Serving your baby's first solid foods is a big deal. Gummy grins full of mashed-up fruits or smears of pasta sauce on their little cheeks may not be far off. But first, you have to decide how to get your baby started.
Recognize when your baby is ready
When and how you decide to feed your child is your choice, and every baby is different. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children start to try solid foods, in addition to breast milk or formula, when they are about six months old.
Before getting started, you'll want to look for signs your baby is developmentally ready to eat. That might be when he or she:
- Can sit without support: Your baby should be able to hold his or her head up when sitting in a highchair or infant seat.
- Is big enough: Babies who have doubled their birth weight and are about 13 pounds or more might be ready to try solid foods.
- Looks interested in food: Your baby might watch you eat or lean forward and open his or her mouth when food is near.
Know what to expect for the first few feedings
The best foods to start with are very soft, don't require chewing and can quickly dissolve in your baby's mouth. Make sure to only serve small amounts and watch your child closely.
As you begin, it's important to remember this is a learning process for your baby. Don't be surprised if all the food you spoon in runs right back out, or if your baby coughs or gags a little — that's normal. It takes some time for babies to get the hang of new textures.
Many experts say it's a good idea to give your baby one new food at a time. If you wait 3-5 days in between offering new foods, you can see if he or she has an allergy or sensitivity to any food in particular. Some good options for your baby's first foods might be:
- Cereals or mashed, cooked grains mixed with breast milk, formula or water.
- Pureed fruits or vegetables, either that you make at home or buy as baby food from the store.
When your baby has mastered purees and can bring their hands to their mouth, you might try offering:
- Small pieces of ripe banana or avocado.
- Soft foods such as scrambled eggs or well-cooked pastas.
- Thoroughly cooked, cut-up pieces from your dinner such as chicken (finely chopped, with no skin or fat), potatoes or peas.
In the past, pediatricians recommended holding off on serving foods that children might be allergic to, like peanut butter or eggs, but that's no longer advised (although peanut butter continues to be a choking hazard for babies if not thinned out and mixed into another food). You can find more tips on navigating food allergies here.
If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns about an allergic reaction or other life-threatening emergency, call 911.
Nurses representing Methodist Children's Hospital are standing by to personally assist you with medical advice concerning your child when they are sick. If your child is having a non-life-threatening emergency and you do not need to call 911, you can call Call-A-Nursefor the appropriate advice.
Understand choking dos and don'ts
When you're making choices about what to serve, steer clear of foods that might become stuck in your child's airway. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following guidance to make foods safer for babies:
- Cook and mash whole grains (like rice or barley).
- Cut cylindrical foods (like hot dogs or string cheese) into thin strips, not round pieces.
- Cut round foods (like grape tomatoes or berries) into small pieces.
- Cut soft foods (like bananas or avocado) into small pieces or thin slices.
Make sure to avoid these foods, which are considered by experts to be choking hazards:
- Chunks of fruit, meat or cheese
- Nuts and nut butters
- Raw vegetables
Also avoid giving your baby food in a car seat or stroller, which might not position them in the safest way for eating; a highchair is always best.
Get excited: There's a new seat at your table!
As your baby's skills develop, you can introduce a wider range of textures and flavors. And in no time, you'll likely be pulling the highchair right up to your family's table. However, if your baby doesn't get the hang of it right away, that's OK too. You can wait a week or two and try again.
Keep your doctor in the loop as you transition to solid foods to make sure your child continues to get the nutrition they need.
If you have additional questions about introducing foods, food allergies or your baby's development, you can always find more resources to help at Methodist Children's Hospital.