Your baby’s first year is filled with joyous milestones and many important questions. One of the most common questions posed by new parents is “When can my baby start eating solid foods?”
Pureed solid foods can be introduced as early as four months, though most infants are not ready till five or six months when they can sit straighter and have better control of their chewing muscles.
After 6 months of age, babies also need the added nutrition that solid foods can provide, particularly iron and zinc. At this age, they are ready to explore the new tastes and textures of solid foods.
Signs Your Baby May Be Ready To Try Solid Foods
There are a few potential signs that your baby might be ready to start trying solid foods, such as:
- Demonstrating good head and neck control
- The ability to sit up in a highchair
- Reaching for or showing interest in foods
- Intently watching people eating solid foods
- Not pushing food out of their mouths, overcoming the natural tongue reflex
- Being twice their birth weight, or close to it
- Occasionally chewing without food in their mouths
If your baby is showing these signs, consult with their pediatrician about how and when to introduce solid foods to your baby’s diet.
What Is The Best Way To Introduce Solid Foods To My Baby?
If your baby is sitting up on their own, in control of their tongue reflex and they are showing interest in something other than milk, you can start introducing small amounts of vegetables or single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal.
Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of fortified baby cereal mixed with expressed breast milk, or formula. Feed it to your baby using a small baby spoon. You don’t want to add fortified baby cereal or other food to a baby’s bottle because it can lead to rapid weight gain and inconsistent feeding. Using a spoon also helps your baby practice eating from a spoon and learn how to stop feeding when they feel full.
After several weeks, you can introduce other first foods including:
- Puréed meat
- Fresh fruits
- Other vegetables
- Softened, pureed beans and lentils
Be sure to consult with your pediatrician before introducing foods other than fortified baby cereal to see if they have any specific dietary advice.
It’s best to introduce one food at a time and to wait a few days before trying a different food. This will make it easier to tell if your baby is having an allergic reaction.
First Foods That Could Cause An Allergic Reaction
Be sure to let your pediatrician know if there is a strong family history of food allergies for further guidance about what foods are best to introduce to your baby to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.
Foods more likely to cause allergic reactions in a baby include:
- Tree nuts
- Cow’s milk
It’s important to note that waiting to introduce these foods will not prevent food allergies. In fact, the opposite is true. Recent studies have shown that early introduction of these foods can prevent allergies. Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about food allergies, especially if any close family members have allergies, food allergies, or allergy-related conditions such as eczema, atopic dermatitis, seasonal allergies and asthma.
Many times, infants with severe eczema or egg allergies can be more likely to have allergies to peanuts. Your pediatrician can help you understand how and when to introduce these foods to your baby.
Baby Led Weaning
Baby Led Weaning is an infant feeding practice common in Europe. Instead of being fed strained or pureed foods on a spoon, babies are given whole, softened foods to eat on a tray. Through this practice, babies learn to feed themselves, and to make choices about the foods they eat.
Some examples of food to offer include spears of soft, ripe fruits such as banana or pear, strips of roasted, baked or steamed vegetables like sweet potato or squash, and ground or soft shredded strips of meat you can break easily apart with your fingers.
You have to be very attentive to your infant when doing Baby Led Weaning in case the baby breaks off a piece of food that is too large. Studies have shown that feeding babies solids in this way is as safe as offering pureed foods by spoon.
Yet not all six month olds are ready for it. Look for your baby to have a keen interest in what you are eating, to sometimes smack his/her lips when not eating, and to be able to reach for food and put it toward his/her mouth before starting.
Have fun, but be prepared to clean up afterwards. Babies can be messy!
Can My Baby Eat Honey?
A baby younger than one-year-old shouldn’t be given honey. Clostridium bacteria, which will usually thrive in soil and dust, can cause infant botulism. The bacteria can sometimes contaminate honey, and a baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to defeat the Clostridium bacteria when it enters the digestive system.
What Foods Should I Avoid Giving My Baby?
There are a few foods other than honey that you should not give your baby when introducing solid foods. These include:
- Foods that have added sugars
- Foods that contain artificial no-calorie sweeteners
- High-sodium foods
- Unpasteurized juice
- Unpasteurized milk, yogurt, or cheese
You should also avoid giving your baby cow’s milk or soy drinks before 12 months, though it is okay to offer some types of dairy such as pasteurized yogurt and cheese.
Foods That Pose A Choking Risk For a Baby
Children under 12 months old are still developing their oral function. This means there is some food you should not introduce before one year of age, as they pose a high risk of choking. These include:
- Hot dogs & wieners
- Raw carrots
- Whole grapes
- Nuts, whole or pieces (powdered form is okay; nut butters may be difficult for infants to handle)
- Introducing Different Food Groups
From 6 to 12 months old, you can introduce a variety of foods from all the food groups to your baby. If your baby doesn’t seem to like something, don’t give up introducing it. Sometimes it can take up to 8 to 10 tries before a baby learns to like a new food, and this is true through childhood.
Feel free to call your child’s pediatrician for advice on how and when to introduce solids to your baby.