How old before baby 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.

Union of Pediatricians of Russia

Nutrition for children from 1 to 3 years of age

The period from 1 to 3 years of life is a crucial stage in the transition to an adult type of nutrition, which has certain features. In order to ensure that all the necessary nutrients enter the child's body and at the same time prevent an excess of individual nutrients, nutrition should be balanced and varied.

The daily amount of food for children aged 1 to 1.5 years should be 1000-1200 g, from 1.5 to 3 years - 1200-1500 g, the amount of food in one feeding should not exceed 300-350 ml. The diet consists of three main meals per day and two snacks. It is considered optimal when breakfast is 25% of the total energy density of the diet, lunch is 30–35%, dinner is 20%, and additional meals are about 10%. In general, the child can eat the same food as the rest of the family.

In the diet of a child of 1–3 years of age , must be present daily: meat of animals or poultry, dairy and sour-milk products, vegetables, fruits, bread, cereals, vegetable and butter; fish and eggs are included in the diet 2-3 times a week.

Cereal products: bread - 2-3 servings per day, cereals and side dishes - 1 time per day
Fruit and/or vegetables: at least 5 times a day
Dairy products: at least 3 servings per day (including those used to make cereals, yoghurts, fermented milk drinks, cottage cheese, infant formula or breast milk).

Domestic pediatricians recommend, when compiling a diet for children aged 1–3 years, preference should be given to specialized children's dairy products of industrial production that meet high quality requirements and safety indicators for this age. Most children's dairy products are additionally enriched with vitamins and/or minerals and other biologically active components, taking into account the physiological needs of children of this age. At the same time, in foreign recommendations, children over 1 year old are offered the gradual introduction of whole cow's milk, which is rich in fats necessary for proper growth and development, the absorption of vitamins A and D, the development of the brain and nervous system of the child.

Meat dishes: 2-3 times a day
Fish dishes: 2-3 servings per week
Eggs: 2-3 per week
Dietary fats: 3-4 teaspoons of butter and/or vegetable oils per day

When cooking, use the minimum amount of salt and sugar, and do not add them to industrial products.

Offer your child a variety of foods and let them choose for themselves. Children love to eat on their own, so if possible, offer food that the child can eat with their hands.

It is important to remember that a baby can choke on pieces of food, so whatever you give your baby should be crushed or cut into small pieces that can be easily chewed.

Do not give to a small child: nuts, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes (unless quartered), whole carrots, seeds (such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds), round candies, legumes, raisins, because a child can eat them choke.

Also in the diet of children of the first 3 years of life should not be present:

Mushrooms; canned snacks, pickled vegetables and fruits
Home canned food
Dry concentrates for side dishes
Hot sauces, mustard, horseradish, pepper, vinegar, mayonnaise
Natural coffee
Juices and drinks in the form of dry concentrates; sweet carbonated drinks
Products containing food additives (flavorings, dyes of artificial origin, including chewing gum), popcorn
Combined fats; cakes and pastries

It is important to remember that children of this age should not be given too spicy and spicy foods.

