All mothers look forward to introducing solid foods to their babies. Starting solids is an important milestone that makes you feel your child has grown up. You are equally excited and worried and feel confused with all different opinions and approaches of how and when to start. Our 20 tips on introducing solids may help you to figure it all out.
When to start?
Most babies are ready to start solids at around 6 months because their guts do not have the necessary enzymes to digest solid foods until their half-birthday. During the first year, solid food is a complementary food, meaning that it comes to complement but not to replace breastmilk or infant formula. Until one year old, it is about gradually introducing your baby to nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods.
Follow pediatrician guru Dr. Sears’ advice and watch your baby, not the calendar. Except reaching a certain physical age, babies need to become developmentally ready to digest solid foods. Here are the skills to look for:
1. Sitting upright with support and having a good head control. This is important for swallowing the solid food.
2. Losing the tongue-thrust reflex and making chewing motions. Your baby should stop pushing the food out of his mouth by tongue and be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow.
3. Growing appetite. Your baby seems hungry after eight to ten breastfeeding sessions or 32 ounces of formula a day.
4. Interest in solid foods and willingness to participate in the mealtime. Your baby watches you eat, follows your spoon as it moves from your plate to your mouth, and tries to reach the food in your plate.
How to introduce solid foods?
5. Breastfeed or give formula to your baby 1/2 hour or 1 hour before giving a solid food.
6. Start solids in the morning or mid-afternoon to watch for or deal with an (allergic) reaction or tummy trouble during the day.
7. Avoid starting solids at bedtime because digesting may disrupt baby’s sleeping schedule.
8. Start with smoothly pureed vegetables or semi-liquid single-grain cereals mixed with breastmilk or formula (not cow’s milk). Gradually reduce the added liquid and thicken the texture as your baby grows.
9. Introduce first foods gradually, one type at a time. Wait at least 3-7 days to introduce the next new food. Mix solid foods in one meal only after having introduced them separately.
10. Don’t give solids in a bottle. Learning to eat from a spoon is important for your baby’s development.
11. Don’t feed directly from a ready-to-eat jar, if your baby cannot finish it. By dipping a feeding spoon into the jar, you introduce bacteria from baby’s mouth into the jar that will grow in the leftovers.
12. Introduce water with solids and offer 2 to 4 ounces (60-120 ml) of water per day in a sippy cup, spoon, or small cup. Again, don’t use bottles.
13. Don’t push, if your baby shows he is finished with the meal by turning away from it or clenching his mouth.
14. Be patient: in the beginning, it may take a while to get one little spoon into your baby’s mouth. Some babies need extra time to figure out how to move the food and swallow.
15. Continue giving your baby breast milk or formula until he is one year old. In the first year, solid foods can’t provide the baby with all nutrients contained in breast milk or formula.
16. Avoid giving cow milk or honey to your baby until she turns one year old. If there’s a family history of allergies or your baby develops an allergic reaction, wait about two weeks before introducing a new type of food.
17. There is no benefit in offering fruit juice to babies under 1-year-old or even to older ones. Juice has relatively low nutritional value and can fill baby up, leaving little room for more nutritious foods. Tea and coffee contain tannins that hinder the absorption of iron and may lead to iron deficiency.
How much to give?
18. Start with a half-spoon of the new food on the first day then gradually increase the quantity by one spoon a day.
19. For the first month or two, give solids once a day. Gradually increase the number of meals, giving your baby enough time to get used to this new experience. The average healthy baby will eat 2-3 times per day at 6-8 months of age, 3-4 times per day at 9-24 months of age with 1-2 additional nutritious snacks at 12-24 months of age.
20. There is no strict amount of solid foods for each meal. Most of the healthy babies will eat the right amount of food they need. Let your baby self-regulate her feedings.
Solid food is an entirely new world for your baby with endless tastes, textures, and flavors to discover and explore. Don’t rush him: your baby is about to develop his eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Share your experience with us. Any tips for setting healthy eating habits from the very beginning?