How to Introduce Solid Foods to Your Baby
Contributing Expert: Tara Kotagal, MD
This post is part of our newborn health and wellness series. For more information from our pediatric experts, visit our Newborn Resources page.
Making the transition from milk to solids can be exciting, stressful — and messy! Babies delight in learning about textures and flavors. Trying new foods helps develop their taste buds, promotes social growth and provides sensory stimulation.
Here’s how to begin introducing your baby to the wide world of solid foods.
When Can I Start Giving My Baby Solids?
Fortified baby cereal is often a good first solid to try with your baby (your pediatrician may also give you other suggestions). Initial solid foods serve to complement your baby’s diet. Their main source of daily calories should still come from formula or breast milk.
When offering solids, make sure your baby is sitting up and is well supported. Put a small amount of food on a baby spoon, hold the spoon near your baby’s lips and let them take a taste. You may have to try a few times. It’s okay if your baby gets messy!
Babies love the social aspect of eating. Bring your baby to the table for meals and eat with them. Don’t be afraid to get silly and to model feeding behaviors. Talk about the foods you are eating, make “mmm” and “yummy” sounds and show your baby how you put food in your mouth. Your baby will love learning from you and will start to copy what you are doing.
How Do I Introduce New Foods?
Start introducing different solids slowly, and not more than one new food every few days. For example, you might try baby cereal each day the first week. The second week, you could add a piece of mashed banana. The third week, you might try a different type of puree.
Early on, you can try solids once or twice a day, just a few tablespoons at a time. Slowly increase how much you give them and how often. By the time they’re 12 months old, you want three regular mealtimes a day and a couple of snacks thrown in. So slowly build toward that.
Add in Solids That Match Your Baby’s Development
Match the size and texture of the food to your baby’s development. As they begin to acquire exciting new skills, like the ability to grasp or pinch, give them foods that help them practice those skills. Babies love to explore foods and try to feed themselves.
For example, around six months old, babies can grab and hold things in their palm. You can try finger foods like a soft piece of fruit or vegetable. Avoid crunchy things, like apple slices, or round-shape things that could be choking hazards (such as whole grapes, popcorn or uncut hot dogs).
At around nine months old, your baby’s fine motor skills will start to improve. This means they can grab smaller pieces of food with their fingers. They love to practice this skill with pieces of cereal, like Cheerios.
This is also the perfect time to give them a sippy cup filled with water, to practice holding and drinking.
Should I Introduce Potentially Allergic Foods to My Baby?
Early introduction of certain foods may help prevent the development of food allergies.
You should talk to your pediatrician first, to see if your baby has any risk factors for food allergies. The most common allergic foods are:
- Cow’s milk products
- Tree nuts
Only introduce one allergen at a time to help you observe for any possible allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction can include a rash, hives, swollen lips, vomiting, diarrhea or breathing difficulty. Contact your care team right away if you see any of these signs.
Foods to Avoid in the First Year of Life
Your baby can try a wide variety of solid foods within the first year. Ideally, by 12 months old, they are sitting down with the family for three meals a day, having a taste of everything.
However, avoid giving your baby honey until they are at least 12 months old. It can cause an illness called botulism.
You should also avoid having your baby drink cow’s milk until at least 12 months old. It’s okay if they have cow’s milk in another form (such as yogurt or cheese). But their milk source should be breast milk or formula until they turn one year of age.
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