A Solid Start: Introducing Baby to Solid Foods
Everything you need to know to begin your child on baby foods and other solids.
Starting Solids: How to Know When Your Baby Is Ready continued...
“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 Baby Solids: What 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.
In addition to baby cereal, you can start your baby out with pureed fruits and vegetables. What kind? It doesn’t matter that much, as long as you offer a variety, says Shu. Options include carrots, pears, prunes, sweet potatoes, avocado, bananas, peaches, and much more. You can either buy premade baby food or make your own.
“Both of my babies didn’t much care for the cereals and vastly preferred applesauce, which was the other solid food I offered early,” says Cynthia Schames, the mother of 8-month-old twins in Chappaqua, N.Y.
Some parents think that you should offer fruit before vegetables so the baby doesn’t reject the veggies for the sweeter fruits, but that’s not how it works. “All babies have a preference for sweet tastes,” Shu says. “You just have to keep giving them both fruits and vegetables.”