Change kindergarten nutrition norms

    Preschool menus do not meet global recommendations for a healthy and balanced diet for children.
    Nutrition in kindergartens and schools is regulated by SanPiNa 2.3 / 2.4.3590-2O and methodological recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor. These norms should support the health of children - future adults.
    But in practice, Russian nutritional standards are very different from the global recommendations: children are offered too many calories and sugar, but few nutrients.
    Nutrition is the most important modifiable risk factor for many serious diseases - obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
    Regular imbalance in nutrition is a risk factor for the development of these diseases. The growing numbers of obesity [1] among Russian children are positively correlated with this conclusion: in 2014-2018, there was an increase in the number of obese children by 21%.
    What discrepancies we see:
    1. Too many calories. The current caloric intake norms for kindergarteners aged 3-7 years are 1,800 kcal/day. WHO recommends that girls 4-6 years old consume 1,545 kcal per day, boys - 1,715 kcal. The average value for preschoolers, regardless of gender, will be 1,630 kcal.
    World practice: in developed countries, calorie content meets WHO recommendations and takes into account differences in anthropometry and physical activity of children.
    2. Enumerating free sugars. The current norms in SanPiN are 30 g for kindergarteners, the norms of world associations for the protection of children's health are up to 20 g / day. However, in fact, in the kindergartens that we analyzed, the menu contains 67 g of sugar, not counting juices. This does not contradict SanPiN, since SanPiN does not indicate an upper permissible limit for sugar consumption, but a minimum. It turns out that every day children eat 3.5 times more than a safe amount. The main sources of free sugars in the diet of children in kindergartens are compotes, teas and fortified drinks. Probably, such a search is a consequence of an excess of calories.
    3. Too much salt. Current norms - 5 g / day. This is the daily adult norm. However, WHO recommends adjusting the recommended maximum salt intake downwards for children based on their energy needs compared to adults. That is, the situation in which children in the garden eat the daily salt intake of an adult is unacceptable from the point of view of health safety.
    4. Too much sugar for orphans. For orphans there is a 15% supplement to the standard menu. Taking into account such an allowance, children have a search for sugars by almost 4 times.
    5. Replacing fruits and vegetables with juices. Part of the fruit, according to the current SanPiN, can be presented in the form of juices. And this is being actively carried out, judging by the numerous photographs of the menus of various kindergartens in Russia. Replacing fruit with juice reduces fiber intake and increases an already high free sugar content.
    6. Lack of fiber. The current norms, according to the methodological recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor for children over 3 years old, are 10-20 g / day. This correlates with international practice: for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests calculating the daily fiber intake using the formula (number of years + 5) g, and the UK Ministry of Health norms for the same age are 15-20 g / day.
    However, we do not know if this norm is maintained in the current menu: only calories, proteins, fats and total carbohydrates appear in the menu parameters, but how much of them are fiber and how much sugar is impossible to track and control.
    After analyzing the menu in various kindergartens in Russia, we saw a regular replacement of fruits with juices, as well as a large amount of processed grains: bread and pastries made from premium flour, semolina, rice porridge, and so on. It is impossible to get the recommended amount of fiber with such a diet.
    Insufficient fiber intake in children can increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in adulthood. That is, even if the established norm for the amount of carbohydrates is observed, we cannot be sure that the norm for fiber is observed. The norm of carbohydrates in fact gets not at the expense of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but at the expense of sugar.
    It is worth remembering that children who are used to eating processed grains and drinking juices instead of fruits tend to become adults who support this eating pattern. And this, in turn, is positively correlated with risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases and death from them.
    An adequate amount of fiber reduces the risk of developing non-communicable diseases and death from them.
    6. Overkill of ultra-processed foods. This includes products of deep processing - cookies, pastries, confectionery, juices and sugary drinks. Regular excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods is a risk factor for obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, such foods can crowd out other foods from the diet: children eat more white bread and pastries and drink juices and tea with sugar, but do not eat adequate amounts of vegetables, fruits, fish and legumes - important components of a healthy diet.
    7. Lack of vegetable protein. The norm of 35 g of vegetable protein per day established by Rospotrebnadzor is not maintained. Vegetable protein is found in legumes and nuts, and there are very few of them in the current menu of kindergartens. However, deficiencies in these food groups lead to deficiencies in fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, the main components of dietary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
    8. Unkind to fish. International scientific consensus - 2 servings of fish per week, at least 1 fatty. For children, this is about 60 grams per week. The current SanPiN includes a daily amount of 37 g of fish. This is an adequate amount, however, in practice, fish is often replaced with approved substitutes - beef meat or cottage cheese. In this case, the norm of fish is not maintained. Fish and seafood is the only guaranteed dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, the same fatty acids associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
    Source list:
    1. Statistics of obesity in children in the Russian Federation for 2014–2018, Health Manager, 2020
    2. Feeding young children - guidelines for the WHO European Region, 2003.
    3. Energy In: Recommended Food & Drink Amounts for Children American Academy of Pediatrics.
    4. Government recommendations for energy and nutrients for males and females aged 1 – 18 years and 19+ years, UK Department of Health, 2016
    5. Children's need for energy and nutrients, Estonian Health Development Institute.
    6. Sugar Intake in Infants Children and Adolescents, ESPGHAN, 2018.
    7. Nutrient intakes and sources of fiber among children with low and high dietary fiber intake: the 2016 feeding infants and toddlers study (FITS), a cross-sectional survey, BMC Pediatrics, 2019.
    8. Whole- and Refined-Grain Consumption and Longitudinal Changes in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in the Framingham Offspring Cohort, The Journal of Nutrition, 2021.
    9. High intake of dietary fiber and whole grains associated with reduced risk of non-communicable diseases, The Lancet, 2019.

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