As your baby grows and becomes a more voracious eater, you may start to wonder about introducing solid foods. Though this is an essential part of growing into a toddler, there is no need to rush into solid foods. Knowing when and how to introduce solids will help you make good, informed choices for your baby.
Parents are often told that their child is ready to begin solid foods between four and six months of age. The time before six months is a critical time of stomach and intestinal development. Introducing solid foods too early can compromise gut health and lead to allergies both now and later in your baby’s life. If you have food allergies or seasonal allergies in your family, delay giving solid foods until at least 6 months or longer. Breastmilk and formula provide everything your baby needs for the first year of life, so there is no rush to introduce solid foods.
A baby is generally ready to eat solid foods when he can sit up by himself; grasp something small between his thumb and first finger; has a couple of teeth; and shows interest in eating solid foods. Most of these developmental markers happen around six months of age. If your baby is truly ready for solids he will be able to experiment with feeding himself with very small chunks of soft foods, as well as any mashed or pureed foods you will feed him.
When you first introduce solid foods to your baby, he won’t be eating very much. A few spoonful’s the first time, is a good start. For the first year of your baby’s life, the main source of nutrition should still be breastmilk or formula. So don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat very much at first. If you are still breastfeeding, nurse before you feed stolid foods, to help maintain your milk supply. Formula fed babies can be bottle fed after they eat.
Introduce foods one at a time. When you are introducing a new food, it is very important to look for allergies. If you introduce more than one food at a time, it will be hard to tell what your baby is allergic to. Stick with the same food for several days before you introduce a new food. If your baby has any type of reaction to the new food, discontinue it for now. Sometimes foods that cause a mild reaction in an infant will be ok when they are older. Click here for more information on food allergies.
Start with one feeding each day, and increase from there. Your baby can eat whenever you eat, there is no need to add in extra solid food or snacks while your baby is still nursing or taking a bottle.
In the first years of your child’s life, it will be very important for you to always be present when your baby is eating, to prevent choking. Make sure that all pieces are very small and easily swallowed. Watch closely that your baby doesn’t get too much food in his mouth all at once.
Some foods are known to cause allergies. It is best not to introduce the following foods until your baby is a year or older: milk, berries, wheat, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. If your family has a history of allergies, consult with your pediatrician on the best time to introduce these foods.
For more information on what foods to introduce first, see “Introducing Solids Part Two.” Take your time as you and your baby experiment with solid foods and enjoy this fun new stage.