Baby trying new food

When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods | Nutrition

For more information about how to know if your baby is ready to starting eating foods, what first foods to offer, and what to expect, watch these videos from 1,000 Days.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old.  Introducing foods before 4 months old is not recommended. Every child is different. How do you know if your child is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready.

Your child:

  • Sits up alone or with support.
  • Is able to control head and neck.
  • Opens the mouth when food is offered.
  • Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
  • Brings objects to the mouth.
  • Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
  • Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.

What Foods Should I Introduce to My Child First?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most children, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.

If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of fortifiedalert icon infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for children to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administrationexternal icon to learn more.

How Should I Introduce My Child to Foods?

Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.

Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.

Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.

Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.

Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.

Potentially allergenic foods include cow’s milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cow’s milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.

How Should I Prepare Food for My Child to Eat?

At first, it’s easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Your child might cough, gag, or spit up. As your baby’s oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.

Some foods are potential choking hazards, so it is important to feed your child foods that are the right texture for his or her development. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always watch your child while he or she is eating.

Here are some tips for preparing foods:

  • Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
  • Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
  • Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
  • Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
  • Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
  • Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit, and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
  • Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices.
  • Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway.
  • Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces.
  • Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.

Learn more about potential choking hazards and how to prevent your child from choking.

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Feeding Your 4- to 7-Month-Old (for Parents)

Most babies this age are ready to try solid foods. Experts recommend starting solid foods when a baby is about 6 months old, depending on the baby's readiness and nutritional needs.

Be sure to check with your doctor before giving any solid foods.

Is My Baby Ready to Eat Solid Foods?

How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Here are a few hints:

  • Does your baby swallow food or push it out of their mouth? Babies have a natural tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out. Wait until this reflex disappears (typically when babies are 4–6 months old). 
  • Can your baby support their own head? To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up.
  • Is your baby interested in food? Babies who stare, reach and grab, and open their mouths for food are ready to try solid foods.

If your doctor gives the go-ahead but your baby seems frustrated or uninterested in solid foods, try waiting a few days before trying again. Breast milk and formula will still meet nutritional needs as your baby learns to eat solid foods. But after 6 months, babies need the added nutrition — like iron and zinc — that solid foods provide.

Do not add cereal or other food to your baby's bottle because it can lead to too much weight gain.

Watch for signs that your child is hungry or full. Respond to these cues and let your child stop when full. A child who is full may suck with less enthusiasm, stop, or turn away from the breast or the bottle. With solid foods, they may turn away, refuse to open their mouth, or spit the food out.

How Should I Start Feeding My Baby Solid Foods?

When your baby is ready and the doctor says it’s OK to try solid foods, pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or cranky. You want your baby to be a little hungry, but not so hungry that they’re upset. So you might want to give your baby a little breast milk or formula first.

Have your baby sit supported in your lap or in a high chair with a safety strap.

Most babies' first food is iron-fortified infant single-grain cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Place the spoon near your baby's lips, and let the baby smell and taste it. Don't be surprised if this first spoonful is rejected. Wait a minute and try again. Most food offered to your baby at this age will end up on the baby's chin, bib, or high-chair tray. Again, this is just an introduction.

When your little one gets the hang of eating cereal off a spoon, it may be time to try single-ingredient puréed meat, vegetables, or fruit. The order in which you give them doesn't matter, but go slow. Offer foods that are high in iron and zinc — such as meat, poultry, eggs, and beans — especially if your baby is breastfeeding. Try one food at a time and wait several days before trying something else new. This will let you identify any foods that your baby may be allergic to.

Which Foods Should I Avoid?

Foods that are more likely to cause allergies can be among the foods you introduce to your baby. These include peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk, seafood, nuts, wheat, and soy. Waiting to start these foods does not prevent food allergies. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about food allergies, especially if any close family members have allergies, food allergies, or allergy-related conditions, like eczema or asthma.

Infants with severe eczema or egg allergies are more likely to have allergies to peanuts. Talk to your doctor about how and when to introduce these foods to your child. 

Possible signs of food allergy or allergic reactions include:

  • rash
  • bloating or an increase in gassiness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

Get medical care right away if your baby has a more severe allergic reaction, like hives, drooling, wheezing, or trouble breathing.

If your child has any type of reaction to a food, don't offer that food again until you talk with your doctor.

