Starting solid foods

Starting solid foods

Breast milk or formula is the only food your newborn needs, but around 6 months old, most babies are ready to begin eating solid food to complement breastfeeding or formula-feeding.

Giving your baby his or her first taste of solid food is a major milestone, so it’s important to be prepared before your baby takes that first bite.

When is the right time to start solid foods?
Choosing the appropriate time to introduce solid foods depends on your baby and his or her rate of development. Signs your little one may be ready include:

  • Being able to sit with little or no support.
  • Good head control.
  • Opening his or her mouth and leaning forward when food is offered, reaching for your food, or seeming eager to be fed.
  • Having the ability to move food from a spoon into his or her throat. If your baby pushes the food out of their mouth, they may not be able to move it to the back of the mouth to swallow it. Wait a week or two and try again.

How should solid foods be introduced?
Parents often ask which foods they should have their baby try first. That’s really up to you. It’s more important to focus on offering a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats. There is no evidence that babies develop a dislike for vegetables if fruit is given first.

  • Start simple. Introduce one, single-ingredient new food from any food group every 3 to 5 days. This will allow time for you to watch for any reactions that might indicate your baby has an allergy or intolerance to the food.
  • Choose soft foods. Be sure those first foods are soft or pureed to prevent choking and offer foods that provide iron and zinc, such as iron-fortified cereals made for babies.
  • Watch for cues that he or she has had enough to eat, and do not overfeed.

Try this tip: Give your baby a little breast milk or formula first, then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food, then finish with more breast milk or formula. This will prevent your baby from getting frustrated when he or she is hungry.

What if my baby resists solid foods?
Babies often reject their first servings of pureed foods because the taste and texture are new. If your baby refuses, don’t force it. Go back to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding exclusively, then try again in a week. Remember, every baby is different, so their readiness to start solid foods will vary. If resistance continues, talk with your baby’s doctor to rule out any problems.

Is it OK to give my baby juice?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies younger than 12 months should not be given juice. After 12 months (up to 3 years of age), only 100% fruit juice is recommended and no more than 4 ounces a day. Offer it only in a cup, not in a bottle. To help prevent tooth decay, do not put your child to bed with a bottle. If you do, make sure it contains only water. And do not let them sip on juice for an extended period of time.

Does my baby need water?
Breast milk or formula, or a combination of both, provide all the fluids healthy babies need. However, it is OK to offer a little water when you begin to give your baby solid foods. Limit water to no more than 1 cup (8 ounces) each day and give it to your child in an open sippy or strawed cup.

When is my baby ready for finger foods?
Once your baby can sit up and bring his or her hands or other objects to their mouth (typically by 8-10 months old), you can offer finger foods to help teach your little one how to eat.

Make sure any food you give your baby is soft, easy to swallow and cut into small pieces, such as bananas, wafer-type cookies or crackers, scrambled eggs, well-cooked pasta and well-cooked, cut-up potatoes or peas. Do not give your baby any food that requires chewing at this age, or any food that can be a choking hazard, including:

  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Whole grapes
  • Popcorn
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables
  • Fruit chunks, such as apples
  • Hard, gooey or sticky candy

If you have any questions about your child’s nutrition, including concerns about your child eating too much or too little, talk with your pediatrician.

Feeding your newborn

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