When Do Babies Start Eating Solid Food?
Your baby’s first year of life will be full of new experiences and adventures. One of those new experiences is trying baby food for the first time. Knowing when to start feeding solids and how to go about giving those first few bites is an important thing for parents to understand. Following an appropriate timeline for solid feeding can lead to a successful diet for your child in the future.
When Is The Right Time?
Many parents wonder when their baby might be ready to start solid food. Babies should start eating baby food when they begin exhibiting signs of readiness and when your child’s doctor has given the okay.
There are several milestones that your baby needs to hit before being ready for solids. Babies should start eating baby food when they:
- Are able to steadily hold their head up.
- Are beginning to sit up with or without support.
- Are constantly chewing on their hands and toys.
- Are showing interest in food when you eat.
- Do not seem full or satisfied, even after having at least 32 ounces of breast milk or formula per day.
Talking To Your Child’s Doctor
Your child’s doctor will probably bring up the topic of when babies should start eating baby food at the four-month checkup. By then, most babies are reaching the important growth milestones that indicate readiness to begin solids. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should start eating baby food around six months of age, pediatricians know that some parents may be eager to start feeding solids prior to that.
Reaching A Consensus
If your baby is developing appropriately and hitting all of their growth milestones, and you and your child’s doctor are in agreement, then you can go forward with starting to introduce solid foods. It’s important that you and your child’s doctor are on the same page in regards to solid foods since they will be the ones you turn to with any dietary questions. Having the support of your child’s doctor can make this new stage much easier.
How To Begin Introducing Solids
Correctly introducing solids to your child is imperative to their long-term relationship with food. Babies should start eating baby food only when they have reached the appropriate developmental milestones. Starting solid foods too early can lead to frustration for both you and your child.
The First Food
Baby cereal is typically the first food pediatricians recommend that parents start with when introducing solids. Rice cereal, oatmeal, and barley are the three most popular choices among parents and doctors. Avoid giving strictly rice cereal since rice may contain small amounts of arsenic that, when given in large quantities over time, can cause health problems.
Properly Mixing Cereal
To start, baby cereal should only be given in very small amounts. A majority of your baby’s calories should still come from breast milk or formula.
For the first several feedings, stir one to two tablespoons of baby cereal with four to five tablespoons of breast milk or formula to make a very runny mixture. As your baby begins grasping the art of pushing food from the front of their mouth to the back of their mouth and swallowing, you can increase the amount and thickness of the cereal mixture.
Tools And Tricks
A small baby spoon should be used to feed solids. Not only are baby spoons specifically designed to fit an infant’s mouth, it also ensures that you are not giving your baby too much food at once. To get your baby used to feeding themselves, have them hold a spoon in their hand while you feed them.
Hold your baby upright when feeding them. Another reason babies should start eating baby food only when they have the proper head control is to avoid choking. Once your baby is able to sit upright on their own, you can introduce them to a highchair.
Baby cereal does not have to be warmed; however, if your child is used to having their breast milk or formula heated, you can do so prior to stirring it with the cereal.
Thing To Avoid When Starting Solids
Babies should start eating baby food when they are ready, but there are still some things to avoid once you’ve started feeding solids. Not following certain steps can lead to your child developing an aversion to certain foods or dangers like choking.
Use The Right Equipment
What you feed your baby with is just as important as the food you feed them. Never feed your baby from a bottle. Not only is this a potential choking hazard, since younger infants have not yet learned how to coordinate their sucking and swallowing actions, but it can also encourage overeating which can lead to obesity later in life.
Always feed your baby from a bowl with a spoon specifically designed for feeding infants. This is safer for them and will help your baby learn portion control, even at such a young age.
Don’t Force Feed
Sleep is often minimal for parents of a young infant. While it may be tempting to feed your baby extra solid food in hopes that they sleep in longer increments, there is no scientific evidence that links overfeeding with an extended sleep schedule.
Instead, pay close attention to your baby’s cues to determine when they are full. If they turn away from the spoon or continue to push food out of their mouth after they have had several bites, then stop the feeding. Babies should never be punished for not finishing everything on their plate. That will only lead to them developing issues with food later on in life.
