Introducing your baby to food is an exciting time, but it usually comes with a hefty side of fear. Is baby ready? Is it safe? What food should I start with? Here's everything you need to know about starting solids with your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests introducing solid foods between no earlier than 4 months, and typically closer to 6 months.
How do you know if your baby is ready for solid foods?
Look for signs that baby is ready:
1. She's reaching for food
Let your little one try out their highchair and watch for signs that they are paying attention to you eating—which usually comes in the form of grabby little hands reaching for your plate!
2. She can sit unassisted
Baby should also be able to hold herself up unassisted while sitting in the highchair. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk be the sole food for the first six months; many little ones show signs of readiness for some solids somewhere between 4 and 6 months old. Talk to you doctor to decide when your little one is ready.
3. She's big enough
From the AAP: “As a rough rule of thumb, babies are big enough to tackle solid foods right around the time when they double their birth weight and reach a minimum of about 13 pounds"
How to start:
1. Nurse or bottle-feed first.
The first attempts at solids aren't about satisfying hunger—it will take baby a long time to learn that's what food is for—so try not to have them taste foods on an empty stomach since they will likely get grumpy, frustrated and fussy. Try a feeding session after nursing or giving a bottle, or at a time when they are alert and happy.
2. Pick a first food.
While rice cereal was the standard first food for years, many experts now say that for most babies, it doesn't really matter what food you give first.
Keep it to a single food that is very soft, such as pureed sweet potato, peas, smooth applesauce, mashed avocado, or pears.
(Avoid homemade baby food made with carrots, squash, spinach, beets or green beans, since they can have high levels of nitrates and could cause a type of anemia.)
3. Start slow.
Whether you do purees or baby led weaning, you'll want to start slow when it comes to introducing new foods.
Remember, baby hasn't ever had anything but milk or formula in her mouth, and learning to move thicker foods around with her tongue is a learned skill.
Start with half of a spoonful and let baby experiment with tasting.
Oh and also: It's highly likely they will spit out a lot of food—or even smear it all over their face, hair and body! Get the camera ready.
4. Watch for reactions.
Pediatricians generally recommend waiting 2-3 days between introducing a new food so you can make sure that baby tolerates each one okay, but follow your instincts too.
If you notice a rash, diarrhea, or vomiting, stop offering the food and be in touch with your doctor or an allergist.
5. Talk to your doctor about peanuts.
While it shouldn't necessarily be the first food, new research indicates that introducing potentially allergenic foods (like peanuts) earlier might actually protect babies from developing full-blown allergies down the road. In fact, a leading childhood allergy expert recently said that introducing a wide range of healthy solid foods, including potentially allergenic foods, may be the best way to prevent allergies.
6. Keep it fun.
Since eating while sitting upright is a whole new experience, baby might be resistant at first.
Don't force food or the spoon into their mouths, but instead offer it calmly or let them play with a preloaded spoon.
Exploring the textures and sensations of the food is half the fun for baby at this point!
7. Graduate from there!
Slowly try adding in more textured foods and even letting baby enjoy finger foods as well. Finger-food guide below!
You've got this.