Six Tips to Help You Safely Introduce Solid Food to Babies
Your baby is the apple of your eye, and when it comes time to introduce solid foods, you have a lot of questions. The desire to help your kids get off to the right start nutritionally is priority one. After months of super nutritious breastmilk (or formula), the idea of introducing solids is exciting…and scary. In this blog, we address the six most common questions parents have for safely transitioning to solid foods.
- When should I start introducing solid foods to my baby? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, formula is a safe alternative. You can introduce solid foods around six months of age. However, for some babies, especially those considered fussy, starting solids at four to six months is acceptable. Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions about your baby’s readiness for solids.
- What type of foods should I introduce first? Introduce a variety of foods that include different flavors and textures to allow your baby to experience the adventure of eating. We recommend that parents start simply by using single-ingredient foods without added sugar or salt. Breastfeeding or formula should continue until their first birthday, or longer if desired by both the mother and the baby. Also, always breastfeed before offering solids.
- What foods are best for my baby? Feed your baby a variety of single-ingredient foods that include pureed fruits and vegetables as well as single-grain baby cereals. Always breastfeed (or provide formula) before feeding solids. Do not introduce finely chopped foods before eight to ten months of age. Do not offer honey or cow’s milk to babies under one year of age.
- Should I make my baby food? Homemade baby food has become increasingly popular as parents strive to control the foods their children eat. Simultaneously, the quality of store-bought baby food has improved, making it easier to find safe and inexpensive options. Whether you buy jarred food or make your own, organic is best whenever possible. If you have time to make baby food, go for it – or consider doing a hybrid of both homemade food and store-bought. If you decide to make your own, there are dos and don’ts you should be aware of. You can check out the Cleveland Clinic’s guidelines here.
- Should I be concerned about food allergies? To ensure your baby doesn’t react to a new food, avoid introducing other foods for three to four days. If a reaction does occur, it may appear as diarrhea, a rash, or vomiting. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician if you have a concern. Avoid postponing the introduction of highly allergenic foods such as peanuts and eggs. Research shows that early introduction may decrease the risk of an allergy to the food. Once you have introduced all single-ingredient foods, you can begin offering a combination of foods at one time.
- What if my baby refuses to eat something I introduce? Introducing solid food takes patience. Even though pureed, solid food has a different texture and flavor than what they are used to eating. If your baby refuses to eat, don’t force it. Try introducing again in a week. Also, they will probably not like every food you offer them. Keep trying to reintroduce foods that weren’t their favorites over time. Tastes change, and your baby may realize he loves something he didn’t like at first.
Introducing solids is an exciting time for both the parent and the baby. Your baby’s pediatrician is a resource for helping you navigate how and when to introduce solid food. Please take advantage of them whenever you need to.