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A Solid Start: Introducing Baby to Solid Foods

Everything you need to know to begin your child on baby foods and other solids.

Preventing Choking

Whether your baby is eating purees or food with more texture, it’s always important to watch carefully and take precautions to prevent choking. Babies should always be fed sitting upright in a high chair, not reclining in a swing or car seat. And never offer a baby foods that are clear choking hazards, such as whole grapes, hot dogs, or popcorn. Foods such as carrots, while great in cooked and mashed or pureed form, should only be offered to babies as finger food when cut into very small chunks.

You’ll want to continue to cut firm, round foods such as hot dogs and whole grapes into small pieces long after your child hits that 1-year mark, as they are still a choking hazard. “I would keep cutting these small until about age 4, when kids have all their molars and the mental maturity to know not to run around with them,” says Shu. She also recommends waiting until preschool age for popcorn, which is easily inhaled into the windpipe.

Finger Foods and Self-feeding

When can your baby try feeding herself with finger foods, like o-shaped whole-grain cereals or cereal puffs, cut-up pieces of cheese, small chunks of banana, or sliced-up cooked pasta? The answer really depends on how much mess you’re willing to tolerate.

Sometime between about 9 and 11 months, most babies develop the “pincer grip,” which allows them to pick up small objects between their thumb and forefinger. That’s when self-feeding becomes really satisfying. They can try finger foods before that, but they’ll mostly just sweep them up in their palm and try to shove them into their mouth that way.

As your baby gets older, she’ll probably want to start trying her hand with a spoon. Expect some mess, and let her go.  Shu says a good way to start is to give baby a small soft-tipped spoon to hold while you’re feeding her. It lets her practice handling a utensil while keeping her from yanking the spoon from your hand.

Another tip: Try putting a dab of something thick, such as cream cheese, on the baby spoon and sticking a few pieces of o-shaped cereal to it. Baby can try feeding herself with something that’s less likely to fly off the spoon and land on the walls.

Babies and Solid Foods: How Much Is Enough?

Many parents worry that they may be feeding their baby too much solid food, or not enough. You’ve just gotten the hang of tracking your baby’s needs for breast milk or baby formula -- and now you have to balance that with solids? Fortunately, it’s a lot less complicated than you think.

When you first start out, introduce solid foods once daily -- or even every couple of days if your baby seems reluctant at first. At these feedings, your child may only take in a spoonful or two of rice cereal, mashed banana, or pureed sweet potato. But she’ll soon work her way up!

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