Frequently Asked Questions: Starting Solid Foods

 

Congratulations on reaching this very important and exciting time in your babies development!  Research shows that establishing healthy eating early on makes a difference in their lifelong eating habits.  Remember there are no real “rules” to how you feed your infant, but we encourage you to keep it healthy and keep it fun!  By the time your child is 1 year old, the goal is to have introduced a variety of foods, tastes, and textures alongside a healthy and happy lifestyle.  This handout is meant to be a helpful guide to start your infant on the important journey of eating.  If you have any additional questions, please let us know!

 

How do I know my infant is ready for solids?

•       Age: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for healthy full-term babies, some limited foods be introduced between four and six months of age.  If possible, exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age is preferred.  There is some evidence that waiting to feed your infant until six months will decrease their risk of gastrointestinal infections.

•       Development: Your infant should also be able to sit with support and have good head and neck control.

•       Desire: Babies will tell you when they are ready to start eating! They will smile, lean forward, reach toward the spoon, open their mouth, and offer many clues when they are ready to start solids.

 

Why not give my infant solids before 4 months old?

•       There is some evidence that introducing foods before 4 months may slightly increase the risk of eczema and allergies

 

Why not delay giving solids beyond 6 months of age?

•       After six months of age, infants who are exclusively breast-fed may require more nutrition to support growth and satisfy hunger.  Beyond six months, exclusively breastfed infants do not get enough iron, zinc and some fat-soluble vitamins. Starting solids at this time will also help with their oral-motor development.

 

What foods should we start with?

•       Start with a single baby food and introduce new foods one at a time

•       To be sure a food agrees with your baby, feed each new food for 3 to 5 days before starting a new food.

•       Repeat a food already given along with the new foods.

•       The AAP Committee on Nutrition suggests starting exclusively breastfed infants on single-grain infant cereals (e.g. rice cereal) and/or pureed meats because they supply iron and zinc; the nutrients most likely deficient in their diets.

•       Rice cereal is traditionally offered first because it is not allergenic.

•       Additional foods to consider starting first include pureed beans and lentils, as they are natural foods with iron and zinc.

•       Formula fed infants receive enough iron and zinc, so they may begin feeding with other foods, for example pureed fruits and vegetables.

 

How exactly do I start feeding my infant?

•       First offer your infant a small amount (e.g. 1 teaspoon) at the end of breast or bottle feeding. Gradually increase the amount every day.

•       Feed your infant with a spoon.  Spoon-feeding helps with oral motor function (which may influence their speech development down the road…).

 

How much to feed?

•       When he/she shows signs of being full, for example by leaning back or turning away, mealtime should be finished!

•       Generally speaking, parents should worry about the quality of the food and let your infant worry about the quantity!

 

What foods should we avoid?

•       Raw honey (which can cause botulism) and cow’s milk should wait until 1 year

•       Avoid choking hazards such as any hard candies, whole nuts, grapes, raw vegetables, popcorn, dry chicken or any other small hard foods until the age of 3

•       Added sugar and salt

•       Fruit juice should be offered in limited quantities (ie 4 to 6 ounces per day) as too much juice has been associated with obesity and tooth decay. Try diluting fruit juice with water.

What are some good “starter” foods to consider?

  • New research shows that the order of introduction of solid foods after 6 months of age will not affect allergies in the future (this is true even for “allergic” foods such as peanut butter, eggs and fish).
  • Because of this, the very structured approach once used to introduce solids is now replaced with a more easy-going approach (for those who do like structure however, please see suggested foods to try with general timeline below)

 

What if my child does not like a new food?

•       Children will accept a new food the more they are exposed to the food.  Research shows that up to 15 exposures may be needed until a new food is accepted–so keep trying!

 

What should I do if my child has a food allergy?

  • Food allergies can present in many ways; from vomiting, stomach pain, a rash to difficulty breathing.
  • In case of an allergic reaction, families should stop using the new food, call their pediatrician and consider a dose of Children’s Benadryl.

 

 

General Timeline:

 

Months 4-8

– Start with soft foods containing iron such as oatmeal, beans, lentils, rice cereal and even pureed meat.

Other “starter” suggestions include pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins (such as peaches, plums, peas, sweet potatoes, applesauce, pears, bananas and avocadoes).   Foods rich in Vitamin C have the added benefit of helping with iron absorption!  At this time, think about introduce water.

 

Months 8-10

Think about adding finger foods to their diet.  Make sure the fingers foods are dissolvable in their mouth!

Make sure to introduce dairy products –such as yogurt (preferably low in sugar) and cottage cheese.

As your child approaches a year, breast feeding may decrease to 3-5 times per day and formula intake may range anywhere from 20-32 ounces a day.

 

Months 10-12

Try more “advanced” finger foods such as small pieces of rice cakes, crackers or cooked pasta.  Offer tiny bits of soft fruit and vegetables. For protein, think about offering small bits of tofu and soft, cooked meat and poultry.

By the time your child is about a year old, the goal is to be eating like their parents—that is with 3 well-balanced meals and two healthy snacks each day, with common sense eating (e.g. avoiding empty calories, foods high in sugar etc).