Through the first year or so, your baby’s main source of nutrition will be breastmilk or formula, but between four to six months old, your baby may begin showing signs that they are ready to start exploring new flavors and textures. Introducing solids to your child is one of the earliest steps you will take to introducing healthy eating habits.
When should I start my baby on solid foods?
Babies typically are introduced to solid foods between 4 and 6 months old, but each child will reach this milestone when they are ready. Children should not start solids earlier than 4 months because they haven’t developed the skills needed to move solid foods around and swallow. Families are encouraged to have an open dialogue with their child’s doctor and to take notice of signs their baby shows that they may be ready. Signs include:
- They can sit up well while supported in an infant chair or high chair
- They have developed good head control
- They show interest in your meal times or when someone is eating near them
- They no longer automatically push food out of their mouth due to their tongue thrust reflex
If you feel your baby may be ready to start solids, be sure to speak with your child’s pediatrician first. They will be able to provide you advice regarding what the best course of action may be for your child and family’s specific needs.
What are the best foods to start with and how much should they eat?
When you introduce solid foods to your baby, start off with small portions. On average, infants from 4 to 6 months should be fed twice a day and it is suggested that families start with two tablespoons and gradually increase the amount as your child gets older and appetite increases.
Because babies are still getting use to textures and tastes, unless your family is going to go with baby-led weaning, an approach to introducing solids that bypasses pureed solids in favor of large, thick pieces babies can hold and gum, your child’s solids will be pureed until they become more experienced eaters and eat thicker foods and then eventually foods in their natural form. First time foods include infant cereal, vegetables such as avocado, butternut squash or sweet potatoes or fruits such as apples, bananas or pears. Research shows that introducing infants to vegetables first may reduce their resistance to them because they have not experienced the sweet tastes of fruit yet.
Why won’t my child eat their solids?
It is important for families to remember that each child will reach this milestone at their own pace and that some children will take to foods quicker than others. In a perfect world, families will introduce their child to a new food and they will devour each one, but the reality is, some children may need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they enjoy eating it. If your baby doesn’t seem interested in their food, don’t push them to eat it, but be sure to try again another day. Some babies may be more interested in playing with the food and that is perfectly fine – this allows your child to explore and get use to new textures. Families should also keep in mind when their baby is having their breastmilk or formula. If your child just recently drank and they turn their head away from your or clench their mouth, your child may be too full to eat their solids.
What precautions should we take introducing solids to our baby?
One of the biggest things families should look out for are food allergies, which can be very common in babies. It is recommended that when introducing a new food to a child that families try them out for at least 3 days before starting another new food. Allergic reactions to food can include gassiness, rashes, runny noses, or unusual crankiness. Most children do grow out of their sensitivities or allergies to foods. If you feel your baby may have a sensitivity to a food, speak with their pediatrician about your experience to determine if and when you should introduce the food again.
Even though it may be alarming, your baby will likely gag during their introduction to solids and as you move to thicker textures. This reaction is completely normal. It’s important for families to understand the difference between gagging and choking. As always, infants should never be left alone when eating.