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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.

Feeding Baby Solid Foods: When to Move On

Once your baby has gotten used to her first solid food, she can begin to move on to more exciting options. As babies develop more teeth and chewing skills, you can offer them foods with more texture: Instead of pureeing veggies and fruits, try giving them in mashed-up form.

There’s no hard and fast age rule for when this happens -- just watch your baby. Although some babies get teeth at 6 months (or even earlier), and some don’t get them until nearly a year, their hard, sharp gums can often mash food very efficiently.

Each time you introduce a new solid food, wait about three days to see if it causes an allergic reaction. Don’t introduce anything new during that time; this way, if your baby develops hives, a rash, or a more serious reaction, you’ll know which food caused it.

“Once you start introducing a host of foods to your baby, you can have a lot of fun mixing them,” says Myra Bartalos, the mother of a 20-month-old girl in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If your baby has moved past purees, she can also begin to try other table foods, such as meats and poultry, eggs, dairy products, and beans. Just cut or mash the food into a size and consistency that she can chew or gum (when in doubt, make the pieces a little smaller than you think necessary), and feed away.

“Really, anything that you can put in baby’s mouth, if it’s nutritious and they won’t choke on it, is okay,” says Rachel Lewis, MD, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

If your baby doesn’t like a particular food, don’t give up on it. “It often takes a child a dozen or more times of being offered a food to decide that he likes it,” says Shu.

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.

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