When should you start feeding your baby
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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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:
- bloating or an increase in gassiness
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.
what products are possible, features of complementary foods
It is no secret that young and not very experienced mothers receive information on the nutrition of an infant, including recommendations on how to introduce the first complementary foods, mainly from two sources: grandmother's stories and from the Internet. Unfortunately, both of these respected sources of information may voluntarily or not voluntarily, but be very mistaken, since grandmothers grew up in a more prosperous time in terms of environmental conditions, and the Internet is littered with various articles that are rarely written by professionals, moreover, they rely either on explicit outdated guides on baby food, or frankly on unverified information.
In this article, I will try to combine the latest scientific data and recommendations on how to introduce the first complementary foods with many years of observations from the experience of a practical pediatrician and an allergist-immunologist.
At what age is it time to introduce the first complementary foods
According to the recommendations of the Research Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the first complementary foods can be introduced from 4.5 - 5 months, regardless of the type of feeding. This is "average". In practice, the choice of when to start introducing complementary foods still depends on the individual characteristics of the child. For example, for a child with widespread atopic dermatitis (diathesis), we will not introduce complementary foods until at least acute skin symptoms, such as cracks, weeping or secondary eczema, have steadily disappeared. Increased dryness and flaking of the skin, of course, require constant application of moisturizers to the skin, but in no case are they a contraindication to the start of the introduction of the first complementary foods.
Another important point when choosing the time to start introducing complementary foods is the dynamics of the child's weight gain. The more intensively the child gains in height and weight, the sooner he may need additional calories, since the energy value of breast milk or artificial formula alone will most likely not be enough for a child who grows faster than his peers by 4 - 5 months. We must not forget that natural products contain a fairly large range of minerals and vitamins, and a mother’s body, alas, cannot be an eternal and bottomless source of useful nutrients, somewhere something will gradually begin to be missed.
In addition, the nature of lactation in the mother has a great influence on the timing of the introduction of complementary foods. If a nursing mother begins to feel a lack of milk, I would prefer to first give her advice on stimulating lactation, and at the same time begin to introduce complementary foods. It will be better than introducing an artificial mixture. But I repeat that the earliest start date for the introduction of the first complementary foods is the age of 4 months, before the child's body is not yet ready, the risk of developing allergies is also high.
So, we agree with you that the first complementary foods can be introduced no earlier than 4 months of a child's life.
First complementary foods: Which foods to choose?
The first complementary foods, as a rule, should consist of vegetable or fruit purees, but in no case juices. Still, juices, even for children, are highly filtered, mainly contain a large amount of organic acids and “light” carbohydrates (that is, sugar, so that everyone understands). I will not waste time explaining why juices are harmful to an infant, but I will describe a clinical case from practice.
Parents with an 8-month-old girl came to the reception. Somewhere from 5 months she practically did not gain weight, although before that all indicators were normal. In the analyzes, apart from visible signs of iron deficiency, slightly reduced hemoglobin, no pathology was also detected. The main complaint: "does not eat anything." And when I began to find out what she still eats, it turned out that the child drinks half a liter of juice every day. But porridge or cottage cheese, or mashed potatoes cannot be forced together, they spit everything out. I don't like the taste. And so - for three months. The child, of course, became very nervous, yelling at night, demanding juice.
So draw your own conclusions and be careful.
For the first feeding, this is now recognized by everyone, the best dishes are vegetable purees from green varieties of vegetables: zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli. The first complementary foods are introduced, starting with half a teaspoon, in the morning for three days, then gradually increase the amount of the product to 40-50 grams per week. Supplemented with breast milk or formula.
For problems with stools, constipation, it’s good to start introducing prune puree, green apple, you can try pumpkin, even apricot puree, but in no case start with carrots. Beta-carotenoids, which are abundant in carrots, are generally poorly absorbed and can cause allergies in a child.
Second food.Porridge or meat?
Even 5 - 6 years ago, we taught students at the medical institute that from 5 - 5.5 months old, an infant should begin to give cereal porridge for complementary foods. This is rice, buckwheat, corn. The first week you can cook 5% porridge: 5 grams of ground cereal per 100 ml of water. Then the porridges are cooked already denser: 10 grams of cereal per 100 ml of water. But now, basically everyone uses instant (soluble) cereals, which are diluted with water according to the instructions on the package. In addition, ready-to-eat liquid cereals are on sale: for example, Bellakt, Frutonyanya, etc.
