Most babies this age are introduced to solid foods. Experts recommend gradually starting solid foods when a baby is about 6 months old, depending on the baby's readiness and nutritional needs.
Be sure to check with your doctor before giving any solid foods.
Is My Baby Ready to Eat Solids?
How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Here are a few hints:
- Is your baby's tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished? This reflex, which prevents infants from choking, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.
- Can your baby support his or her own head? To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up.
- Is your baby interested in food? A 6-month-old baby who stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for some variety in the food department.
If your doctor gives the go-ahead but your baby seems frustrated or uninterested as you're introducing solid foods, try waiting a few days or even weeks before trying again. Solids are only a supplement at this point — breast milk and formula will still meet your baby's basic nutritional needs.
How to Start Feeding Solids
When your baby is ready and the doctor has given you the OK to try solid foods, pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or cranky. You want your baby to be a little hungry, but not so hungry that he or she is upset. So you might want to let your baby breastfeed a while, or provide part of the usual bottle.
Have your baby sit supported in your lap or in an upright infant seat. Infants who sit well, usually around 6 months, can be placed in a high chair with a safety strap.
Most babies' first food is a little iron-fortified infant single-grain cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Place the spoon near your baby's lips, and let the baby smell and taste. Don't be surprised if this first spoonful is rejected. Wait a minute and try again. Most food offered to your baby at this age will end up on the baby's chin, bib, or high-chair tray. Again, this is just an introduction.
Do not add cereal to your baby's bottle unless your doctor instructs you to do so, as this can cause babies to become overweight and doesn't help the baby learn how to eat solid foods.
Once your little one gets the hang of eating cereal off a spoon, it may be time to introduce single-ingredient puréed vegetables, fruit, or meat. The order in which foods are introduced doesn't matter, but go slow. Introduce one food at a time and wait several days before trying something else new. This will let you identify any foods that your baby may be allergic to.
Your baby might take a little while to "learn" how to eat solids. During these months, you'll still be providing the usual feedings of breast milk or formula, so don't be concerned if your baby refuses certain foods at first or doesn't seem interested. It can just take some time.
Foods to Avoid
Kids are at higher risk of developing food allergies if one or more close family members have allergies or allergy-related conditions, like food allergies, eczema, or asthma. Talk to your doctor about any family history of food allergies.
In some kids, their chance of developing an allergy to peanuts may be related to when they start eating peanut products. Talk to your doctor about how and when to introduce these foods to your child.
Possible signs of food allergy or allergic reactions include:
For more severe allergic reactions, like hives or breathing difficulty, get medical attention right away. If your child has any type of reaction to a food, don't offer that food again until you talk with your doctor.
Also, do not give honey until after a baby's first birthday. Honey may contain certain spores that, while harmless to adults, can cause botulism in babies. And do not give regular cow's milk until your baby is older than 12 months because it does not have the nutrition that infants need.
Tips for Introducing Solids
With the hectic pace of family life, most parents opt for commercially prepared baby foods at first. They come in small, convenient containers, and manufacturers must meet strict safety and nutrition guidelines. Avoid brands with added fillers and sugars.
If you do plan to prepare your own baby foods at home, puréeing them with a food processor or blender, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Protect your baby and the rest of your family from foodborne illness by following the rules for food safety (including washing hands well and often).
- Try to preserve the nutrients in your baby's food by using cooking methods that retain the most vitamins and minerals. Try steaming or baking fruits and vegetables instead of boiling, which washes away the nutrients.
- Freeze portions that you aren't going to use right away rather than canning them.
- Don't serve home-prepared beets, spinach, green beans, squash, or carrots to infants younger than 4 months old. These can contain high levels of nitrates, which can cause anemia in babies. Use jarred varieties of these vegetables instead.
Whether you buy the baby food or make it yourself, remember that texture and consistency are important. At first, babies should have finely puréed single-ingredient foods. (Just applesauce, for example, not apples and pears mixed together.)
After you've successfully tried individual foods, it's OK to offer a puréed mix of two foods. When your child is about 9 months old, coarser, chunkier textures will be OK as he or she starts moving to a diet that includes more table foods.
If you use commercially prepared baby food in jars, spoon some of the food into a bowl to feed your baby. Do not feed your baby directly from the jar because bacteria from the baby's mouth can contaminate the remaining food. If you refrigerate opened jars of baby food, it's best to throw away anything not eaten within a day or two.
Around 6 months of age is a good time to introduce your baby to a cup. Buy one with large handles and a lid (a "sippy cup"), and teach your baby how to hold and drink from it. You might need to try a few different cups to find one that works for your child. Use water at first to avoid messy clean-ups.
You can give your 6-month-old juice, but serve only 100% fruit juice, not juice drinks or powdered drink mixes. Do not give juice in a bottle and remember to limit the amount of juice your baby drinks to less than 4 total ounces (120 ml) a day. Too much juice adds extra calories without the nutrition of breast milk or formula. Drinking too much juice can contribute to excessive weight gain and can cause diarrhea.
Your goal over the next few months is to introduce a wide variety of foods, including iron-fortified cereals, fruits, vegetables, and puréed meats. If your baby doesn't seem to like a particular food, try again at later meals. It can take quite a few tries before kids warm up to certain foods.