Baby Feeding: Starting Solid Foods

There comes a time in every baby’s life when the food on your plate starts to look better than what she’s been eating. Is it time to start feeding your baby solid foods?

Here are a few questions to consider when coming up with an answer:

  • Is your baby around 6 months old?

  • Can she sit up with support and hold her head up on her own?

  • Does she show interest in solid foods, say, by watching you when you eat and opening her mouth or moving it as if chewing along?

  • When you offer her a spoonful, does she take it into her mouth and move her jaw instead of pushing it out with her tongue?
  • Has she doubled her birth weight (about 13 pounds or more)?
  • Is she still hungry after eating a full meal of breast milk or formula?

If the answer to these questions is yes, your baby may be ready for her foray into solid foods.

First foods

In the past, parents were advised to start with a single-grain cereal and introduce solid foods in a specific order: rice cereal, vegetables, fruit, then meat. We now know there’s no scientific evidence showing that introducing foods in a specific order is necessary. Of course, it's fine if you want to introduce foods in the traditional order, but if you think your baby is interested in trying a different food first, that’s OK, too.

The following guidelines do still apply:

  • Introduce new foods one by one, waiting two to three days between each new food to watch for an allergic reaction, such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting.

  • While it’s called solid food, your baby’s first foods won’t actually be solid. Instead, the foods will be soft or pureed -- what we generally think of as baby food and find in baby food jars at the store. If you like, you can also puree food in a blender or food processor. Just make sure everything is reduced to the point that it no longer requires chewing. You can also mix in a little breast milk or formula to make your baby’s first solid foods more familiar.

  • Offer small bites -- half a spoonful or a smidgeon on the end of your fingertip is enough. And don’t expect your little one to start feeding herself yet. That will come later when she’s ready for finger foods.

  • If your baby balks, don’t force it. Back off and return to breast milk or formula for a while. There’s plenty of time for your baby to learn to enjoy solid foods.
  • Don’t forget breast milk or formula. Just because your baby has started solid foods doesn’t mean she’s ready to be weaned. On the contrary, breast milk and/or formula will continue to be an important part of your baby’s diet until she’s at least 12 months old.

As you begin feeding your baby solid foods, remember that mealtime is not only for eating -- it’s an important social activity as well. So as your little one takes her first tastes, make it a family affair and enjoy your meal together. Bon appetit!