Expanding Your Baby’s Diet
Once a baby has conquered a variety of baby cereal, you can move on to other solid foods. Babies should start eating baby food like pureed vegetables and fruits with no added sugar or salt once they have taken to eating several different types of baby cereal.
Food Allergy Basics
Whenever you introduce your baby to a new food, you should keep an eye out for signs of a food allergy. Symptoms can be as mild as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting, or as severe as hives, swelling of the face or tongue, and difficulty breathing.
Wait at least three days, or up to one week, between each new food to ensure there are no food allergies present. If you’re trying a new food that you think may cause a potential reaction, such as eggs, shellfish, or peanuts, give them at home the first time and have an antihistamine on standby. If someone in your immediate family has a severe food allergy, consult with your pediatrician before introducing that food to your baby.
Adding More Texture
We know that babies should start eating baby food around six months of age, but when should parents introduce finger foods? The general rule is between eight to ten months, but it depends on your baby’s development and tastes.
You can begin by giving your baby the same foods they’ve already tried, just not pureed as smoothly. Fruits, vegetables, and meats should be cooked very well and chopped into tiny pieces- large enough for their fingers to grab but small enough to avoid any choking hazards.
From there, some ideal foods to try include dry cereals, cooked pasta, small cubes of cheese, yogurt, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, cooked beans, and lentils.
Keys For Long-Term Success
We all want our babies to grow into healthy, happy toddlers who will then turn out to be successful adults. Part of that success starts with teaching them how to properly feed themselves and maintain a good diet. Knowing when babies should start eating baby food is the first step to achieving that success.
The Do’s Of Feeding
Do introduce solids at the right time. Introducing baby food too early can lead to severe consequences down the road. Do use the proper tools and techniques when feeding your baby. This will teach them how to correctly feed themselves once they are able.
Do have fun with your baby’s food. Feed them a wide array of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and dairy to ensure they are eating a balanced diet.
The Don’ts Of Feeding
Don’t start solids too soon. Knowing when babies should start eating baby food can help avoid this mistake. Don’t overfeed your baby. This can cause them to have a difficult relationship with food and lead to eating disorders or obesity when they get older.
Don’t stress too much about when babies should start eating baby food. Your pediatrician is a great source of information on all the basics of solid feeding.
Your baby’s first year of life is full of exciting milestones. From the first smile to the first time they sit up unassisted, it seems like they change overnight. However, when it comes eating, knowing when to start baby food isn’t always cut and dry.
Just like every other milestone, babies start eating baby food when they are ready. Some may need a little extra encouragement while others dive right in.
Introducing solid foods to your baby is a huge milestone. When babies start eating baby food, it’s safe to say that they will put just about anything in their mouths, at least once. This can be good, bad and downright messy.
Here’s what you need to know before your baby takes their first delicious bite for solid food:
From Formula and Breast Milk to Solids
Before babies start eating baby food, they only consume breast milk or baby formula. Babies should be consuming these until they are at least a year old. Breast milk and baby formula provide proper nutrition for your baby. For babies that are up to nine months, typically they consume feed at least 20 to 28 ounces of formula or breast milk every three to four hours.
Babies between nine months old to a year need approximately 16 to 24 ounces of formula or breast milk every four to five hours. Ultimately, it will depend on your baby, their medical history and caloric needs.
Implementing a regular feeding routine also makes transitioning to solids a little easier.
At first, you’ll have to experiment to see what works best for your baby, so you know when to start baby food. For example, if your baby tends to drink a whole bottle before a meal, feed them with food first and then give them their bottle. If your baby isn’t exactly a big drinker, try doing the opposite.
When Babies Start Eating Baby Food: Establish a Meal Time
Up until your baby is at least seven to 10 months old, they’ll still be dependent on breast milk and formula for proper nutrition. But when babies start eating baby food, establishing a set meal time can make the process less chaotic and stressful.
By doing so, your baby associate meal time with pleasure. They will eventually become excited to try tastes and textures of food.
Once your child has gotten used to the concept of eating and gains an interest in solid food, it’s time to start their routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though they may not be hungry, they’ll get used to eating on a schedule.
On a side note, never try to force your baby to eat. If they are no longer interested in eating, take them out of their high chair.
