Starting solids with your baby might seem daunting.
When should you start solid foods? Which foods do you start with? How do you start giving your baby solids?
All these questions and more are addressed in this article!
Keep reading for the complete guide to starting solid foods with your baby.
When To Start Baby On Solids
Some people suggest starting solids around 4 months. It’s pretty much consensus that solids shouldn’t be started before 4 months, but current guidelines are to wait until 6 months. Breastfeeding advocates insist that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.
But… each baby is different!
Here’s a Cochrane review that studies the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Their conclusion was:
“…the available evidence demonstrates no apparent risks in recommending, as a general policy, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life…:
So, if your baby wants breast milk for the first 6 months and nothing else, there’s no risk in waiting to start solids until 6 months.
That being said, you SHOULD start solids by 6 months because waiting longer can result in your baby’s iron stores becoming depleted. Many products first introduced to babies (think, rice cereal) contain fortified iron. Iron is necessary for red blood cell production and brain growth. Around 6 months, your baby should start to eat more per feeding and go longer between feedings.
Introducing Solids To Baby
Introducing solids to your baby might seem daunting.
But it’s the natural course of things! Here is a quick guide on the best ways to introduce solid foods, how to do it, and what to start with.
How To Start Solid Foods For Baby
Starting solids for a baby isn’t too difficult.
First, start off with either pureed foods or use baby cereal. Baby cereal can be thickened to any consistency, keep it somewhere in between a solid and a liquid.
When your baby acts interested, they will open their mouth (like they’ve seen you do)!
Gently place a small amount of food on a small baby spoon and put it into your baby’s mouth.
When your baby reacts, don’t be worried. Often babies will push the food out of their mouth. It will dribble down their chin and make a mess.
It might look like your baby spit all of it out and didn’t swallow any.
It’s how babies start getting used to a new texture and learn how to use their mouth. They are still learning how to handle thicker food than milk. It doesn’t mean your baby isn’t ready for solid foods.
After giving them solids, offer them some milk. Because they aren’t very effective at eating yet, they will likely take milk after you feed them.
Baby First Foods 4 – 6 Months
Now that you know how to give your baby those first bites, you may be wondering what to give them first.
It’s really up to the parents, but there are different suggestions from medical experts at what the best foods to start are.
One option is giving your baby fortified cereals. The positive part od starting with cereal is that your baby will experience the same taste they’re used to. Baby cereals can be mixed with breast milk or formula easily.
When they’re mixed with breast milk or formula, they have all the nutrients of the milk!
Some babies accept baby cereals better as a first food, but some like to be more adventurous.
Pureed Vegetables and Fruits
Some experts suggest starting with pureed vegetables and fruits. These contain a lot of water as well as good nutrients.
Many babies like the different flavors of fruits and vegetables. Between 4 and 6 months, babies may be ready to expand their palette and try different foods.
Another first food could be pureed meats. Some experts think that pureed meats are the best option because they are full of protein!
Meats may sit a little longer with your baby and keep them full longer. Also, many babies don’t love the taste of pureed meats. If you start with them, they may be more apt to accept meats than if you start with yummier carrots.
In general, it doesn’t REALLY matter what you start with (as long as it’s a pureed consistency).
I suggest having a balanced diet. Give your baby a little bit of different kinds of foods! To avoid allergy problems, try giving one food at a time. Once you know your baby tolerates it well, add another.
Your baby really should have added iron in their diet so make sure to either feed them iron-fortified cereals or give them an iron supplement. Talk to your doctor about the best options.
When Can I Start Feeding My Baby Cereal In A Bottle?
Babies need time to adjust to the world. One of the things that needs the most adjustment is their digestive system.
Babies should be breastfed (or formula-fed) exclusively the first 4-6 months..
The very earliest a baby should be introduced with baby cereal is 4 months. Many experts think that it’s best to wait until 6 months though.
People will tell you that babies will sleep longer if you give them cereal in their bottle. But giving them cereal too early isn’t good for their digestion.
Not only that, studies show babies don’t actually sleep longer when cereal is added. That’s a myth!
Adding cereal too early also adds calories and dilutes the nutrients in your baby’s milk. Babies need all the nutrients they can get the first months so wait to introduce cereals until 4 months at the earliest.
If you’re wondering why some experts suggest 4 months while some suggest 6, it’s because each baby is different. Some babies show signs they’re ready for solids before others.
The next section talks about how you can tell whether your baby is ready to start solids.
When Can I Give My Baby Food
Because each baby is different, some may do better starting foods earlier than others. The BEST way to know when your baby is ready to start solids is to watch for these signs in your baby:
- Sitting up with support.