Babies shouldn't have:

  • foods with added sugars and no-calorie sweeteners
  • high-sodium foods
  • honey, until after the first birthday. It can cause botulism in babies.
  • unpasteurized juice, milk, yogurt, or cheese 
  • regular cow's milk or soy beverages before 12 months instead of breast milk or formula. It’s OK to offer pasteurized yogurt and cheese.
  • foods that may cause choking, such as hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes, popcorn, and nuts

Tips for Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods

With the hectic pace of family life, most parents try commercially prepared baby foods at first. They come in small, convenient containers, and manufacturers must meet strict safety and nutrition guidelines.

If you prepare your own baby foods at home, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Follow the rules for food safety, including washing your hands well and often.
  • To preserve the nutrients in your baby's food, cook it in ways that keep the most vitamins and minerals. Try steaming or baking fruits and vegetables instead of boiling, which washes away the nutrients.
  • Freeze portions that you aren't going to use right away.
  • Whether you buy the baby food or make it yourself, texture and consistency are important. At first, babies should have finely puréed single-ingredient foods. (Just applesauce, for example, not apples and pears mixed together.)
  • After your baby is eating individual foods, it's OK to offer a puréed mix of two foods. As babies get older, they will learn to eat a greater variety of tastes and textures. 
  • If you use prepared baby food in jars, spoon some of the food into a bowl to feed your baby. Do not feed your baby right from the jar — bacteria from the baby's mouth can contaminate the remaining food. If you refrigerate opened jars of baby food, it's best to throw away anything not eaten within a day or two.
  • Around 6 months of age is a good time for your baby to try a cup. You might need to try a few cups to find one that works for your child. Use water at first to avoid messy clean-ups. Do not give juice to infants younger than 12 months.

Over the next few months, introduce a variety of foods from all the food groups. If your baby doesn't seem to like something, don’t give up. It can take 8 to 10 tries or more before babies learn to like new foods.

Neophobia - when a child is afraid to try new food.

Childhood neophobia is the fear and refusal to eat new or unfamiliar foods.

Why are we picky about food? And especially the children: I won’t, I don’t eat it, but I won’t take it in my mouth at all. Most often, a child’s natural defense mechanism works this way: do not try new foods so as not to get poisoned. He is our heritage of ancient times.

Even in the middle of the last century, the most famous pediatricians noted that the most common complaint of parents at a doctor's appointment was "My child does not eat well!". And today, little has changed, except that there is much more varied food. And, according to experts, it is diversity that can cause more frequent problems with children's nutrition. Although not only. It turns out that if your children are afraid of unfamiliar foods, you should not blame yourself for the wrong upbringing. Blame your genes! nine0009

A study of 10,780 British twins shows that food fear is 78% hereditary. Another 22% of food neophobia develops due to environmental factors that affect one twin but not the other.

If there is no genetic condition in which older relatives can talk about “battles in trying to feed the child” about dad or mom, and there are no medical problems, then the reason is upbringing? Scientists again argue that parents should not blame themselves. Perhaps the factor in the occurrence of food neophobia is completely different. nine0009

Avoiding new foods is more common among children and adults with high levels of anxiety and lack of knowledge about the nutritional value of a particular type of food. That is, they do not understand how the same broccoli is useful.

Children with food neophobia often exhibit denial gestures: they turn their heads away from the plate, close their lips tightly, cover their mouths with their hands, kick the kitchen furniture, push the spoon away. With demonstrative behavior, repulsion, throwing away food, cutlery, grimacing, screaming are distinguished. The process of feeding a child is overgrown with tiring rituals. nine0009

Whatever the cause - genes, wrong habits, physiological characteristics or increased anxiety of the child, alimentary neophobia must be corrected. But only in those cases when it leads to a gradual or sharp deterioration in health. If, in the opinion of the parents, the child receives all the necessary substances from a rather meager diet, then you can leave the fussy alone. To determine how dangerous neophobia is, a food diary and consultation with a nutritionist or gastroenterologist will help. nine0009

Normally, a certain selectivity in the choice of food does not last long, this is a necessary but short transitional stage of growing up. In most cases (in 75% of children), it appears from three to five years, and then disappears.

From birth to 2 years of age, food neophobia is not diagnosed. The peak of normal, "protective" fear of new food is noted at 3-5 years, less often from 4 to 7. And usually everything goes away on its own by 10-11 years.

