Feeding your baby solid food for the first time is cool, and a little bit scary. But watching as your baby learns to eat and enjoy different foods and flavors can be a fun experience.
Let’s take the worry out of starting solids with your baby by addressing some of the biggest questions new parents have.
How do you know when your baby is ready for solids?
The good news is babies follow key developmental milestones with some predictability. Your baby can start eating solid foods when:
- She’s at least 4 months old. Don’t add any solids before 4 months. Studies have shown starting too early can lead to obesity, and other health problems later in life.
- She has good neck control -- she can hold her head steady when sitting.
- She can sit up, with assistance.
- She is showing interest in other people’s food. This could be leaning in to try to get other’s food or grabbing towards food on the table.
What about Breastfeeding?
Just because you start feeding your baby solid food doesn’t mean you stop breastfeeding.
Most children need some caloric supplement beyond milk (breastmilk or formula, not cow’s milk) by 6 months old. But they should continue getting most of their calories from breastmilk.
All babies should have 20-30oz of milk through their first birthday.
Always feed your baby solids after their milk, not before. This ensures they are getting enough of the important nutrients that can only be found in milk.
What food should I give my baby first?
Almost any food is fair game for a baby, as long as it is prepared safely for their developmental stage. You can start with baby cereals, purees from the grocery store, or blend up almost anything in your house.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins like tofu, beans, meat or fish, can all be fed to even the youngest baby (as long as they are cooked thoroughly) and mashed, ground, or pureed to the right texture. Some parents even use their own teeth to do this.
Some parents suggest starting with vegetables so your baby is more open to new flavors. The thought is that babies may become fussy when given savory foods if they’ve acquired a taste for the sweet stuff.
But there’s no real advantage to one over the other. The key is to give your baby variety.
What Can’t I Feed My Baby
There are only three no-no’s for the first year:
- Honey. Honey is not pasteurized and can contain harmful bacteria that your baby is not ready to handle.
- Sugary foods. No junk food or sweets. Starting with too much sugar too early can set your baby up to not only be a picky eater, but have issues with a healthy weight later.
- Tough foods or hard foods. We can’t stress enough that babies can choke on surprisingly small things. No nuts, hard carrots, or pieces of cereal unless they are softened, pureed or finely ground.
Do I have to start with purees?
Younger babies need soft, well cooked food. But you don’t always need a blender. Most steamed fruits and vegetables can be mashed with a fork.
One great trick is to use frozen fruits and vegetables which soften when cooked and mash with almost no effort.
Can I skip spoon feeding and go straight to baby-led weaning?
You may be able to jump to baby led-weaning if your baby doesn’t start solids until she is around 6 months old.
Baby-led weaning refers to taking soft fruits and vegetables, or deboned and well-cooked proteins, and giving them to your baby in fist sized pieces. Your baby will be able to pick up these pieces and gnaw on them with her gums.
A lot of parents are afraid baby-led weaning increases the risk of choking, but the culprit is usually unsafe food rather than your baby taking too big of bites.
Baby-led weaning encourages babies to discover their boundaries, and gagging will happen. But if the food they are eating is developmentally safe, they should be able to spit it back up.
Good foods for baby-led weaning include cooked pasta, wheat toast, avocados, bananas, ripe pears, steamed cauliflower, or baked potatoes. Because each of these foods is still cooked, you can sprinkle them with our powdered Peanuts, Baked Egg, or Tree Nuts.
Baby-led weaning is messy -- less than half of the food you feed them will ever make it into your baby’s mouth. It also takes time. You should still watch your baby for signs of choking, and be sure to feed them developmentally-safe foods.
Starting solids is fun! Babies can’t wait to join the rest of the family at the table. Whether your start with purees or baby-led weaning, always remember:
- Don’t start until your baby is ready
- Feed your baby as many flavors and food groups as possible
- Let your baby decide when they are full
Other than that, have fun and prepare to get messy!