When your baby starts solid foods, it will be a major milestone of his first year, so you’ll want to make sure you help him start as successfully as possible.
Here are our 10 best tips to get your baby off to a great start with solids:
1. Wait to introduce your baby to solid foods until he is 6 months old.
If you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding your baby, we recommend that you begin introducing solid foods at six months because your baby will then need the iron and zinc that is lacking in your breast milk. But if you want to, continue breastfeeding through the end of the first year as well. For formula-fed babies, it is less important to wait until 6 months to introduce solid foods because the formula is already enriched with iron and zinc, but there is also no good reason to start sooner than 6 months. Studies show it can be nutritionally dangerous to start babies too early (before 6 months) on solids. But also…introducing solids is just a whole lot messier and less simple too…so you’ll want to wait! Make sure your baby shows some signs of readiness before trying his first bite, for example: he is able to sit up in a high chair and hold his head up on his own and he shows interest in your food and opens his mouth if it is offered.
2. Start with organic, whole-grain, baby rice cereal.
White rice cereal is pure starch (refined rice flour) and not that tasty or nutritious, except for the added iron. Try whole grain baby cereals like oatmeal, barley, or brown rice cereal, which are also fortified with iron. We really like this whole-grain rice cereal from Earth’s Best. Make the consistency pretty runny for his first couple of meals. And don’t worry if he’s pushing it back out of his mouth at first. He’ll get the hang of it very soon.
3. Stick to our schedules.
To ease your baby into our 27-36 weeks schedule, start the solids at the 11:00 a.m. feeding only for a couple of days (keeping the other two feedings to 6-7 oz. of breast milk or formula only), then substitute the 2:00 p.m. solid feeding a couple of days later, then finally make the 5:00 p.m. a solid feeding as well — so that your schedule is like ours. You will start to deliver half the amount of ounces during the three middle feedings because you are adding the solids. Always offer the solids first, then give him the breast or bottle so that your baby has a healthy appetite for his new foods.
4. Don’t let your baby hold the spoon.
Discourage him from grabbing for the spoon because that’s one skill he’s not quite ready to master without creating a major mess! Don’t worry, he’s got plenty of time to learn how to use utensils. Encourage him to put his arms down in his lap instead, by saying: “We put our hands in our lap during meal time” and gently put them there for him. He’ll catch on fast and you’ll be so glad (and so proud) when he does!
5. Focus on iron- and zinc-rich foods.
Vegetables are nutritious and usually well received by babies. Offer some pureed fruits if you want (bananas, pears, and peaches are good first foods), but know that they aren’t as nutritional (they’re higher in sugar and water) and they will quickly become favored over vegetables by your baby. So, if you’re going to serve your baby fruit, we would suggest only adding the puree to your baby’s cereal for flavor.
As far as veggie purees go, go GREEN first: peas, string beans, zucchini, avocado. Then add in the YELLOW (white): squash, yellow potato, cauliflower. Then think ORANGE: sweet potato, butternut squash, and carrot. If you’re planning on pureeing your own baby food, we highly recommend the Baby Bullet Complete Baby Food Prep System.
6. Give your baby 2-3 days between introducing a new food.
This gives you time to watch for symptoms of a food allergy, and if those symptoms should appear, you will know that they are likely due to the new food. Symptoms of food allergies include diarrhea, rash, and vomiting and so you know, the highest food allergens for babies are found in egg whites, fish, shellfish, wheat, cow’s milk, soy, citrus, and berries.
Pediatricians used to recommend delaying the introduction of egg whites, fish, and peanuts, but the AAP now gives these a green light at 6 months. They even believe that delaying the introduction of these foods past 6 months for babies (given they do not have a family history of allergies) may increase the chance that your child will develop an allergy to them. So if you have a history of food allergies in your family, definitely talk with your pediatrician about the timing of the introduction of high-allergen foods for your baby.
7. Start with a thinner texture and experiment with international spices.
Start with a watery texture to the rice cereal and slowly make it thicker at subsequent feedings. Your baby may prefer a thinner veggie puree for a while as well. So whisk a little water into a store bought puree in a bowl to thin it out. Of course, if you’re making your own purees you can adjust the thickness by adding more water during the pureeing process. We also really like the idea of offering an international flair to your baby’s palette by adding a dash of curry powder to her pureed green beans or a dash of cumin to her pureed peas, for example.
8. Learn the foods you shouldn’t give your baby his first year.
Food no-no’s for the first year include: honey, peanut butter, tree nuts, citric or acidic fruits, raw berries, corn, cow’s milk, and wheat. Click here for a detailed explanation of why these foods made the list.
9. Don’t give up on the foods your baby doesn’t like right away.
The general rule is to retry a solid 5-10 times (yes, 10!) before chopping it off your baby’s list of foods. Excitedly offering it again later, as if it’s a brand new food, will most likely get your baby’s attention enough for him to go for it. And he’ll probably surprise you and suddenly develop a new love for whatever it is…peas, carrots, spinach, etc.!
10. Learn the Heimlich Maneuver.
Learn the baby Heimlich Maneuver. The Heimlich is easy enough, but if you haven’t already, this is also a good time to take an Infant/Child CPR class, which will include handling a choking emergency. At this stage, babies can’t handle food that is a little solid (like raviolis), but they’ll still continue to gag even when they’re ready for finger foods! So don’t freak out, just be ready to scoop out a piece of food from the back of his throat with your finger and KNOW the Heimlich well. Plus, totally avoid giving your baby foods that are small and firm such as whole grapes, blueberries, raisins, popcorn, and nuts.
One last tip: Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of his very first “meal!”