Solid foods 101: When and how to introduce to your baby
Written by Summer Vu, DO
This might be your first time as a parent, or it might be your third, but most likely, you have received and sorted through many stories and tips about when to start introducing solid foods to your baby. Now that your baby is ready, how do you go about introducing them?
When should I introduce solid foods, and why?The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the introduction of solid foods around 6 months of age. Baby should be able to hold his or her head up when seated in a high chair or infant seat and should be able to move food from a spoon into his throat. If his tongue simply pushes the food out (known as the extrusion reflex), consider waiting a few weeks and trying again or diluting the cereal and gradually increasing the thickness.
After six months of age, breast milk or formula alone do not meet the requirement for energy, protein, iron, zinc, and fat soluble vitamins that your child will need. However early introduction of solid foods prior to 6 months of age shows no benefits and puts your baby at risk for choking, food sensitivities, atopic dermatitis, and obesity.
Which type of food should I introduce first?Always introduce only single ingredient foods. A new food can be introduced every 3 to 5 days. This gives you time to make sure baby is doing well with this new food and to be able to pinpoint the cause if an allergy were to occur. Be patient since it might take up to 15 attempts for your baby to accept a new food!
Infant cereal and pureed meats are good first foods to introduce. They are rich in iron and zinc which are the elements found to be deficient in infants in the Unites States. Infant cereal can be prepared by adding human milk or formula and should be fed through a spoon. You can start with one teaspoon at the end of breast or bottle feeding and then gradually increase to ½ cup per day.
Once cereals and puree meats are accepted, strained or puree fruits and vegetables should be introduced. Canned foods with a large amount of added salt and sugar should not be used to prepare baby food. While additional sugar and salt in baby food are discouraged, fat and cholesterol intake should not be restricted.
I want to prepare homemade baby food. What do I need to avoid?You should avoid any hard, round foods such as nuts, grapes, raw carrots, and round candies as your baby is at an increased risk of choking. Babies should not receive honey or cow’s milk until after 1 year of age. Honey puts your baby at risk for botulism (a rare but serious bacterial infection) and excess consumption of cow’s milk places your baby at risk for iron deficiency.
Fruit juices are not an essential part of your baby’s diet. If desired, it can be offered from a cup, no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day as it increases the risk of dental cavities. Juices can be offered as part of a meal or a snack but are not to be sipped throughout the day or at bedtime.