Although all babies mature at different rates, most babies are developmentally ready to start on solid foodsat 4 to 6 months of age. Here’s what to look for in deciding if your baby is ready to try solids:
- She can sit up and hold up her neck and head.
- She weighs twice what she did at birth.
- She is paying attention to what you are eating and may even try to steal food from you.
- She can hold food in her mouth without letting it all dribble out.
- She shows signs of being hungry such as wanting to nurse more frequently or crying for more when her bottle is empty.
Once she’s ready, here are nine must-know tips for starting solids.
- In the beginning, introduce your baby to solid foods once a day after she’s had some, but not all, of her milk. She may only eat a spoonful or two of mashed banana or pureed vegetables at first but it won’t take long for her to start eating more.
- Work your way up. As your baby begins to eat more and show more interest in her food, gradually increase the amount of food offered and the number of times per day. By around nine months of age, your baby should be able to handle up to three solid meals per day. As your baby eats more solids, you can gradually decrease the number of milk feedings.
- Focus on meats, legumes, veggies, and fortified cereals. These are all extremely healthy choices and can shore up the nutrients that may be lacking in breast milk such as protein and iron. You should also offer your baby some fruit, but remember that because fruits are higher in sugar and water they don’t offer as many nutrients per spoonful as other foods.
- Wait three days between introducing new foods so that if a food allergy arises (such as an unexplained rash), you’ll know what food most likely caused it.
- Avoid honey until your baby’s first birthday. Honey can be contaminated with botulism spores, and the risk of botulism is greatest in infants.
- Experiment with different textures. Your baby may prefer a thinner or thicker puree or she might prefer finger foods, eschewing purees altogether.
- Let your baby set the pace of meals by deciding how fast and how much food to eat. If you are spoon-feeding, wait for your baby’s cues that she wants more, such as leaning forward and opening her mouth, before putting another spoonful of food into her mouth.
- Don’t give up on foods after one try. Often a baby may need to be offered a food several different times before deciding that she likes it.
- Know what to do if your baby starts choking. Be sure to learn the baby Heimlich maneuver and, even better, take an infant CPR class. To help avoid choking on food in the first place, avoid giving your baby foods that are chocking hazards such as nuts, popcorn or raisins. Also, always feed your baby solids while she is sitting upright in a high chair.