What solid food to feed baby first
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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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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.
- 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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When to introduce the first complementary foods
Today there are no hard and fast rules and deadlines for the introduction of complementary foods. Parents should first of all focus on the signs of the child's readiness for complementary foods. Here is what pediatrician, candidate of medical sciences Anna Levadnaya advises to pay attention to , the author of a blog about pediatrics and not only on Instagram.
The child holds his head confidently.
- Can sit with support, meaning it can be placed in a high chair or placed on an adult's lap.
- The kid shows an active interest in food: he is interested in food, he watches what adults eat.
- Breastfeeding or formula feeding is well organized and does not cause any problems.
- The child can put his hand to his mouth, puts various objects in his mouth, such as toys. In this case, the baby chews or champs.
As a rule, all these signs appear in the period from 5.5 to 7.5 - 8 months, but most often around 6 months. All babies develop differently, and one baby may be ready to try his first puree or porridge as early as 5 months, and another at 6 or 7 months will refuse the new food you offer.
What complementary foods a child needs in the first months
Again, there are no strict recommendations and rules. On the contrary, many experts agree that it doesn’t matter which dish you start complementary foods with, the most important thing is to provide the right nutritional interest. In this case, the child will eat all the foods that you offer him.
In Russia, it is customary to focus on the following scheme for the introduction of complementary foods. The first to introduce cereals or vegetables, depending on the weight of the child. As a rule, vegetables are first, then cereals, then meat, then fruits, then cottage cheese. In some US states, for example, on the contrary, it is recommended to start complementary foods with meat. But the general message of the recommendations is to maximize the variety of tastes and textures in the first year of life. From vegetables in the first months, you can offer zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes. Of the cereals, gluten-free are the first to be introduced: rice, buckwheat, corn. From fruits - apple, pear, banana, peach and others. From meat - it is better to start with a rabbit, turkey, chicken, veal.
— At the very beginning, complementary foods should be puree-like, says Anna Levadnaya. - It is better to give preference to monocomponent purees so that the baby learns to distinguish between different tastes. As you introduce vegetables and cereals, add butter and vegetable oils to them. If there are no problems with the introduction of complementary foods, it is recommended to use the maximum variety of food textures as early as possible. Starting from 7-8 months, the baby can and should be introduced to semi-solid foods. This is very important for the correct formation of food interest, and for the development of chewing skills, the correct functioning of the tongue, the development of speech, the “tweezer” grip, and the coordination of the work of hands, mouth and eyes. If you do not introduce semi-solid food in time, then there may be problems with the introduction of already solid food, and after a year the child will refuse it completely. Therefore, starting from 7-8 months, the baby can be offered mashed or pureed food, such as a banana. From 8-9months, give the so-called "finger" food: cut into pieces soft fruits and vegetables, such as boiled carrots, potatoes, and put in front of the baby. By one year, the child is ready to eat solid food from the common table.
How to properly feed your baby
It used to be that complementary foods should be introduced very carefully and gradually, always in the morning, many parents still introduce each product over a week or two, very slowly increasing portions.
- These recommendations are relevant, perhaps, only for the very beginning of complementary foods, the first two or three weeks, - says Anna Levadnaya. - In general, in children without food allergies, the most rapid and varied expansion of the diet is recommended. That is, a new product can be safely introduced every 2-3 days. If you need to breed complementary foods, for example, baby cereals, then it is better to do this with breast milk or formula, and not with cow's. Whole milk is not recommended for children under one year of age.
Also with the introduction of complementary foods, offer your child water, either bottled for children or boiled. It is recommended to offer water from a cup so that the child learns to drink, and not from a drinking bowl, a bottle with a tube or a pacifier.Photo: pexels.com, MART PRODUCTION
Monitor the child's well-being, in case of any changes that worry you, consult a doctor.
Complementary foods with natural and artificial feeding
Mothers often wonder if there are differences in the introduction of complementary foods with natural and artificial feeding. In both cases, the recommendations are the same: it is recommended to focus on food interest, signs of the child's readiness for the introduction of complementary foods. Usually, as we have already noted, the baby receives only breast milk or an adapted milk formula up to 6 months. With exclusive breastfeeding, it is not recommended to supplement the baby with water, especially in the first month, when lactation is established. Bottle-fed babies can be offered water.
For both breastfeeding and artificial feeding, it is recommended to offer the baby a new food before feeding, and then supplement it with breast milk or formula.
— It is desirable to keep breast milk or formula in the diet of a child up to a year, — says Anna Levadnaya. - After a year, it is better to leave the bottle completely, gradually reducing the amount of the mixture. After a year, preferably closer to one and a half, cow's milk can be offered if the child is not allergic to its protein. Breastfeeding can be continued as long as it brings pleasure to mother and child.
How to prepare the first complementary foods
Give canned puree and baby cereals or cook it yourself? This question worries many mothers.
“In fact, there is no universal advice here,” says Anna Levadnaya. - Do what is comfortable and best for you. But when choosing food, remember that you must be confident in the products you buy. If you are not sure, buy canned purees, industrial baby cereals. The main advantage of any industrial baby food is that the products from which it is made are tested for the content of pesticides, heavy metals, nitrates and other harmful substances (labeled up to 3 years). If you're cooking yourself, cook with either seasonal fruits and vegetables or frozen ones. It is best to do it for a couple - this is how most vitamins and minerals are preserved. The advantage of homemade products is that we can provide the child with a different consistency, which is very important. But in any case, choose what is more convenient for you, more comfortable, including financially. The main principle is to provide the baby with a varied diet. Alternate between different foods.Photo: pexels.com, Enrique Hoyos
If you decide to cook on your own, follow our tips on how to prepare puree and porridge for the first feeding.
Zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin are suitable for the first feeding. The vegetable should be fresh, without dark spots. We clean it from the peel, boil or steam it. Then we pass through a blender. The vegetable should be quite soft to get the most uniform consistency (if necessary, you can add a little boiled water). If it did not work out, then additionally the mass can be rubbed through a fine sieve.
To prepare fruit puree for your baby, such as apple or pear puree, fruit must first be baked in the oven, then peeled and passed through a blender or sieve to obtain the most homogeneous consistency. Choose fresh, ripe, seasonal fruits.
Soak cereals (for the first feeding, we remind you, this is rice, buckwheat, corn) for 4-5 hours in warm water. Then dry, for example, in a preheated oven. Next, grind the porridge in a coffee grinder into the consistency of flour and cook in water until cooked, this is about 5 minutes. For one tablespoon you need about 50-70 ml of water.
The main mistakes of parents
In fact, there is nothing complicated in the management of complementary foods. Use the guidelines, common sense, and have fun introducing your little one to new foods. With Anna Levadna, we have compiled a list of mistakes that parents often make when introducing complementary foods. Try to avoid them.
In a hurry
It often happens that a child refuses the first complementary foods. Most often, this suggests that the baby is simply not ready for it yet. And the parents, by hook or by crook, are trying to feed him mashed potatoes or porridge. Under no circumstances should you force-feed your baby. It is worth postponing the introduction of complementary foods for one to two weeks.
Give mashed food from a bottle
Do not do this because the child must learn to eat liquid and solid food separately.
Add salt or sugar
These components are not recommended to be introduced into complementary foods for a child under one year old, sugar is better up to three years old.
Only the bottle is used too long
For example, in addition to formula, if the child is on IV, they give water, compote and other drinks from the bottle. The danger is that long-term use of the bottle can reduce the child's desire to eat complementary foods and malocclusion, as well as lead to speech delay and swallowing problems. From 6-8 months, offer your baby to drink from a cup.
Children are not allowed to play with food
But freedom in dealing with food, the desire to take a spoon, move it around the plate and on the table, touch the food, knead it, and so on, is the key to a successful introduction of complementary foods.
5 easy ways to transfer a child to an adult table: from mashed potatoes to pieces
How to transfer a child to an adult table, what are the rules for healthy nutrition of a child after a year and how to teach a baby to chew: read about this and much more in our material.
Most often, by the age when grown-up babies have already learned to sit on their own, they show interest in the parent's table. Sometimes, with great zeal, they strive to try everything that is on the plate of their parents or brothers and sisters. And if they managed to get a trophy in the form of adult food, they not only try it “by the tooth”, but they can also smear it on the table or throw it on the floor.
And now the moment comes when every parent dreamily thinks that soon there will be no need to prepare a “special menu” for the youngest member of the family and everyone will finally eat the same thing. But when does this time come?
When is the right time?
Experts agree that there are no clear boundaries, because every baby develops at its own pace. Coordinating the work of all the muscles of the oral cavity and chewing hard pieces can be still difficult for babies. At the first stage of acquaintance with complementary foods, it is better to use homogenized purees, then - products with a puree-like consistency, and later - with pieces. Often at 8-9 months old, babies try to chew on everything that gets into their mouths, and they usually already have several teeth, all of which suggests that the structure of food can be complicated. Let's see how.
5 easy ways to transition your child to adult meals
1. Take it slow and encourage interest
Starting with mashed potatoes, slowly but steadily add thicker foods to your diet. At the age of 6 months (it all depends on the pace of development of your baby and his physiological characteristics, for example, on the number of teeth), you can safely treat children to special children's cookies.
It will also be useful to observe the food interest of the baby - to notice that he himself is drawn to some adult food.
Be sure to tell us about the taste, texture, color of the product.Photo: shutterstock / Katrina Era
2. Create a special atmosphere at the table
It is very important for kids to follow the routine - eat at the same time, do it in your own place and preferably with your children's appliances from your dishes, and, of course, in your chair. This disciplines, allows the gastrointestinal tract to work by the hour.
Baby chairs are ideal for feeding your baby. First of all, it is safe, but do not forget that the child must always be fastened. Show by your own example how to use cutlery, because kids repeat everything after adults.
Make family breakfasts, lunches or dinners (and conversations) a special time. Time at the table is the time of communication, let it be a good tradition and remain in the memory of the child.
3. Choose special foods to transition to an adult diet
During the transition to an adult diet, unfamiliar food may seem tasteless, the child may think that you are giving him something inedible. One of the best transition options would be a special combined puree, for example, the FrutoNyanya line with pieces of meat and vegetables, which will introduce the baby to a new consistency and help stimulate chewing skills due to the pieces of vegetables and crushed grains contained there. In addition, each jar of this line contains 12% of the physiological needs of the baby (aged 9months) in iron.Photo: Shutterstock / Elena Stepanova
4. Cook meals that are suitable for the whole family
Cooking for the whole family is a great idea. The main rule: your diet should be suitable for the child, which means a minimum of salt and spices. Introduce baby vegetable "soups", boiled or steamed vegetables, lightly crushed with a blender or mashed with a fork, into the child's diet. You can give your child to try different foods with pieces. And if he doesn't like it, offer again in a couple of weeks. It is important here not to miss the moment, but also not to rush: if you start introducing thicker and solid foods into your baby’s diet too early, this can lead to eating disorders and other problems.
5. Avoid watching cartoons and using gadgets while eating
It is important to be patient and not distract your child with cartoons and gadgets. So he will be able to feel the taste of food and learn to enjoy the process of eating - both in the present and in the future.