Just when parents and newborns get into the swing of things with a feeding schedule—whether they’re breast- or bottle-fed—it’s time to switch it up and accompany that milk-only diet with a few solid foods. Introducing baby food begins around the 4- to 6-month-old mark, when a baby’s digestive system is ready to handle more. (This is how you know when to introduce baby food.)
Get ready for the change by knowing what foods your baby should start eating, what foods you should skip and the best way to introduce solid foods.
Offer Food After Milk
Even though a baby might meet the requirements for trying solid food, breast milk or formula will still be her main source of nourishment until she turns one. Parents should always offer milk prior to their baby’s solid food eating session. This way, the baby still receives the important nutrients she needs—and she’ll have a familiar taste that makes her more open to trying something new.
Always Be Present
Eating a family meal together is good for so many reasons. It’s great to start this tradition young, but parents and caregivers should also remain with their children for pure safety reasons. When parents stay with their child and watch their baby closely as he eats, Mom and Dad are at the ready in case choking or an allergic reaction occurs.
Give Small Portions
Infants get increasingly hungry as they inch up the charts. Still, the first few weeks (and even months) of introducing baby food should consist of small portions. At this stage, it’s more about the baby navigating the different textures and tastes that solid baby food offers.
Try Spoon-Feeding First
As exciting as this milestone is, gradually working toward finger foods is the goal. Parents and caregivers should start off this new chapter by spoon-feeding their baby some single-grain cereal—mix about 4 or 5 teaspoons of breast milk or formula with 1 teaspoon of cereal to start. Once they get used to cereal, parents can create delicious blends of pureed produce, baby soup and other healthy spoon-friendly foods.
Test out Finger Foods
Watching a baby play around with her food and successfully get it into her mouth is a much bigger deal than it may seem. Graduating from single-grain cereal and purees means a baby can move on to this milestone, free to explore even more textures and learn how to use her fingers to feed herself. Sticking to finger foods with a single ingredient is key, like soft, small pieces of fruits or vegetables, or something mashed up—like potatoes or eggs.
Introduce One Food at a Time
We know, we know…food is delicious and no parent wants to encourage picky eating. So it only makes sense to help babies try everything, right? While it’s important to feed a baby nutrient-rich foods, it’s equally important for parents to set a slow pace for introducing solids. Waiting about a week between foods allows you to monitor whether or not Baby is having an upset stomach or other reaction to the food he’s trying.
Avoid High-Risk Foods
Any choking hazards should be avoided, like whole grapes, popcorn and nuts. Although honey is super beneficial for adults and even little kids, it shouldn’t be a part of a baby’s diet. It can cause botulism, a serious illness caused by a toxin sometimes found in honey. Cow’s milk should also be avoided until a baby turns a year old.
Be Mindful of Allergy Triggers
Unfortunately, food allergies do occur in infants, toddlers and small children. Parents must always be considerate of any food allergies that run in the family and be cautious of those types of food while introducing solids to their baby. Be on the lookout for allergic reactions during the week-long trial period of offering a new solid food.