Healthy solid food for babies

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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Do's and Don'ts for Baby's First Foods

Breastfeeding has been shown to improve infant, child and maternal health outcomes and help control healthcare costs, but how long should breastfeeding last and when should parents introduce solid foods?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend exclusive breastfeeding, meaning the infant receives only breast milk, during the first six months of life for optimal nutrition and health benefits.

Once solid foods are introduced, health professionals recommend continuing breastfeeding through 12 months of age and, after that, as desired by mother and baby. Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone. When you start introducing children to the world of solid foods, you are helping them shape their relationship with food and establish a healthy eating style. The timing for introducing solid foods will depend on the infant, but it is not recommended before the age of four months or after the age of six months.

Not sure how to get your baby started on solid foods? Consider these helpful tips.

Is Your Baby Ready to Transition?

Each child's readiness for solid food depends on their own rate of development. Signs a baby may be ready to start solid foods include sitting up with minimal support, demonstrating good head control, bringing objects to the mouth or grasping at small objects. Check with your pediatrician before starting solid foods.

Getting Started With Solids

Solid foods may be introduced in any order. However, puréed meats, poultry, beans and iron-fortified cereals are recommended as first foods, especially if your baby has been primarily breastfed, since they provide key nutrients. Only one new single-ingredient food should be introduced at a time.

Softer textures are very important when first introducing foods. Infants usually start with pureed or mashed foods around six months. As infants develop chewing and motor skills, they are able to handle items like soft pieces of fruit and finger foods. As the child ages, a variety of healthful foods is encouraged.

Weaning From Breastfeeding

When deciding if you should wean your baby to a bottle or a cup, consider their developmental readiness. Between 7 and 8 months, most infants will drink small amounts of liquid from a cup or a glass when someone else holds it. Older babies and toddlers often have the coordination to drink fluids from a cup by themselves.

If your baby is under 12 months of age and you are not continuing to breastfeed, wean from breast milk to iron-fortified infant formula. If your baby is 12 months or older, whole cow’s milk is appropriate.

Food Safety Do’s and Don’ts

Food safety concerns for infants and toddlers include food allergies, choking and risks for foodborne illness. Keep the following safety tips in mind:

Do talk with your pediatrician about the risk of food allergies. Introducing one new food at a time, every several days, allows time to monitor for allergic reactions. Current evidence does not indicate needing to wait beyond 4 to 6 months before introducing potential allergy-causing foods such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts and fish. In fact, introducing peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months of age may help prevent a peanut allergy. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends introducing potentially allergenic foods when other complementary foods are introduced to an infant’s diet. Parents with concerns about food allergies should discuss how to include these foods with their pediatrician.

Don’t feed your baby solid foods from a bottle. It can be a choking hazard and despite a popular misconception, putting cereal in a baby's bottle won't help with sleeping through the night. Other foods that are considered to be choking hazards are listed below.

Do supervise your child while eating. Infants should be able to sit upright and face forward when you first introduce solid foods. This makes swallowing easier and choking less likely.

Don’t feed directly from the jar of food but instead spoon some food into a separate dish first. Feeding directly from the jar may introduce bacteria from your baby's mouth to the spoon and back into the food, creating a food safety issue.

Don’t feed honey to children under 12 months of age due to the risk of foodborne illness.

Examples of appropriate solid foods listed by age:

6 months:

  • Well-cooked and pureed meat, poultry or beans
  • Ground, cooked, single-grain cereal or infant cereal with breast milk or formula
  • Cooked and pureed vegetables
  • Mashed banana or avocado

9 months:

  • Well-cooked, minced or finely chopped meat, poultry or beans
  • A variety of cooked vegetables cut into small, ½ inch pieces, such as squash and green beans
  • Sliced and quartered bananas or small pieces of other soft fruits

12 months:

  • Soft, shredded meat, poultry or fish
  • Small pieces of cooked vegetables
  • Small pieces of soft, easy to chew fruits
  • Mixed food dishes the family is eating in appropriately sized pieces

Not recommended for those under 4 years of age due to the risk of choking:

  • Popcorn and whole kernel corn
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Large chunks of meat, poultry and cheese
  • Candy, gum drops and jelly beans
  • Hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots
  • Whole grapes and cherry tomatoes, unless cut into quarters
  • Hot dogs, unless cut into strips and age appropriate, bite-size pieces
  • Sticky foods, such as peanut butter, which can get stuck in the back of the mouth – peanut butter is okay if spread thinly on bread

For toddlers and preschoolers, chop grapes, meat, poultry, hot dogs and raw vegetables and fruits into small pieces (about ½ inch or smaller).

Nurturing Healthy Relationships with Food

Establishing a positive feeding relationship during infancy can have lifetime benefits. Keep in mind that children are responsible for how much and whether they eat so always wait for your baby to pay attention to each spoonful before you feed them. Don't be afraid to let your baby touch the food in the dish and on the spoon. You wouldn't want to eat something if you didn't know anything about it, would you? In addition, know the cues that your baby is done eating. A common cue babies are full is head turning.

