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8 Things to Know Before Starting Solid Foods

Jill Castle, MS, RDN
January 3, 2019 . 3 min read

1. When is it time for solids?

Your baby is growing fast, and within the first year of his or her life, you have numerous important decisions to make. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the steady stream of research that is intended to help you choose the best options for your child. Recently, there have been some important changes in recommendations about when and how to start introducing solid foods. Here’s what you need to know.

2. Don\’t start too early

When babies start on solid foods too early, their risk of developing food allergies or obesity later in life increases. With that in mind, be sure that you don’t introduce solid foods before your baby is four months of age. Even cereal in his or her bottle should only be introduced with the direction and guidance of a pediatrician before this point.

3. 6 months is ideal

Each baby will be ready for solid food at different times, but most begin showing signs at around 6-months-old. Look for your baby to be more interested in your food, able to sit upright on his or her own, and able to hold his or her head up well. These physical signs of readiness are important to help reduce the risk of choking.

4. Iron-rich foods

When you decide your baby is ready to try solid foods, you may wonder just what food you should start with! An easier way to approach this milestone is to focus on the nutrients that the potential foods contain. Iron is in high demand in your baby’s body around this age, so choose options that are packed with it. Try Iron-fortified cereals, pureed meats, or pureed veggies that are high in iron (like spinach).

5. Puree everything at first

Initially, you’ll need to puree everything for your baby and ensure that the texture is very smooth. This will help your baby transition from breast milk; however, he or she will learn to chew very quickly. By around eight or nine months of age, your baby will be ready to try foods that are finely chopped and transition on from there.

6. Self-feeding is a good thing

Although you may dread another mess to clean up, it will be important that you indulge your baby’s impulse to take (some) control over his or her eating. Your baby will best learn to feed him or herself by self-feeding with your support as needed. You can start this process by offering easily dissolved foods that your child can hold, like soft crackers or teething biscuits. The next step is … you guessed it! A spoon! As babies gain more independence with feeding, they will learn to regulate food consumption, in addition to learning how to feed themselves.

7. Make nutritious choices

Even as you move on to new foods, nutrients should be your number one priority in choosing which ones to introduce. Babies need high-nutrient content because they are growing so quickly and their stomachs are so small that they can only take in limited amounts at a time. Choose foods that are especially high in iron, calcium, vitamin D, and DHA.

8. Keep it exciting

While nutrition should be your primary focus, remembering to give your baby a wide variety of foods will improve your baby’s nutrient intake. Also, as your baby learns to like many different foods, he or she may also be a less picky eater later on. The window for easily introducing new foods will likely close as your baby grows and becomes more independent, so be sure to take advantage of it while you can!

9. Vary selections frequently

You may have heard that the ideal pace for introducing new foods was every three to five days. However, recent research indicates that this pace and the practice of delaying or avoiding some foods do not reduce food allergies. So, it’s okay to introduce new foods every one to three days if your baby is doing well with the most recent additions to his or her diet.

Sources:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant Food and Feeding.
    Castle JL and Jacobsen MT
  • Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School
  • Jossey-Bass/Wiley
  • 2013.

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