Wondering when it’s time to start adding solid foods to your baby’s diet? While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wait to feed your baby anything besides breast milk or formula until the age of 6 months, every baby is different. Once your baby is ready to dig into some mashed sweet potatoes, peas and applesauce, here are a few tips to consider.
Signs that Your Baby Is Ready
In an ideal world, you should exclusively breastfeed your baby until 6 months old. Of course, there may be times when breastfeeding is not feasible and formula is needed as a replacement or supplement. That’s okay, too. You need to do what is best for you and your baby. Either way, it’s usually recommended to wait until the age of 6 months to introduce solid foods. But your baby may give you signs that they’re ready sooner than that. Those signs include:
- Good head control
- Sitting well in a high chair
- Showing an interest in the food you’re eating
When you do initially introduce foods, remember that the purpose is to develop the oral motor skills necessary for eating. The majority of your baby’s nutrition will still come from breast milk or formula.
How to Introduce Solid Foods
Baby spoon? Check. Bib? Check. Lots of napkins? Check, check.
If your child is ready to start eating, remember that it’s initially a very messy – and entertaining – process. Consider using premade baby foods, or make your own pureed food at home. Steamed or boiled veggies, fruits and meats generally are best. They’re easy to digest and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.
You’ll also want to introduce one food at a time for several days. This will help make sure that your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction to one of the new foods they’re consuming.
How to Prevent Choking
Once babies have the motor skills necessary to bring their hands to their mouth and are able to sit up, they’re likely ready to eat a wider range of solid foods. But this also is the time when you’ll need to take precautions against choking. Make sure to only give your baby foods that are soft and easy to swallow. You’ll also need to mash or cut food into small pieces.
In recent years, baby cereal, puffs and melts have gained popularity. If you introduce these foods to a new baby, always soften them with water or milk first. Remember, babies new to eating solid foods aren’t able to chew. Only serve up foods that are very soft!
Transitioning from Breast Milk/Formula to Solid Foods
When you first start offering your baby solid foods, remember that most of their nutrition will still come from breast milk or formula. Between 9 and 12 months is when you can start to transition your baby to the standard three meals a day with snacks. During this period, you’ll also be weaning your child off breast milk or formula.
What to Do When Baby Refuses Foods
It’s completely normal for a baby to turn up their tiny noses at new foods. While some children are naturally pickier than others, all babies are going to have foods that they like and don’t like. They may simply need more time to adjust to the texture. Meaning, you can wait and try again. If they consistently cry, squirm or push away certain foods, stick with other healthy choices that they enjoy instead.
Foods to Avoid
While you always want to be cautious when introducing any new foods to your baby, you’ll want to take a little extra care when introducing foods that are potential allergens. These food groups include nuts, dairy, gluten, eggs, soy products and certain types of fruits, such as strawberries.
There’s no reason to shy away from these foods, though, unless advised by your pediatrician. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that babies be introduced to peanuts as early as 6 months old.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to introduce your baby to other beverages. Juice, soda and sports drinks are packed with sugar. Stick with breast milk, formula and – after the age of 6 months – sips of water instead.
Feeding your baby solid foods for the first time should be an occasion for celebration! Don’t forget to break out the video camera and capture the smiles, funny expressions and the globs of food that somehow made it everywhere but your baby’s mouth.
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