First Solid Foods
A common question that new parents wonder is when to start baby food. In general, there are no steadfast rules or restrictions when to start baby food. But introducing your little one to their first solid foods can be confusing.
In fact, you might find yourself asking, “What food is best, how will I know if they like it and how do I know when to start baby food?”
As a new parent, it can be tough to know when babies start eating baby food. Every baby reaches this milestone at a different time, so never compare your child’s progress with someone else’s child. Your baby will bloom when he or she is ready.
But in the interim, here are a few tips to help you know when to start baby food:
Ages Four to Six Months
Usually, between the ages of four to six months is when babies start eating baby food. Single-grain cereals are usually a good first choice. The amount of iron that was stored while your baby was in utero drops significantly by the time they’re nine months old.
This is why cereals that are rich in iron are perfect for your baby’s first solid food. Because cereal is mixed with breast milk or formula, when babies start eating baby food, they usually prefer it.
Try mixing a teaspoon of cereal with four to five teaspoons of baby formula or breast milk to soften it up. This helps your baby get used to swallowing soggy cereal. Once they’ve become used to eating cereal, you can gradually thicken it by adding more cereal and less milk.
Ages Six to Eight Months
Babies that are six to eight months old can start eating pureed foods. A common misconception is that consuming fruits before vegetables is what causes a sweet tooth. However, there is no research or scientific explanation to back up this claim.
You can decide whether or not you want to feed your baby pureed bananas or carrots. You may even be inclined to give your baby pureed meat like chicken.
Ages Nine to 12 Months
Babies between nine months to a year old have at least six teeth; two on the center bottom and four across the top. At this point, you can transition your child from purees, so you no longer have to worry about when to start baby food.
You can incorporate more finger foods that have texture while mashed. You’ll be able to feed your baby casseroles and soft rice at this age as well.
Foods You Need to Avoid
Aside from knowing when to start baby food, it’s essential that you know what foods to avoid when babies start eating baby food.
Here’s what you need to avoid giving your baby:
- Honey – Honey may seem like something you’d give when babies start eating baby food. However, this should be avoided at all costs during infancy. Honey has the potential to give your baby botulism, or food poisoning if they’re introduced to it early on.
- Milk from cows – As we’ve mentioned before, always use breast milk or baby formula as the primary beverage until your little one is at least a year old. Babies are unable to digest cow milk as easily as breastmilk or formula. Not to mention, it can also cause an iron deficiency due to inflaming their digestive systems.
- Peanut butter, chips, popcorn, nuts, seed and whole grapes – These foods are extremely dangerous to children as they are prime choking hazards.
Gag Reflex When Babies Start Eating Baby Food
When introducing solid foods, your baby’s first reaction may very well be gagging. While alarming, the reaction is perfectly normal. After months of only having thin liquids, getting used to thicker consistencies takes a little time.
It’s just your baby’s gag reflex protecting them from harm’s way.
To make the transition to solid food as smooth as possible, make sure your baby is sitting perfectly upright when feeing. Never try to feed your baby when you are holding them. Keep in mind that if your baby does start to choke, they may look scared but not make a sound. It’s important to know what to look for and how to swiftly dislodge any food from your baby’s throat.
Watch for Allergies
Food allergies are common when babies start eating baby food. While some children outgrow them, all potential food allergies must be taken seriously. Reactions to new foods range from tummy trouble (think gas, loose stool and vomiting) to severe reactions like anaphylactic shock.
Thankfully, the latter doesn’t happen very often. Other less common symptoms of food allergies include watery eyes, sneezing, a runny nose and crankiness.
If your baby has the same reaction two or three times in a row, consider it a food sensitivity and try another food. If your baby seems to have an adverse reaction to every new food you offer, or if there’s a family history of allergies, check with your pediatrician before introducing different food.
Based on your baby’s symptoms, your pediatrician may recommend allergy testing.
Introducing your baby to solid foods is one of the most memorable, if not messiest, milestones in your baby’s first year. With all of the new tastes and textures that await your little one, it can be tough to figure out where to start.
Encourage your baby to encourage the experience of tasting new foods, even if most of it ends up in their hair. It’s just part of the experience when taking those little taste buds to the next level.