As children grow, their eating habits change. Food can be that "battlefield" on which the child tries to fight for the right to choose something on his own, to separate himself from the influence of his parents. This is a normal stage in the formation of one's preferences with temporary opposition to adults. If you give children the opportunity to choose products from several offered, then normally this stage is not delayed. If it lasts longer than expected, a specialist will probably be needed to determine the causes. For starters, a leading pediatrician. nine0009

Children have certain foods that most of them reject. 7 out of 10 children from 4 to 7 years old hate onions in any form. But from 10 to 17, only 2 out of 5 do not like onions anymore.

What can be done to prevent food neophobia in a child or alleviate its manifestations?

  • It is easier to put up with age preferences than to feed a child with onions. It is necessary to accustom to an adult diet in a timely manner and slowly. The best option is the appearance of new products on the table one at a time. And the first acquaintance with them should be minimal and must be accompanied by a favorite side dish and praise from an adult. nine0036
  • Parents often make the mistake of alternating tastes. For example, it is difficult for children to appreciate and begin to love apples if they have already become acquainted with sweets and chips. The taste of natural products in this case will seem rather bland.
  • It is not necessary to accompany the process of feeding with extraneous entertainments that distract from concentration on food. Cartoons, fairy tales, games with devices, although they can help at the stage of opposition to feeding, but later the harm will manifest itself in a much more serious form. nine0036
  • It is not easy for children to perceive mixed, multicomponent dishes. Instead of a salad or a complex side dish, it is better to serve everything separately, for example, with bright large pieces of vegetables and fruits on a separate plate.
  • Coercion to eat, violence, blackmail linking food with adult aggression is unacceptable. Neither encouraging nor punishing with feeding or certain foods is highly recommended.
  • However, childhood neophobia is a normal evolutionary process that most humans go through to a large extent, as do many mammals. This fear usually appears at an age when children begin to become independent and in control of what they eat, and are able to protect themselves from eating foods that may contain toxic substances. Sounds reasonable when you consider that thousands of years ago, many fruits and vegetables, as well as meats, were potentially dangerous foods containing toxic substances and pathogens. For the same reason, young children initially avoid foods with a bitter and sour taste. nine0009

    Indeed, many studies have shown that children's refusal to try new foods is effectively treated by repeating the same food over time. Indeed, it turned out that children need to be offered a new product 5-15 times so that they get used to it and try it. Therefore, the more often the baby sees a new product, sees how adults use it, the more likely he is to try a new product and try it for further use.

    In the relevant literature on the phenomenon of neophobia in children, there are methods that help to gradually reduce it:

    1. The "key" to effectively addressing a child's refusal to try new foods (usually fruits and vegetables) is frequent offering. When a new product is regularly introduced to a child's table (regardless of whether the child will eat it), then it gradually becomes familiar in color, texture and smell, and at some point ceases to be "new".

    2. Several studies have shown that when children are given a variety of foods from an early age, they are less likely to develop neophobic behavior. nine0009

    3. Children easily accept new foods when they are served in small quantities. Therefore, it is best to offer the new product (small amount) to the baby as part of familiar products with which the child is already familiar.

    4. Most parents use the reward tactic: "If you eat peas, you get ice cream." But this method reduces the value of food for the child. As a result, the child learns to hate peas, but eats them only because he will eventually get a treat. nine0009

    5. An excellent tactic when a child sees a good example, for example, older brothers or sisters eat fruits or vegetables with pleasure, then the child is more willing to try them. In addition, facial expressions are the main learning mechanism at a young age.

    6. The opposite effects are pressure and coercion, which usually cause negative reactions and exacerbate the child's neophobia.

    7. A positive tactic is to creatively design children's meals and eat in a pleasant, calm and safe environment with the whole family. nine0009

    Childhood neophobia is usually a transitional stage of a child's behavior, well overcome, usually quickly and painlessly. In addition, childhood is a period of rapid spiritual and physical development of the child, this is the time when his eating habits are formed.

Food selectivity | Bebbo

About picky eaters and picky eaters

Be picky eaters when you don't like the taste, shape, color or texture of certain foods — is ok for child .

It is also normal when children like something today and not the next day, when they refuse to try new things, eat more or less.

