Starting Baby on Solids
Hooray! Baby Ben has finally hit his sixth month of life! Time to whip out the baby food jars and Cheerios, right? Well, not quite. For a mom, thinking about feeding Baby solid foods for the first time is exciting. However, a baby’s developmental readiness for solid foods cannot be determined by a calendar.
True, most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months. However, Cathy Jones, international board-certified lactation consultant and registered nurse at Pediatric Care North, says Baby’s age isn’t always the best indicator.
“The average age is 6 months, though some babies can show signs between 4.5 to 5 months old. If they’re showing interest in what you’re eating and wanting to eat it too, they can probably start sooner,” Jones says. “It’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician beforehand to be sure.”
Other signs your baby might be ready to start solids include:
- Baby has good head control and is able to sit up.
- Baby no longer has the tongue-thrust reflex (when Baby’s tongue pushes food out of his mouth).
- Baby is developing a pincer grasp, where she tries to pick up food between her thumb and forefinger.
- Baby shows interest in trying food and is eager to participate in mealtime.
- Baby tries to grab food and put it in his mouth.
When it is time for your baby to give solids a try for the first time, continue feeding your baby breast milk or formula (up to 32 ounces a day) and start simply, with infant cereal once or twice a day. Wait three to five days between each new food so that if Baby has a reaction (e.g., diarrhea, rash or vomiting), you’ll know the cause. Be sure to mix baby cereal with breast milk or formula, and don’t serve it from a bottle. Instead, help your baby sit upright and offer the cereal with a small spoon. Offer a variety of single-grain cereals, such as rice, oatmeal and barley. Once Baby is used to the cereals, continue gradually offering simple, single-ingredient foods with no sugar or salt, such as pureed vegetables and fruits.
What if Baby doesn’t like solid foods? Jones says not to worry.
“It’s not that important. If you start with solids, and they don’t like it, it’s okay to take a break and try later. It’s more about letting them practice eating food and teaching them how to eat at this age,” she says. “If they don’t like it at first, just continue to try. Some babies may have adversity to textures, and if so, there’s therapy for it when they’re closer to 12 months of age and still won’t eat solids.”
By 10 months, most babies can handle finely-chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits, vegetables, pasta, cheese, well-cooked meat, baby crackers and dry cereal. As your baby approaches age 1, offer her three meals a day, along with snacks, with mashed or chopped versions of whatever you’re eating.
Give your baby your full attention when feeding him. Be sure to talk to him and help him throughout the process. Also:
- Be sure your baby is seated. As soon as she can sit easily without support, use a highchair with a stable base and buckle the safety straps.
- Encourage her to explore. Yes, she will play with her food. It’s messy, but it’s also fun and helps fuel development. Just be sure that finger foods are soft, easy to swallow and broken down into small pieces.
- Offer Baby a spoon to hold. While you feed him, give him another spoon to hold. This is a great way to introduce utensils, and as your baby’s dexterity improves, you can encourage him to use the spoon.
- Avoid power struggles. If your baby refuses a new food, don’t push. It’s okay to wait and try again another time. Repeated exposure helps ensure variety in your baby’s diet.
- Don’t force it. When your baby has had enough, it’s natural for her to cry or turn away. Know when to call it quits. Don’t force extra bites. As long as your baby’s growth is on target, he is likely getting enough to eat.
Remember: Don’t stress about your baby’s not liking solids right away. As Jones says, the important thing is just teaching your tot to eat between 6 and 12 months of age.
“All babies are on their own schedules,” she says. “Don’t compare your baby with others. Go at your own baby’s pace and comfort level.”
And when your baby does accept and begin eating solids, be sure to enjoy his sloppy tray, gooey hands and sticky face! Get that camera ready!
Gina Klein is a writer and author who resides in Kansas City with her husband, two daughters and a houseful of rescued animals.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.