Believe it or not, it’s time for your baby to start eating solid food. The period from 4-8 months is a critical time to develop tolerance to a variety of foods, which decreases the risk of allergies. This is also a time to develop important oral motor skills, which help with language. Your baby is figuring out how to swallow, handle new textures and tastes, and you are figuring out how to feed him or her! Remember, your baby will still be getting most of their nutrition from formula or breastmilk during this time – but all new parents have lots of questions and stresses over introducing solids.
** Be sure to ask your pediatrician for specific questions and personal recommendations.
Signs Your Child Might Be Ready To Start Solids:
- When your child has good head control
- When your child has interest in the food around them
How To Give Solids:
- Not in a bottle – this has been shown to increase the risk of obesity
- Give 1-2 tablespoons once a day initially – you will increase as time goes on (up to 3 meals per day by age 8 or 9 months)
- Maintain the same amount of formula and breastmilk initially
- Babies have a strong gag between 4-6 months, so all food should be finely pureed (like a stage 1 jar food)
** Caregivers often worry about which food group to begin with, but this decision may depend on several factors and is based on what makes sense for your baby and your family.
- Iron rich foods are important for exclusively breastfed babies. Starting at 4-6 months, iron fortified cereals are often recommended as the first type of solid to introduce to breastfed babies. For babies regularly getting iron-supplemented formula, this is unnecessary.
- Rice cereal, however, may constipate babies and is not recommended for babies who stool infrequently. New studies have shown that rice should be limited to no more than 1 serving a day because of trace amounts of arsenic.
- For constipated babies, pears and prunes may be helpful to introduce early on.
- For babies with slower weight gain, look to introduce higher calorie solids like cereals or fruit first.
- There are lots of different feeding practices. A conservative approach is to introduce one new food every 3 days to monitor for signs of allergy from each food. Other families may choose to give babies adult food (being careful of choking) right away, even though this technique may introduce many foods at once.
- Critically important is to observe your child eating solids and monitor for choking or gagging.
- Don’t worry if your baby isn’t interested in solid food at first. Babies often take some time to get used to the feel and taste of food. You’ll find that most of it ends up on your baby’s face and bib.
At age 6 months, water should be introduced to your baby throughout the day. Water is important for fluoride, which is beneficial for dental health. If there is no fluoride in your local water, you should consider fluoride supplements or purchase bottled water that contains fluoride. Drinking water can also help if there is constipation, however babies who have poor weight gain should limit water intake.
We recommend introducing water in a straw cup to assist in language development and oral motor strengthening.
Juice should be limited or avoided, as it has been associated with obesity and dental cavities.
- Research is ongoing investigating the importance of organic vs. non-organic food. Data has shown increased pesticides in the urine of babies fed non-organic food, however no specific health risks have currently been associated with the pesticides presence. The important thing is that infants and children should regularly eat fruits and vegetables, which have critical nutrients for children’s health. This is much more important than whether or not the fruits and vegetables are organic.
- Babies’ tastes change. Although they may hate broccoli one day, it might just be their favorite food the next! Have patience. Research suggests it can take up to 15 tries to develop a taste for a new food.
- Never force your baby to eat. Babies will eat when they are hungry.
- Don’t limit your baby’s fat intake. Fats are essential for the healthy development of your baby’s brain and immune system. Avocado and egg yolk are both great sources.
Word of Caution:
- Acidic foods like tomatoes, oranges and strawberries can sometimes irritate the skin around the mouth of your child. For some children with particularly sensitive skin, you can use Aquaphor to block this reaction.
- The one food that ALL babies should AVOID is honey. This is because it is associated with botulism. All other allergens (nuts, eggs, fish) are now recommended for early introduction. If you have a strong history of family allergies, discuss this decision with your pediatrician.
- Foods high in nitrates (including spinach, celery, beets, leafy greens, and deli meats) can cause a type of anemia in babies. It is fine to give your baby these foods if they are made by a baby food brand but use caution if making homemade.
The content provided is not meant to replace the advice of your child’s physician. Please refer any specific issues or questions about your child to your pediatrician or health care provider.