Whatever happens, don't get discouraged and enjoy the experience. With a little patience and creativity, you can make your baby's first solid food eating experience fun for everyone involved!


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    Solid food: practical advice on administration

    Submitted by Mironova Irina on Wed, 12/29/2021 - 04:56 PM

    Feeding Timing: Tips for Introducing Solid Foods

    When introducing solid foods to a baby's diet, schedules and menus can be quite flexible. Here are some tips to help you:

    • Choose a time of day when you and your child are calm, relaxed and not in a hurry.
    • Wash hands, spoons, bowls and plates before eating or preparing food; sterilization is not necessary.
    • Sit your baby in a high chair or safe place and spoon feed.
    • Give your baby a spoon to try on his own. A method may work when both you and the child have a spoon.
    • Give your baby soft food to try on his own.

    When is the best time to start introducing solid foods? When you notice signs of readiness in a child. As a rule, this happens at the age of about six months, but not before four months.

    Tips for getting your baby interested in solid foods

    By the time your baby is 12 months old, they should be eating the same healthy foods as the rest of the family. Here are some ideas for getting your toddler interested in new foods after he has started eating solid foods:

    • Offer foods that your child is interested in, that is, those that he is reaching for or looking at.
    • Talk to your baby about the food he eats: say what it is, what color it is, how it tastes, where it grows and how you cooked it.
    • Invite your child to taste what is on your plate to introduce him to the taste of home cooking. This is a good time to think about what you eat and enjoy healthy food as a family.
    • When your baby starts to eat more solid food, if possible, feed him at a time when others are also at the table. Children tend to be more interested in food when other family members are also eating.
    • Should be guided by the level of interest and appetite of the child. Your baby's appetite changes from day to day - this is normal.
    • If your child refuses a new food, simply offer it the next day. Sometimes babies and children older need to try new food more than 10 times before they accept it.

    It is normal for a child to make faces when trying new foods. When a child makes faces, this does not mean that he does not like the food offered.

    Games and mess during meals: how to deal with them

    It is natural that the child eats very slowly and creates some confusion. This is because eating is a skill that toddlers need to learn. They also learn how to bring food to their mouths. In addition, by touching new food and playing with it, children learn about the world around them.

    Here are a few ideas to help you make the best use of mealtime and deal with messy eating:

    • Encourage your child to "explore" food with their hands. This forms skills in other areas of development, in particular fine motor skills and thinking.
    • Try to remain calm and patient with the mess your baby has made. So he will get pleasure from food.
    • Make cleaning easier by placing newspaper or polyethylene under the high chair and have a washcloth handy when your baby is eating.

    Starting solid food is much more than just eating. Once a child has started eating solid food, table time turns into family gatherings where you can talk, listen and interact with each other.

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    Child Age

    5-6 months

    7–9 months

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    Solid food 9 to 12 months

    In the previous period, your main task was to introduce the child to solid food - to prepare him for the transition from liquid food to solid food, to teach him to take food in his mouth and chew it. Many children do not bring food to their mouths, spilling or spilling it along the way, and as a result, they get very little of what was intended. Breast milk and/or formula make up about 90% of their diet.

    In the last period of the first year of life, the development of the swallowing mechanism is completed in children. The protective "pushing out" reflex gradually weakens, the child chokes on food less, and swallowing becomes more coordinated. This allows you to gradually move from mashed and liquid food to minty, coarser and lumpy. The structure of solid food also changes. But be careful. If you delay this process, then deprive the child of the chance to experiment with different food structures and increase the period when he eats only pureed food. If you hurry too much, the child will refuse new food with an unfamiliar structure for a long time because of the fear of choking and suffocating.

    New skills - new food

    At this age, children receive more varied food, and the amount of it increases. Solid food becomes the main source of nutrition for the child, making up about 50% of his diet by the year (for most breastfed children, milk remains the main food by 80-90% even a year). There is a development of new skills, which entails acquaintance with new types of food. Improved "tweezer grip" - the ability to pick up objects with the thumb and forefinger, so the child can take and put small pieces in his mouth. Interest in small objects develops; use this new passion of the child by giving him small pieces of food during feeding.

    Handling food

    Encourage your child to take food with his fingers. Teach him to put food in his mouth, and not to scatter, smear it on the table or plate. Place small pieces of boiled carrots, rice biscuits, or soft fruits in front of it. Babies use solid food to "scratch" their gums when they start teething. Hard food, especially for teething teeth, should soften in the mouth, dissolving easily as it is chewed. We found that our children were very interested in the various shapes of boiled pasta that we placed in front of them. Baby's new skill of grasping and holding small objects can be used during feeding. This makes it possible to keep the attention of the child at the table much longer. During the performance of such \"captures \" some part of the food still gets into his mouth. If you are afraid of allergies, do not give your baby, who is not yet a year old, wheat products (butter biscuits, pasta, etc.). If your baby is prone to allergies, you can buy cookies made not from wheat flour, but, for example, from rice.

