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The Basics of Introducing Solid Foods

Introducing solid foods to your baby can be exciting, fun, and sometimes nerve-wracking.  There is nothing quite as cute as watching your baby’s reaction as she takes her first taste of solid foods.  Some babies seem to take to solid foods right away while others seem content your breast milk or formula and are somewhat hesitant to make the transition. Taking your baby’s lead when it comes to solids is the key to healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

When to Start Your Baby on Solid Foods

The advice on when to start your baby on solid foods seems to change frequently. Many years ago babies were started on cereal as early as two months. Five years ago the recommendation was six months. Now it’s four months. If you think your baby is ready for solid foods the best thing to do is speak with your own doctor. Many doctors will also have suggestions on which foods to start first and which ones to avoid until your baby is a bit older.

Readiness Signs to Watch For

Most babies will let you know when they are ready to start solid foods. You may notice around four months that your baby becomes very interested in what you and the rest of the family are eating. She may watch closely as you put food on your fork and move it to your mouth. Babies may even start to reach out for your plate. These are signs of solid food readiness, and now is probably a good time to start solids.

Setting the Stage

Your baby is part of your family, and thus, should be treated like any other member of the family.  Even before you start solids, once your baby is able to sit comfortably in a high chair, she should be sitting with your entire family during meal times. Babies usually want to be part of whatever is going on and getting them used to sitting down and taking time for a meal is a good way to start healthy eating habits. As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to talk to your baby’s doctor before starting them on solids to ensure that guidelines haven’t changed.  Currently, most experts are recommending between four and six months is a good time to introduce solids to your baby.  Be aware that many babies will have a hard time accepting solids if you wait too long. It has been shown that babies first introduced to solids after nine months of age may take longer to accept solids and refuse almost any food that comes near them.

Foods to Start With

Most people will tell you to start your baby on rice cereal.  While rice cereal is certainly bland and most babies take to it quite readily, it can cause constipation.  If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you may want to mix the cereal with breast milk rather than water since breast milk helps with digestion. Adding breast milk may also make it more palatable for her since it’s quite sweet and adds a familiar taste for your baby. Many parents skip the rice cereal and move directly onto fruits and vegetables. Cooked and then pureed sweet potatoes are another popular first food.  Again, you may want to dilute with breast milk or formula. The runnier the food is when you first start with solids the better, as your baby isn’t used to having thick or chunky foods. Thicker foods can pose a choking hazard as well as turn your baby off of solids. Pureed avocados and bananas are other good first foods. Keep in mind that you should introduce new foods one at a time and don’t add another new food for 3-5 days. This is to ensure that your baby has no allergic reactions and if she does you will easily be able to tell which food is the culprit. There are many foods that some experts recommend you wait to give your baby. One of these is honey, which can cause infant botulism and can be fatal. You should get a complete list from your baby’s doctor to ensure that you are choosing safe foods for her age.

Relax and Have Fun

One of the most important things to remember when first introducing solids to your baby is to have fun. Trying new foods is exciting for your baby, and signals a new phase and development in their lives. Don’t stress out if your baby doesn’t seem to like certain foods and loves others, or seems slow to start. Your baby’s tastes will change many times over the next few years so what she loves one week may be thrown onto the floor the next week. If you have any concerns or questions about your baby and solid foods, it is best to speak with your child’s doctor.  Your local community center may also have workshops or information you can take on how to get your baby’s relationship with food off to a healthy start.