a woman feeds her young daughter solid foods

A Guide to Introducing Your Baby to Solid Foods

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Starting solid foods can be really exciting for both parents and the baby. It can also be kind of scary, especially when it’s your first.

From allergies to choking, it seems like anything could wrong. For the most part, you’re starting with pureed baby foods that really aren’t that much thicker than milk. Unless you’re trying to feed your baby peanuts, you don’t have much to worry about. Here are a few tips for introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet.

Baby Cereal

Around about six months, most babies are ready to start adding more to their diet than just milk. Some babies are ready as early as four months. Pay attention to your little one. Some babies get more interested in your food or give other little signs. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) does recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months.

First, grab a high chair, a small plastic spoon, and a container of cereal from the baby food aisle. Gerber and BeechNut both make a really great array of everything for getting your baby started. Make sure to read the labels; some are for over four months, some are for over six. The first solid meal is mostly milk, with just a little bit of cereal. The specific container you choose will give you the right ratio for the brand. It’s basically a way to start acclimating your baby to something besides milk. From there, you can slowly start making it thicker until it’s a more oatmeal/warm cereal consistency, instead of still in liquid form.

Fruits and Veggies

The general rule of thumb is to add only one thing a week. In this way, not only does your child have time to adjust, but it’s also much easier to tell what’s causing the problem if your little one winds up with an upset stomach or an allergic reaction. On the subject of allergic reactions, if either parent has an allergy to a certain food (like pineapple), it can be a good idea to be careful with that branch of foods. Stick to single flavors at first, and start with things that are gentle on the system—apples, pears, bananas. Fruit also tends to be a little tastier and more enticing. After a few days with no adverse reactions, move on to the next thing.

In any case, you can buy pre-made baby food from the grocery store, or you can make your own. Most literature on baby food recommends skinning and steaming produce to make it easier for baby to digest and to minimize chunkiness. Once you’re at a good texture, throw it in a blender or use a fork to mash it down to an applesauce-like consistency. The really nice thing about making it yourself is that you can freeze it in ice cube trays, store them in plastic freezer bags, and thaw a cub as you need one.

Bottles will continue to be your baby’s main source of nutrition for the next few months, but continue to include solids on a regular schedule. For example, offer the cereal after the first bottle of the day as breakfast, some apples after a lunchtime bottle, and green beans after the dinner time bottle. As your baby (and Mom and Dad) becomes more confident, start mixing fruits together or with the cereal. Yogurt (plain whole milk or Greek—avoid flavors like vanilla that add extra sugar) can be a great addition, as well. It’s good for the belly and has good fats and proteins. Mix with some fruity baby food to make it tasty.

What Not to Give

As your baby starts getting more teeth, you can start including more foods. These include chunks of soft fruit, steamed vegetables, starter snacks, and other age-appropriate items. Use common sense, and ask your pediatrician if you’re not sure. As a general rule of thumb, under no circumstances should babies under 12 months have honey. Other foods to avoid until your baby hits the one-year mark include:

  • Non-breast milk
  • Fish (the main concern is mercury levels)
  • Most berries (tiny seeds are hard to eat and digest)
  • Citrus
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts and seeds (wait for baby molars)
  • Leafy greens (nitrates are hard for babies to digest, plus leaves are a choking hazard)
  • Salt
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Egg whites (a common food allergen)
  • Popcorn
  • Chocolate, candy, and gum
  • Hot dogs
  • Raw carrots

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