How to Introduce Solid Foods




Article Courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Most babies are ready to eat solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. Before this age instead of swallowing the food, they push their tongues against the spoon or the food. This tongue-pushing reflex is necessary when they are breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle. Most babies stop doing this at about 4 months of age. Energy needs of babies begin to increase around this age as well, making this a good time to introduce solids.

You may start solid foods with any feeding. Try scheduling feedings during family meals. Or if your baby is easily distracted, you may want to pick a quiet time when you can focus on feeding your baby. However, keep in mind that as your child gets older, she will want to eat with the rest of the family.

Kinds of foods

For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. However, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby. Though many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits, there is no evidence that your baby will develop a dislike for vegetables if fruit is given first. Babies are born with a preference for sweets, and the order of introducing foods does not change this. If your baby has been mostly breastfeeding, he may benefit from baby meat, which contains more easily absorbed sources of iron and zinc that are needed by 4 to 6 months of age. Please discuss this with your child’s doctor.

Baby cereals are available premixed in individual containers or dry, to which you can add breast milk, formula, or water. Premixed baby cereals are convenient, while dry cereals are richer in iron and allow you to control the thickness of the cereal. Whichever type of cereal you use, make sure that it is made for babies because these cereals contain extra nutrients your baby needs at this age.

Once your baby learns to eat one food, gradually give him other foods. Generally, meats and vegetables contain more nutrients per serving than fruits or cereals.

Many pediatricians recommend against giving eggs and fish in the first year of life because of allergic reactions, but there is no evidence that introducing these nutrient-dense foods after 4 to 6 months of age determines whether your baby will be allergic to them. Give your baby one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and consult with your child’s doctor.

Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include the following:

-Breast milk and/or formula
-Meats
-Cereal
-Vegetables
-Fruits
-Eggs and fish