- Watching you eat your food.
- Mimicking you when you eat.
- Grabbing small pieces of food and bringing them to their mouth.
- Starting to act unsatisfied with only breast milk.
Your baby will let you know when they’re ready!
On a personal note, my daughter was 4 months old when she started really watching me eat my own food. As I brought my spoon to my mouth she would follow my hand and open her mouth at the same time I opened mine.
Additionally she started acting irritable throughout the day, like she wasn’t content. I bought some stage 1 baby food at the grocery store and fed it to her.
She was THRILLED and ate more than I expected. It was part of a fun food experience, and I loved giving her new foods to try.
When Do Babies Start Eating Table Food?
Sometime between 7 and 8 months, your baby will be able to start transitioning from pureed baby foods to chunkier adult foods.
Your baby won’t be ready for hard chunks until their teeth grow in, so start with soft foods first. Try to find foods that your baby can mash between their gums.
Examples of soft foods are boiled fruits or vegetables (like apples and carrots), soft cooked pasta, or baby snacking puffs found in most grocery stores.
The soft foods will help your baby develop jaw and face muscles to chew harder foods as they grow. Once your baby grows teeth, they will be able to eat harder foods.
Signs Baby Is Ready For Table Foods
You will know that your baby is ready to graduate from pureed baby foods when they:
- Are around 8 months old.
- Grab the spoon to feed themself.
- Eat and swallow pureed foods with ease.
- Grab small pieces of foods with their fingers.
- Bring food to their mouth with their hands.
Don’t wait too long to introduce your baby to table foods! Pay attention to these signs. Babies need adult foods introduced to them for their health and nutrition.
They also need solid foods to be introduced in stages to form and strengthen their jaw muscles as they prepare for a full mouth of teeth and adulthood.
Tips When Starting Solids With Your Baby
1. Start with pureed vegetables before fruits.
Your baby’s first foods should be pureed foods because they are between a liquid and solid, easing them into an adult diet. The baby foods at the store have stages and as your child gets older, it’s easy to see which foods they’re ready for.
Some people make their own pureed foods, it’s up to you what you want to do.
Vegetables should be started before fruits! Babies have sensitive little taste buds, and if you start with fruits first, they might reject vegetables because they aren’t as sweet.
2. Make sure your baby cereals are iron-fortified.
At 6 months of life, your baby starts to need more iron in their diet than breast milk provides.
Iron helps your baby;s brain grow and ensures they have production of red blood cells. You will need to take a look at the baby cereals you buy to make sure iron is added.
3. Your baby will probably make a mess.
They’ve never eaten solid food before, so when you give your baby the first spoonful they will gum it, move it with their tongue, and dribble it down their chin.
Not to worry, with time it will bet better as your baby becomes more coordinated. In the meantime… it might be worth investing in a few bibs.
4. If your baby is constipated, try the “P” fruits: pears, plums, peaches and prunes.
These fruits contain sugars that draw water into the gastrointestinal tract and help your baby make softer stools. The way you can tell if your baby is constipated is by the consistency of their poops. If theyre hard (like “rabbit pellets”), your baby is constipated.
If giving more of those fruits doesn’t seem to help, you can give your baby a few ounces of apple, prune or pear juice a day. Just make sure you don’t give too much because it doesn;t have the nutritional value that breast milk or formula has!
5. Keep giving them milk!
Breast milk is VERY important for your baby. If you’re giving your baby formula, the same thing holds true.
Your baby NEEDS breast milk or formula until they’re at least 1 year old.
Breast milk and formula are the only things that can give your baby all the nutrients they need for the first year of life. So, when you start giving them solids do it gradually and continue to give them breast milk.
Starting Solid Foods: Meal Plan
If you are looking for some structured advice for starting solids, check out this meal plan!
It’s created by Dana over at Family Style Nutrition. She has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics and works with moms and babies to create healthy meal plans! She put together this guide to help wean your baby from breast milk (or formula) and start solid foods. Her advice is invaluable.
Purchasing her meal plan gives you access to her nutrition advice group and no-bake snack ideas. It also offers full meal plans and advice for both you and your little one when starting solid foods!
It’s a full meal plan and recipes for 4 weeks. She includes plans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, delicious recipes, and shopping lists! Her guide is invaluable and full of good ideas for feeding yourself and your little one. And the recipes are easy to follow.
Starting Solids: Conclusion
When starting solid foods with your baby, there are a lot of things to think about!
Your baby might be ready for solid foods any time between 4 and 6 months. Solids shouldn’t be given before that, and must be started by 6 months to meet your baby’s developmental needs.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.