sit with support, open their mouths when offered food, and be able to move semi-solid food from the front to the back of the tongue. Talk to your baby’s doctor about the timing of starting solids.
- Start slowly with a tablespoon-sized portion of food.
- Put a single serving in a bowl. Don’t feed your baby out of the original container or jar. That’s because once a spoon enters a baby’s mouth it picks up bacteria that you don’t want to introduce into the jar or container.
- Never force your baby to eat — and follow your baby’s cues of disinterest or fullness (like crying or turning away). The first solid foods are more for practice than for nutrition.
- The introduction of solid food may go more smoothly if you try it when your baby isn’t extremely hungry. So, it may help to give your baby a little breast milk first then switch to small spoonfuls of food.
- To prevent choking, feed your baby in an upright position. Always stay with your baby while eating.
- Give your baby one new food at a time. Wait at least three to four days before introducing a new food so that you can keep an eye out for any allergic reactions.
Question: Which foods should I give my baby?
Answer: Many pediatricians are now acknowledging that fruits and vegetables, which provide a healthy source of vitamins and iron, can be great first foods, instead of always starting with the traditional rice cereal. In fact, there’s no medical evidence that you should introduce solids in any particular order. (An exception to that is for families with a history of allergies: Waiting until after the baby is 4 months old might decrease the chance of baby developing allergies.)
Within a few months of starting solids, your baby’s diet should include a variety of foods each day, including breast milk and/or formula, meats, cereal, vegetables, fruits, eggs and cooked fish. When your baby is 7–9 months of age, you can introduce new textures that are less pureed. By 9 months old, your baby may be ready for finger foods.
Foods to avoid:
- honey and cow’s milk — wait until after baby’s first birthday (It is OK, though, if yogurt, cheese or milk are used as ingredients in cooked foods.)
- deli meats and hot dogs that contain nitrites
- choking hazards — nuts, seeds, hot dogs, popcorn, peanut butter, hard/raw vegetables, grapes, chunks of hard fruit and hard candies
- raw meat or fish
Question: Can I put cereal in my baby’s bottle?
Answer: Bottle feeding may seem like it’s faster than spoon feeding, but infants may not feel full until after they drink too much cereal — and this can cause overfeeding. Drinking a thickened mixture can also lead to choking. So, no, it’s not a good idea — and can be dangerous — to add infant cereal to your baby’s bottle. Talk with your doctor if there’s a medical reason to do so.
Question: Should I give my young baby cereal to help with sleep?
Answer: Despite old wives’ tales, research shows that giving babies cereal before 6 months of age doesn’t help them sleep through the night. A small baby’s tummy may be full after getting cereal or a solid because they can’t digest it. But babies sleep through the night when their nervous system matures.