The fact is that food selectivity is part of the child's development process . It is a way to explore the world and assert your independence. In addition, children's appetite alternately increases and decreases depending on the rate of growth and physical activity.

Fortunately, with age, children become less picky. One day, your child will probably enjoy eating a wide variety of foods. nine0009

Dealing with selective eating: making meals enjoyable

A child's desire to try new foods depends in part on the environment in which they eat. Ideally, eating should be enjoyable and stress-free.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Let your meal be an opportunity for regular family interaction in a pleasant atmosphere. Try not to worry about spilled drinks or spilled food.
  • Start small. For example, invite your child to first lick a piece of something new, then eat it. Praise him for his efforts. nine0036
  • Never force a child to try new foods. For this, he will have many more opportunities.
  • If the child is selective in food, if possible, do not pay attention to it. When this fact is given too much importance, children can behave in this way for a long time.
  • Combine healthy eating with fun: make sandwiches in an unusual shape, invite your child to prepare a salad or beat eggs for an omelette.
  • Turn off the TV to chat with each other. nine0036
  • Allow no more than 20 minutes for meals. Anything that lasts too long is not fun. If the child has not eaten a meal during this time, remove it and do not offer the child anything else until the next scheduled meal or snack.

When the baby has played out, it can be difficult to seat him along with everyone at the table. If this is your case, try to do something calm with him before eating . Even hand washing can help. nine0009

Offer a variety of foods from all five food groups at each meal. Eat a variety of foods yourself, showing your child that you are willing to try new foods and like them. Family meals that focus on healthy food in a supportive environment will promote a positive attitude towards healthy eating and help the child to join it.

Giving picky children independence in food choices

Helpful giving your child freedom of choice when it comes to food. Offer him healthy options, but let him decide how much and what to eat.

You can also let your child choose from several healthy foods . Offer a choice of no more than two or three so that the child does not get too confused. For example, do not ask your child to get what he wants from the refrigerator, but ask: “Do you want grapes or carrot sticks?”

Another important tip: involve your child in cooking for the whole family . For example, your child might do the following:

  • select prescription
  • take food out of the refrigerator
  • wash fruits and vegetables
  • mix salad
  • grow herbs at home and collect them for cooking.

He will be proud of helping and more likely to eat what he helped prepare.

Sometimes a child refuses to eat just because he is interested in seeing your reaction. If a child does not want to eat something, this does not mean at all that he does not like it - after all, he might not even try this dish or product yet. The child in this way can simply demonstrate his independence and check how you will react. In such situations, try to remain calm. nine0009

Offering picky kids new foods

If you have a picky eater who doesn't like to try new things, here are some tips you might find helpful:

  • Keep introducing new foods. Most likely, the child will try them and eventually like them, but this will happen, perhaps only from the 10th or 15th attempt.
  • Put a small amount of something new on a plate of familiar food your child likes, such as a piece of broccoli next to mashed potatoes. Encourage your child to touch, smell, or lick the new product. nine0036
  • Make your dish attractive. Experiment with colors, shapes and sizes, and let the child choose what to eat from the contents of the plate.
  • Offer your child the same food as other family members, but in the appropriate amount. If the child is not eating, say something like, "Try it, it's delicious." If he still refuses, accept it calmly: "Okay, we'll try another time when you're hungry."
  • Offer different products from all five groups. For example, a child does not like cheese, but he can eat yogurt with pleasure. nine0036
  • If you decide to let your child try a new product, try not to let him fill his stomach with drinks or fast food before doing so. He is more likely to try new things if he is hungry and has no other options.
  • Let the child, if possible, share food with other children: he will be more willing to try something new if he sees that other children are happy to eat it.

Want to know how to feed your baby broccoli? Read how to cook with fire to encourage kids to eat healthy. nine0009

Punishment and rewards for picky eaters

If a child is punished for refusing to try new foods, they may develop negative associations with new foods. If the baby does not want to eat, calmly remove the food and offer it another time.

Sometimes you want to tempt a child with a treat so that he eats something healthy, for example: "If you eat a carrot, you can have some chocolate." But this approach can lead to the fact that the child will crave treats rather than healthy foods. In addition, he may get the impression that eating healthy food is an unpleasant job. nine0009

Eating Picky Facts

These facts will help you understand why children are sometimes picky eaters: