Starting Solid Foods in Infancy
How do I know my baby is ready for solid foods?
Indications that your baby is ready for solid foods:
- His tongue thrust reflex is gone or diminished and is beginning to mouth objects
- She is between 4 and 6 months of age
- He eagerly watches every bite you take
- She does not seem to be satisfied by formula or breastmilk alone
- He was previously sleeping through the night and has now begun to awaken
- She can hold her head steady when seated with support
How do I begin?
Infant cereals can be the first foods tried as they provide iron and zinc. Next you can try pureed fruits or vegetables. The first foods should be single foods that are not combined with other foods. Introduce one new food at a time. In the beginning, meals of solid foods are practice meals. A baby will push out more than they take in. Most of the nutrition is still acquired from breast milk or formula.
Begin with 1 or 2 meals per day which fit into an easy routine. Find a consistent time when you are not rushed or feel pressed for time. The morning session may be 1 or 2 hours after finishing the first breast/bottle feeding. The evening time may be the next. The evening meal can be a great time for socializing with the rest of the family. A lunch meal may be added when the baby is finishing both morning and evening meals. To minimize the chance of choking, be sure the baby is sitting up in either an infant seat or on your lap.
How much do I feed the baby?
Begin with 1 to 2 teaspoons of commercially prepared iron fortified cereal (we recommend brown rice cereal or oatmeal) mixed with breast milk, formula, or water. Feed using a small spoon with a straight handle. Spoon feed by gently pushing the food to the back of the tongue because an infant has a tendency to thrust their tongue forward.
Vegetables and fruits can be introduced first after cereal and then pureed meats. Begin with 1 or 2 teaspoons and gradually increase to 2 to 3 tablespoons in the morning and evening. Introduce a new food every 3 to 5 days in order to detect any allergies. When you have finished 1 to 2 small jars, you are ready to move on to try another food. Refrigerate open jars of baby food and do not feed directly from the jar. First foods: Infant cereals, carrots, squash, avocadoes, sweet potatoes, peaches, pears, applesauce, bananas and meats such as beef and chicken.
Occasionally, some babies have a reaction to a new food.
Be on the lookout for the following signs that may suggest the baby cannot tolerate a new food.
- A rash resembling hives
- Vomiting shortly after feeding
- Passing blood in stools
- Diarrhea within a few hours of eating a new food or mucousy stool
- Bloating or gassiness
- Rash around the anus
Can I make my own food?
You can prepare your own foods and store them in ice cube trays for convenient pop-out portions. The following are recommendations for home preparation:
- Use organically grown foods or foods with a protective peel
- Wash all preparation materials in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher
- Steam all raw veggies and meats in a microwave or pressure cooker
- Very ripe bananas and avocados can be mashed
- Avoid fruits and vegetables in cans not specifically marked or designed for infants because of their variable and sometimes high lead content and the addition of salt, sugar, and/or preservatives.
What about highly allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs, and shellfish?
Recently there is increasing evidence to support the notion that early introduction to foods such as peanut and tree nut products, eggs, fish, and shellfish can decrease the risk of food allergies in children. In years past, the thought was that delaying introduction of these foods would cause less stress on a child’s immune system and lower the risk of developing allergies. However, as more research is done, we are finding that this is not the case! Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology now recommend the introduction of these foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age, after infants have tolerated several other solid foods. See above for signs and symptoms of allergic reaction.
When can I begin finger foods?
Once your baby is sitting up unsupported, you can begin to introduce soft finger foods such as cooked green beans, potatoes cut up into very small chunks, chopped ripe bananas, and dry unsweetened cereal.
When your baby is 7 or 8 months of age, and is reaching for food, you can begin more solid foods. Add chunkier baby food (like stage 3 foods). You can also try a toddler biscuit or a piece of zwieback toast.
The risk of choking increases with the introduction of finger foods. Be sure the food is cut up into ½ inch cubes and always supervise your infant carefully. If you have not already completed a CPR or child safety course, now is a good time.
Never give raw vegetables, popcorn, large pieces of apple, raisins, whole grapes, hot dogs (even cut into coin slices), nuts or hard candy to a child under the age of 3.
Favorite finger foods:
- Cereals: cereals such as cheerios, puffed wheat or puffed rice
- Rice cakes
- Well-cooked pasta or potatoes
- Soft cheese, cut into small pieces
- •Scrambled eggs
- Ripe banana, melon, pear or peach
- Soft meatballs cut into small bites
Remember to continue to make mealtimes an enjoyable experience for all involved.
Last updated 4/7/17 JH