For most parents, after the newborn stage, you and your baby start to get into a routine our experts call “Eat, Sleep and Poop” (not necessarily in that order). By about 4 months old, your baby should be comfortable breastfeeding, drinking his or her bottle and slowly adjusting to a sleep schedule. As your baby grows and changes though, it’s time to introduce new foods around the 4- to 6-month mark. So, where do you start?
You’ll notice that baby is ready to try first foods when sitting up mostly on his or her own and showing interest in the food you’re eating. “It’s important to start slow, typically with infant oatmeal mixed with breastmilk or formula to ease your child into this experience,” says Rachel Dawkins, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “Let your child take their time and learn the process of eating as they learn how to sit in their high chair, taking small bites of food from a spoon, resting in between and letting you know when they’re full as they close their mouth.”
Once baby is comfortable eating oatmeal, Dawkins says it’s time to move on to stage one foods—pureed, single ingredient foods such as avocados, peas, squash, banana or apples. You’ll want to give the same food every day for about three days to ensure baby doesn’t have a reaction like diarrhea, a rash or vomiting. “I always recommend starting with vegetables first and then introducing fruits that can be a bit sweeter,” Dawkins says. “Start with 2 ounces but don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat a lot or any at all for that matter—your baby will guide you on how much they need to eat and sometimes it takes 10-12 tries for baby to get used to the taste. Also, baby food doesn’t have a ton of calories so it’s OK if baby wants more breastmilk or their bottle rather than baby food, and vice versa.”
First foods can be store-bought, pureed baby food or, if making food at home, you can puree in the blender by making the consistency about as thin as oatmeal or grits (veggies can be steamed and mixed with breastmilk or infant formula too). Watch how baby’s eating habits develop and let him or her guide you when it’s time to advance to thicker-consistency foods like eggs or smashed fruits and vegetables—even without teeth, the jaws will do the work.
Advanced Foods at Nine Months
Once baby makes it through the stage one and stage two (two-ingredient) foods and is bringing his or her hands to the mouth, you may want to start introducing finger foods that are a bit chunkier, like meats and small pieces of fruits and veggies. “The key is to introduce small shreds of meat or pieces of food that are about the size of baby’s fingertip around 9-months-old,” Dawkins says. She also recommends avoiding choking hazards such as grapes (unless quartered), hot dogs, nuts, raw vegetables, fruit chunks and popcorn.
As for introducing new beverages, stay away from the sweet stuff, like juice, but you could begin giving water in your child’s sippy cup during meals and snack time around 9 months to a year old. It’s also a good idea to set a schedule where baby eats a breakfast, lunch and dinner with small snacks in between.
While it may be hard for parents, let your child get messy and even drop food on the floor. This is all part of their exploring and learning how to feed themselves, and potentially help them avoid being a picky eater.
Do’s and Don’ts When Transitioning to Solids
As your baby advances his or her eating habits, you can review some sample menus the American Academy of Pediatrics has for 8- to 12-month-olds and 1-year-olds. You can also use this checklist below to remember the basics when transitioning baby to solid foods:
- Go slow, choose one-ingredient foods first, then work your way up.
- Choose simple, healthy foods without spices.
- Follow baby’s cues on how much he or she wants to eat.
- Give baby plenty of water in a sippy cup throughout the day.
- Let baby get messy.
- Check with your child’s pediatrician about baby’s growth and development.
- Put food in a bottle.
- Give food larger than baby’s fingertip.
- Give sharp foods or other food baby can choke on, like grapes (unless cut into quarters) or hot dogs.
- Give baby whole milk until after the first birthday.
- Give up—have baby try each food multiple times.