Baby is holding his head up, showing an interest in your food and has a growing appetite; it’s time to introduce solids. Remember to start with something rice-based as a precaution against allergies. Cereal is a great choice. Next you can try mixing in a mashed fruit or vegetable blend, and not long after, give small, fine pieces of protein a try. Just make sure you have the necessary tools and plenty of information about what to expect. Always introduce slowly to watch for allergies and consult your doctor if you have concerns.
When to start
When baby turns 4 months, you can begin to think about introducing solids into her diet. Sometime between 4-6 months, introduce iron-fortified rice cereal into her routine. You’ll want to soak it in breast milk or formula first, depending on what baby is used to.
By 6-8 months, you’ll be trying pureed and mashed vegetables. A few months later, proteins. And before you know it, baby will be 18 months old and eating three meals per day, feeding herself with utensils. It happens fast!
Developmental signs that they are ready for solid food
Many moms feel they know when baby is ready for solid foods, but for others it’s not so obvious. It is always a smart idea to check with your baby’s doctor before introducing anything new into baby’s diet, but here are a few signs to watch out for in helping you tell that baby is ready for more than formula or breast milk:
- Your baby is finally able to hold his own head and can hold it steady, in a controlled position.
- Your baby has lost his “extrusion reflex,” meaning he no longer has the instinct to push things out of his mouth using his tongue.
- Your baby can sit upright. Even if baby is still being supported and not quite ready for a high chair, sitting upright is key for ingesting and digesting solids.
- Your baby has begun to make chewing motions with his mouth, meaning his mouth and tongue are developing in sync with his digestive system. Baby must be able to move food to the back of his mouth with his tongue to swallow before he can try solids.
- Your baby has gained a significant amount of weight. Watch for baby to weigh around 15 pounds before starting solids.
- Your baby is always hungry. A growing appetite is a good sign; they may want up to 8 to 10 feedings of breast milk or formula per day.
- Your baby is curious about what you’re eating.
The first meal
The first solid to feed baby will be an iron-fortified rice cereal. Start with mixing 1 teaspoon dry iron-fortified rice cereal with 4 to 5 teaspoons breast milk or formula. Little by little thicken mixture by increasing to 1 tablespoon dry cereal combined with breast milk or formula. Mixture should be fed twice a day.
You want to make sure that baby gets plenty of iron during those early months, and doctors recommend rice cereal rather than a wheat base to help avoid possible allergies. Wheat and other grains will be introduced later, and very slowly.
You’ll want to have a small bowl available for baby’s first solid meal, in which you’ll mix the formula or breast milk with the cereal. You’ll also want a small spoon to feed baby with. You may need to rub the spoon against baby’s lips a few times in order to get her to open up to the new food source.
Don’t get discouraged if baby doesn’t take to it right away. Wait a few days or a couple of weeks and try again.
Adding to the meal
If you introduce rice cereal at 4 months, by 6-8 months baby will be ready to try mashed and pureed fruits and vegetables. You can think of adding a new food every 3-5 days and adding a new food group every 1-2 months.
After baby has gotten used to fruits and vegetables, you can try adding proteins, dairy (just no whole milk) and diluted juice. By one year, baby should be eating all of the above plus finger foods and combination foods.
Remember to continue introducing new things slowly and watch out for allergies.