Adding real food to your baby's diet is an exciting milestone. However, it's normal to wonder how to start. Learn when your baby can begin eating, what you should feed them and other facts about your little one's nutritional needs.
When should you introduce solid foods?
Every baby is different. Some start to walk at nine months, while others are well over a year old before they take steps. The same logic applies to solid foods. Some babies are ready at four months, while others start at six months. Many pediatricians agree that most babies can begin eating real food by six months.
Other signs your child is ready to eat more than just milk or formula include sitting up with only minor support, controlling their head movements, bringing toys to their mouth and moving their head forward when you offer food.
It's always best to check with your baby's pediatrician before beginning to feed them solid foods.
What foods should you start with?
Many parents start with an iron-fortified baby cereal made from rice, oats or barley. It's easy to eat and contains the nutrition your baby needs during the first year.
If your baby doesn't have a bad reaction, such as an upset stomach or rash, add a new food every three to five days. Waiting between foods will help you pinpoint what caused an allergic reaction, if one happens.
Try pureed fruits, vegetables, meats and yogurts. By about 10 months, you can offer your little one soft finger foods, like cooked pasta and dry cereal.
What foods are off-limits?
Many parents worry about allergic reactions to foods, like peanuts, eggs, shellfish, wheat and soy. In most cases, it's okay for your baby to try them unless you have a family history of food allergies. If you aren't certain, talk to your baby's doctor first.
Children under one year should never have honey, cow's milk or unpasteurized dairy products. It's also important to limit sugar and salt for children under two years old.
Four tips for establishing a safe feeding routine
One of the most important aspects of feeding time for babies and toddlers is making sure safety is a top priority. Here are some tips to keep your child safe while eating:
- Know which foods pose a choking hazard for children under two years old. They include hard foods, like seeds, nuts and popcorn. Cut large chunks of meat and cheese into tiny pieces. Be careful with raw fruits and vegetables that your baby or toddler could swallow whole, like carrot sticks and grapes. It's also important to avoid foods that are difficult to swallow, like thick peanut butter, tough meat and marshmallows.
- Always feed your baby while they're sitting up. Use a highchair that keeps your child upright and strapped down.
- Don’t force your child to eat. Unless your baby's doctor says your little one isn't receiving proper nutrition, don't force them to eat when they don't want to.
- Stick to soft foods cut into small pieces. Babies and toddlers are still learning to swallow between six months and a year. Thus, they're prone to choking for the first few years of life.
If you're ready to feed your baby solid foods, check with a doctor to find out whether the time is right. Make an appointment with a Bon Secours pediatrician today.