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Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby - Topic Overview

Breast milk or formula is the only food babies need for the first 6 months of life, at which point solid foods can be gradually introduced. Ideally, your baby will be fed only breast milk until 6 months of age. Before you start offering solid foods, talk to your doctor. He or she will want to be certain that your baby is physically and developmentally ready. And although breast-fed babies get the best possible nutrition, they will probably need certain vitamin or nutritional supplements to maintain or improve their health, especially iron. After 4 months of age, your baby will probably not get enough iron from breast milk alone. Your doctor may prescribe a liquid iron supplement until your baby gets enough iron from iron-fortified formulas or foods high in iron. Breast-fed babies born prematurely may be prescribed a liquid iron supplement by 1 month of age.

Your baby may be ready to start eating solid foods if he or she:

  • Is 6 months old.
  • Demonstrates a curiosity about solid foods and your family's eating behavior.
  • Has started to transition from using the sucking reflex to swallowing and does not push a spoon or other object out with the tongue when it is placed in the mouth.
  • Can sit with support.
  • Has good head and neck control.

When you and your doctor have determined your baby is ready to start eating solid foods, keep these general guidelines in mind.

  • Typically, iron-fortified, single-grain infant cereal is offered first. Then pureed or mashed fruits, vegetables, and meats are offered. The order in which foods are introduced is not critical. But only add one new food at a time, and wait a few days before you add the next new food. Do not add cereal to bottles. Instead, spoon-feed your baby a mixture of cereal and breast milk or formula, gradually making the mixture thicker. Be sure to include foods rich in vitamin C, which helps your baby absorb iron.1
  • Feed your baby a small amount—about 1 tsp (5 mL) to 2 tsp (10 mL)—of a new type of food for a few days along with foods he or she has already been eating. Observe your baby before introducing another new food. This is especially important if any family members have food allergies or other allergies.2 This strategy helps you quickly identify a food that may be causing a reaction, such as a rash, vomiting, or diarrhea. Eggs, milk, wheat, soy, and peanuts cause most of the allergic reactions in children.
  • Make sure foods are strained or mashed and that there are no pieces that could cause your baby to choke.
  • Begin offering finger foods when your baby has started eating solid foods well. Examples include dry cereal, crunchy toast, well-cooked noodles, small pieces of chicken, scrambled eggs, and small chunks of banana.
  • Do not feed your baby directly from the food jar. Instead, put some of the food onto a small dish. That way, germs from your baby's mouth won't get into the jar and spoil the food that is left in the jar.
  • When you first start, don't choose foods with mixed textures, such as broth with vegetables. These kinds of meals are the hardest for a baby to eat.
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