Baby Food: Knowing When To Start Solids

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.

Growth Milestones

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.