The Basics of Starting Your Baby on Solid Food
From the moment your baby is born, many a waking hour will be devoted to feeding your child. Before you know it, middle-of-the-night feedings give way to mid-day meals, but how exactly do you know what your baby needs to eat and when they need to eat it?
American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines suggest exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, though many parents introduce formula and solid foods before this threshold. Read on for tips on how to determine whether your baby is ready to expand their palate.
Signs of Readiness
- Your baby will become more interested in your meal time and may reach and grab for your food.
- Before tackling solids, your baby should be able to sit upright enough to safely swallow. Baby can take their first meal in a high chair (many have reclining options if your child can't sit fully upright) or even a BUMBO seat. Babies should also be able to hold their head up without support.
- Most babies will be ready to start solids once they have doubled their birth weight.
- Babies are born with a thrust reflex that instinctively forces them to push food out of their mouth; this disappears between 4 and 6 months of age. If your child still has this reflex when you attempt solids for the first time, try thinning the foods consistency by adding more liquid; if baby still has trouble, table the table foods for another week and try again.
Where to Begin
- Single-ingredient foods are best for new eaters. Introduce a new food only every two to three days to ensure your child doesn't have an allergy. Signs of allergy include rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea. Consult your pediatrician with any concerns.
- Many parents choose to start solids by offering a baby cereal. Cereals come in single-grain varieties (rice, oatmeal, barley) and multigrain varieties, though it's best to start with a single-grain variety to screen for allergies.
- It's perfectly safe to introduce baby to foods with a single-ingredient fruit or vegetable, too.
- Remember your child is used to an all-liquid diet, first meals should be diluted with plenty of breastmilk or formula to ensure the consistency is only slightly thicker than what your child is used to.
- Take it slow. New eaters don't need three meals a day. Start with one and work your way up to three over the next two to four months as baby gets the hang of it and learns to like a variety of flavors.
- Continue to introduce first foods, those are single-variety foods, every two to three days; don't worry if your baby balks at a new flavor at first, it can take 10-15 exposures to get a baby used to a new food.
Solid Food Dos and Don'ts
- Do consult with your pediatrician before starting solids; the 4- and 6-month check ups are a great time to check in about your child's readiness.
- Don't give your child honey before age 1. It can cause infant botulism.
- Do prepare for changes in bowel movements. As babies expand their diets, their diapers will be filled with a variety of colors and consistencies, so don't be alarmed.
- Don't worry (too much) about common allergens. While the rules of old asked parents not to introduce common allergy-inducing foods such as eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and more until after age 1, the AAP changed its stance on this in 2008 and, in most cases, no longer recommends waiting until after your child's first birthday.
- Do enjoy this culinary journey. Get your camera ready to catch those first messy meals and enjoy this milestone for you and your baby