    The ability of a child to take food with his hands has its downside. Food, as well as utensils, become interesting objects to study - they can be grabbed, knocked with them, they can be dropped and thrown. Of course, this does not mean that you should stop such feedings, but only speaks of the natural and normal need of the child to identify all new opportunities for using newly acquired skills.

    Let the baby dip food pieces

    At 9 months. Toddler starts using his index finger (a new skill!) to stick it somewhere or point them at something. Children are happy to dip their fingers in food, taste it. Use this new skill when feeding. The reflection in the nutrition and feeding of the child of everything that he masters along the way of his development has its funny sides. As soon as your baby starts using his finger to dip it in food and then suck on it, expect him to soon start painting himself or his chair with the food you feed him. Be lenient about this and treat the young researcher with understanding.

    Give your child a bone

    Over time, when giving a chicken bone to a child, you can leave pieces of meat on it (however, without a thin sharp bone). Let him play (bites, knocks, swings, shifts from one hand to another), and at this time you can eat relatively calmly yourself. In addition, the child will probably get some chicken meat.

    Using a spoon

    Toward the end of the 1st year, the child wants and tries to eat with a spoon on his own. Usually this leads to the fact that everything around is dirty, and the food goes anywhere but in his mouth. It seems to you that it is easier to feed the baby than to let him eat with a spoon. At the age of about a year, the child begins a period of independence ("I myself \"). To somewhat limit this independence, you can hold a spoon with food, but allow the child to hold on to it, or let the baby hold the spoon himself, and you "tweak" it into his mouth.

    Food Safety Precautions:

    - do not give your child fibrous foods

    - choose fish bones carefully before giving them to a child. In canned salmon, knead the bones

    - do not give white bread; it turns into a tight lump in the mouth that a child can choke on

    - cut meat and chicken across the grain and into very small pieces

    - do not give the child large pieces. The baby's front teeth are for biting only. Molar teeth - chewing - appear only after a year. Children press their gums more than they chew

    - Feed children only in your presence and only when the child is sitting and not lying or playing

    - Put only a few pieces of food on a plate. When a child sees a whole mountain of food in front of him, he will try to stuff it all into his mouth rather than chewing every piece

    - sausages do not have a special nutritional value and, moreover, can be dangerous for babies. Putting a whole sausage in your mouth can suffocate your child. Nitrate-free and nitrite-free sausages can be given to children after a year, but even then they should be cut lengthwise into thin narrow strips. Even these "healthy" sausages can be high in sodium, so don't overdo it.

    Safe food:

    - porridge - rice biscuits (unsalted)

    - carrots (boiled)

    - whole wheat bread toast (without crust)

    - scrambled eggs without egg yolk 9000 9000 squirrel

    - boiled peas (shelled)

    - pear slices (very ripe)

    - apple slices (boiled)

    - pasta (boiled)

    - green beans (well cooked, without fibers)

    - pulp or slices of avocado

    food, which you can choke on nuts:

    - seeds

    - corn

    - sausages (entirely or large pieces) hard beans

    - hard candy

    - raw carrots

    22 - Raw apples

    - Grapes

    - Unripe pears

    - Fibrous food

    - Large cuts of meat

    Attitude towards food and feeding process

    Your task is not only to provide the child with healthy, wholesome food, but also to form in him the right attitude towards the very process of eating. This chapter tells you how to help your baby enjoy food and you can help him enjoy feeding.

    Table manners

    Children are born artists. When they drop dishes or food on the floor, every adult immediately reacts to this. The child understands this as a game and begins to lay out food anywhere, but not in the mouth. Lunch time becomes a familiar game for him. Sometimes he is very impatient, picks up a handful of food and stuffs it all into his mouth, smearing half of it on his face. And such antics will continue until you react the way he expects. Laughter not only reinforces this habit, but can be very dangerous: when a child laughs with a full mouth, he takes a deep breath of air and may choke.

    The baby soon realizes that he can elicit whatever reaction he wants from the adult. Responding to the child's pranks too quickly and explicitly, we only encourage him to continue this domestic performance. Whether you laugh or scold, the child perceives it as an artist - he sees the reaction of the audience, and the performance continues. Not reacting is the best way to get this little clown off the stage. If he doesn't stop being naughty, you have to assume that he is not hungry and stop feeding. Don't expect your little one to sit quietly at the table like older children. At the same time, already at this early age, children learn to behave with a goal by the example of others. If a child sees that other children (and adults) are laughing with a full mouth or throwing food, knocking a cup, and they are having a lot of fun, the little parrot will do the same. And at the same time, do not forget to praise him for his good manners.

    If the child is reluctant to eat

    For a child who withdraws your hand with a spoon, put toys with suction cups on the chair (otherwise you will have to constantly pick them up from the floor) and while he is playing with toys, try to feed him using any a trick to get the spoon into his mouth. We played spoon-airplane: \"Look, here is a plane flying\", - the spoon is approaching and right into the open mouth.

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