For the first few months’ of your baby’s
life, nutrition is simple – they get everything they need from their milk. This
gets very complicated real fast. Introducing solid foods to your infant may
seem like a minor milestone, but it’s actually a huge step. There are many
things to consider, such as the best time to start introducing solid foods,
which foods to feed your baby according to their age and so much more.
When to Begin Introducing
The first step is knowing when to introduce
solid foods. If you give them too soon, your child’s digestive system may not
be fully prepared yet, but if you wait too long, your child may be missing out
on essential nutrients and may experience health issues.
While most studies show that the best time
to start solid foods is around 4 to 6 months of age, this will vary from one
child to another.
Here are a few things to look out for in
order to know that your infant is ready for solid foods:
- Your baby can sit upright and
is strong enough to keep their head up straight.
- The “tongue thrust” reflex is diminishing.
This is the reflex that pushes food out of their mouth involuntarily.
- Your infant is increasingly
curious when you’re eating. They seem interested in your food and look at it
- They are constantly hungry even
when taking in all of their usual milk portions.
If you notice all or most of these signs,
you can go ahead and attempt to feed your baby solid foods. Don’t rush them –
if you try and they don’t seem receptive to it at all, try again in a week or
two. We also don’t recommend starting solid foods until they are at least 4
months old, even if they can do all of the above sooner.
Which Solid Foods Should You
If your infant is at least 4 months old and
is showing signs of readiness for solid foods, you’ll want to come up with a
meal plan. You can’t feed them just anything. It’s also smart to create a
routine – get them ready for breakfast, lunch and dinner from the start. This
will help establish a regular eating routine, even if they aren’t eating much
at those times.
Cereals are fortified with iron, making
them an ideal choice for your baby’s first food. A great mixture to make is
combining a teaspoon of single grain cereal along with 3 to 4 teaspoons of
breast milk (or the milk your child is used to drinking). This will create a
more liquid-type of meal, which makes it easier for your baby to swallow. As
your child gets used to swallowing, you can lower the amount of milk and
increase the amount of cereal in order to thicken it up.
Fruits and Vegetables
Once your child is used to the cereal, you
can gradually begin introducing fruits and veggies in a pureed form. It’s
recommended to start with vegetables first, then move on to fruits. Usually,
you’ll want to start introducing pureed fruits and veggies at around the 6 to 8-month
At around 8 months of age, you’ll be able
to gradually introduce foods that they can serve themselves. Make sure they can
grab the food with their hands. Don’t worry, this step does get messy, but it’s
crucial to their development. A small pile of mashed potatoes for instance is
soft enough for them to eat and easy enough to pick up with their palms. You’ll
want to avoid hard foods such as carrots or apple slices. Cooked pasta,
shredded cheese, blueberries, hard boiled eggs and peas are all great foods for
your child to explore at this stage.
Here is a brief feeding guideline that is
suitable for most babies:
- 4 to 6 Months: 2 meals per day – 2 to 4
tablespoons each time.
- 7 to 12 Months: 3 meals per day – food
the size of your baby’s fist each time.
Get ready for some pretty scary messes and
a ton of weird faces from your child. Remember, while this is new for you, it’s
also very new for your baby. Remain patient and your child will be eating like
a champion in no time!