The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Solids
Your baby has hit the 4-6-month mark, and you are more than ready to start feeding solids. You have all your first feeding essentials from bibs to utensils, serving bowls, and a very stunning modern high chair ready to go. But now, the anxiety has set in... How do you know if your baby is ready, and what in the world should you feed him?
How Do I Know if My Baby’s Ready?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding solids at 6 months of age, though many pediatricians will have you start as early as 4 months. If you haven’t quite reached the right age, hold off. Your baby doesn’t really rely on the extra nutrition from solid foods at this point, and breastmilk or formula provides the essential nutrients to keep her healthy.
While it’s nice to have an age range as a transitional marker, we all know that all babies are different. So unless your little one has met these developmental milestones, hold off on the puree:
- Neck and backs muscles are strong enough to hold up your baby’s head
- Your baby has the core strength to sit independently in a highchair
- Shows interest in food, paying attention to what you eat, opening the mouth as you eat, and makes chewing movements
- Birth weight has doubled and your baby is now weighing in at 13+ pounds
- Your baby seems hungry despite adequate breastmilk/formula feedings
- He/she is teething
Where Do I Start?
Whether you have a history of allergies or not, it’s a good rule of thumb to feed your baby single-ingredient purees and to watch for any reactions. Always offer one new food at a time and offer the same food for three days in a row so that you can isolate which ingredients have a harmful effect, in case of a reaction.
If you do have a history of allergies, rice cereal is a popular starter puree. It’s a gluten and allergen free choice that’s also easily digestible. You can then move on to oatmeal and single-ingredient fruits or vegetables.
When in doubt as to which fruits and veggies to feed and when, you can follow a simple color rule throughout the various ages and stages:
- 4-6 Months – Go for yellows and oranges
- 6-9 Months – Add in greens and whites
- 9-12 Months – Go for the rainbow but steer clear from reds
Age: 4-6 months
Single ingredient purees
Fruits: Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, mango, nectarine, papaya, peach, pear, pumpkin
Vegetables: Carrots, green beans, peas, squash, sweet potato
Grains: Barley, oatmeal, rice
Dairy: Breast milk or formula
Consistency: Thin, runny puree (add breastmilk, formula, or water to thin)
Portion: About 1-3 tablespoon, 2 times a day
Age: 6-8 months
Two ingredient purees, then three
Fruits: Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, mango, nectarine, papaya, peach, pear, prunes, pumpkin
Vegetables: Carrots, green beans, parsnips, peas, potatoes, squash, sweet potato, zucchini
Grains: Barley, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, pasta, quinoa, rice, rye
Dairy: Breast milk or formula, and yogurt and cottage cheese
Consistency: Thicker, chunkier puree
Portion: 8 oz. over 2-3 times a day
Age: 9-12 months
Fruits: Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, blueberries, figs, grapes (chopped), kiwi, mango, melons, nectarine, papaya, peach, pear, pumpkin
Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potato, turnips, zucchini
Grains: Barley, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, pasta, quinoa, rice, rye; teething biscuits, and small cereals
Dairy: Breast milk or formula, and yogurt and cottage cheese
Protein: Beef, chicken, eggs (yolk only), fish (10 months+), legumes, pork, turkey
Consistency: Bite sized, finger foods, thick purees, soft stews, chopped foods
Portion: 8 oz. total 3 times a day, plus a snack
Cooking Tips for Homemade Purees
If you’re planning on making some or all of your baby food at home, make sure to thoroughly wash all foods then steam until soft. Steaming allows you to cook your foods while retaining the maximum nutrients.
Once steamed, use a food mill, a food processor, or a blender to get the right consistency for your baby’s age. Make sure that purees are watery at first by adding breastmilk, formula, or water to the mix. As your baby matures, you can hold back on the liquids for thicker consistencies, or add cereals for more texture.
Select organic produce whenever possible to avoid feeding your baby potentially harmful pesticides and other chemicals. Remember: your baby’s digestive system is incredibly immature and potentially toxic products could have major consequences. Also choose fruits and vegetables that are in season for maximum vitamin content.
Know When to Stop
When your baby stops opening his or her mouth as you offer more food, feeding time is over. Don’t worry if she doesn’t finish it. Again, solids aren’t an important source of nutrients for your baby at the early stages, formula and breastmilk are. They should be the prime source of nutrition for your baby, and you should only offer solids after she’s had her regular feeding. You don’t want to replace milk feedings at this stage, only to complement them.
Foods to Avoid!
If your baby is under 12 months old, there are certain foods you should avoid at all costs:
- Cow’s milk: While yogurt and cheese are great protein and calcium rich additions to meals, cow’s milk should not replace breastmilk or formula until your baby is 1 year old. Cow’s milk just doesn’t have the nutrients needed for proper development. Plus, it’s difficult for little ones to digest.
- Honey: Your baby’s intestinal tract cannot handle honey and risks contracting infant botulism.
- Citrus: The acidity of citrus fruits can cause rashes and stomach pain
Red berries and tomatoes – These fruits contain allergens that can cause severe reactions.
- Egg whites, nuts, and shellfish: These protein choices can result in life-threatening allergic reactions. Opt for red meat, chicken, pork, turkey, or legumes instead. Egg yolks are ok.
And once your little one hits that one-year mark, the world is their oyster!
What food will be your baby’s first solid.. and will it be jarred or homemade?baby baby food