Why meat? You ask. According to modern recommendations (they really began to change quite often), but in this case I support: if a child has a pronounced decrease in hemoglobin in the blood below 100 g / l by the age of 5 months, it makes sense to start introducing fruit or vegetable purees as a second types of complementary foods - meat purees as a source of the most well-absorbed heme iron. You need to choose from varieties such as turkey, rabbit, lamb. Beef and veal can only be offered to children who did not have red cheeks and diathesis.
In the absence of problems with low hemoglobin, feel free to introduce porridge as the second meal of complementary foods, especially if the child is small and does not gain weight very well. In this case, we can recommend breeding cereals with the addition of breast milk or a mixture (Nan, Nutrilon, Celia, Nanny). With mixtures based on goat's milk, parents of children with a predisposition to allergies should be very careful. Goat milk formulas are not the best choice for babies who are allergic or intolerant to cow's milk protein, whatever the internet says. Believe me, there are serious scientific articles by foreign authors, which provided data on a very high frequency of cross-allergy between cow and goat milk proteins in children who were transferred to goat milk mixtures. And I saw it myself in my practice, when a child with dermatitis was transferred to a mixture of goat's milk, there was a clear improvement for a month or two, and then all over again and with a doubled degree of allergic skin damage.
Introduction to fermented milk products
This is the most difficult question. I am sure that most of our grandparents demand that their stupid parents start drinking milk and kefir as soon as possible. In a number of cases, children really start to absorb sour-milk products quite well after 6 months, but before this age I am very careful even with sour-milk Agusha, and even introducing milk or kefir before 6 months is a bad form, believe me, and can lead to very bad consequences for the child. I understand the Western European medical community, which has recently banned its pediatricians from recommending fermented milk products for complementary foods for children under 3 years of age, just imagine!
They (the Europeans) need to do something with their artificial milk mixtures. Even 20 years ago, we did not know other mixtures after the "two", that is, the second formula for children from 6 to 12 months. Then there were formulas for children from 1 to 2 years old, then from 2 to 3 years old, and now there are already mixtures for children up to 4 years old, and I think if this goes on, then until the age of sixteen there will be their own milk substitutes. Dismiss me, I don't think this approach is correct. But the fact is that our grandparents had much better genetics than the generation of our children, alas. In the context of the growth of medical capabilities, genetically determined diseases are also growing, and in this case, intolerance to cow's milk protein, and with every 10 years there are more and more such people among us. But if a child really suffers from an allergy to cow's milk protein or is severely deficient in enzymes, then he will carry this peculiarity through his whole life, and most likely he will not drink milk or kefir himself, and there is no need to force him if he himself won't want to!
But you are lucky with genetics, and no one in the family has ever had an allergy (which is hard to imagine nowadays), and most importantly, if your child has always had perfectly clean skin, then the first of the dairy products - cottage cheese, you will begin to offer your child with 7 months, kefir - from 10 months. Milk - after a year. It will be better this way.
But if your family does not have a very close and joyful relationship with milk, then it is better to postpone even the introduction of kefir and yogurt into complementary foods for a child until the age of 18 months.
Fish day and first meal
Fish is a very healthy product, rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but it must also be introduced carefully. I advise you to start introducing the first fish food at about 7-8 months. It is better to start with species such as cod, hake, haddock. The rules are the same: the first three days on the "gram," then slowly add. If there are no problems in a week or two, you can try such delicacies as tuna or salmon, of course, canned children, if you can find it. It is better not to mess with trout and salmon in the first year of life, this fish is all stuffed with dyes and antibiotics.
No matter how hard I tried, the article about the first complementary foods turned out to be long. Thank you for reading to the end, I hope it will be useful. If you have questions about the introduction of complementary foods, you can write your appeals on our website in the question to a specialist section. A short answer can be obtained on the Internet, but in order to make a diagnosis and give a detailed consultation, of course, you need to come to a face-to-face appointment with a pediatrician and a pediatric allergist.
at what age to introduce when breastfeeding and artificial feeding, how to cook at home
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 baby shows an active interest in food: he is interested in food, 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
And here 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 complementary feeding scheme. 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 feed your baby correctly
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 feeding, 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 your 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 any 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 yourself, follow our tips on how to prepare puree and porridge for the first meal.
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, the 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 groats (for the first feeding, remember, 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
This should not be done because the child must learn to eat liquid and solid food separately.
Salt or sugar is added
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.
Only the bottle is used for 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.