Introducing Your Baby to Solid Foods
Starting Solids: How to Know When Your Baby Is Ready continued...
“The pendulum has swung back and forth a lot on when to start solids,” says Jennifer Shu, MD, a pediatrician in Atlanta and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality and Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup.
“We now know that 4 to 6 months seems to be the best time, when the baby’s digestive system can handle solids and they don’t impact allergies for the worse,” Shu tells WebMD. “If you wait until your baby’s much older than 6 months, she may reject the texture.”
“My son started at 5 1/2 months, and he was so ready!” says Erika Radtke, the mother of a 4-year-old son and newborn daughter in Carlsbad, Calif. “He stretched his mouth wide open like a baby bird's when we started him on cereal, and he had no problem swallowing. At that age, it's really just for practice and for learning to eat solid food. And it's fun! Who doesn't want that money shot of their little baby with goop all over their face, bib, clothes, and high chair and none of it in their mouth?”
Some experts cite another important reason to start solid foods by 6 months: That’s when babies’ natural stores of iron begin to deplete, and some babies may not get enough iron in their liquid diets to replace them. (There is more iron in formula than in breast milk, but the iron in breast milk is more readily absorbed.) Iron-fortified baby cereals are a good early source of iron, but once your baby is eating a variety of foods, there are several iron-rich options, including meats, beans, and spinach.
Feeding Your Baby Solids: Which Foods to Start With
A common first baby food is a single-grain, iron-fortified cereal such as rice cereal or oatmeal. These baby cereals have the advantage of boosting your baby’s iron intake, and they’re easy to digest. Just mix with a little baby formula, breast milk, or even water on occasion.