Begin a positive relationship between your child and food by starting solids appropriately
Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone and one of their first significant steps toward independence. Also, it’s fun to watch them experience new flavors and sensations. Although it’s a simple concept, there are factors to consider as you begin to feed your baby solid foods. Nutrition is an essential part of health, and it’s important to get your child on the right path to develop a positive relationship with eating.
Consider the following best practices before introducing your baby to solid foods to provide them the healthiest future possible.
When to begin
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting solid foods around six months of age, depending on when your baby is ready. The signs that your baby is ready include:
- Baby can hold up their head and sit upright
- Baby has doubled their birth weight
- Baby seems interested when you’re eating
- Baby still seems hungry after regular feedings
Your baby may show signs of readiness at or before four months, but there’s no need to rush this milestone. According to the AAP, introduction to solids before four months is associated with increased weight gain and obesity in infancy and childhood.
Talk to your pediatrician about introducing solid foods if you have any questions or concerns.
What to feed a baby
According to the AAP, there is no reason to start foods in a certain order. While it’s true that babies prefer sweeter options, there’s no research to indicate that starting fruit first will cause your baby to reject vegetables. However, babies do need to be exposed to a wide variety of food types, such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, yogurt, and cheeses. Meats and vegetables contain the most nutritional value.
As your baby begins to sit up and intentionally bring their hands to their mouths, you can offer finger foods to help them learn to feed themselves. Provide soft foods cut into small pieces such as scrambled eggs, cooked pasta, sliced bananas, small pieces of chicken, peas, and Cheerios. Be careful how food is sliced; you do not want to feed your child disc-shaped food pieces, such as banana or hot dog slices, as these present a choking hazard.
If you’re feeding your baby infant cereal, make sure that you offer iron-fortified infant cereals like oat, barley, and multigrain along with rice cereal. Solely providing rice cereal is not advised by the Food and Drug Administration due to the risk of arsenic exposure.
Your baby may refuse something several times before eating an entire serving. Be patient when trying something new, and try again at another time if your baby rejects a food item.
How to feed your baby
An easy way to introduce your child to solids is to feed your infant first by breast or bottle before switching to very small spoonfuls of food so that they don’t experience frustration with the learning process if they’re hungry. Start with a half a spoonful and talk happily through the process to make the eating experience fun.
Your baby should be eating around 4 ounces or one small jar of baby food at each meal. If you’re making fresh food for your baby in a blender or food processor, avoid added salt or seasoning and cook fruits and vegetables until they are soft.
Don’t be surprised if more food ends up on your baby’s face, clothes, or highchair than in their belly as they’re getting familiar with eating solid foods. Be prepared with a bib and a warm washcloth.
Remember that good eating habits begin early. Create a healthy dinner routine by turning off the television, talking to your baby, and providing a well-balanced diet. Research shows that sitting down to dinner as a family regularly has a positive impact on development, so start that habit early.
Offer a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients, keep trying food types that are rejected, and create a happy atmosphere to help your baby develop a healthy relationship with food and nutrition.
The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.