"You can start with any food -- fruit, a vegetable, even meat -- long as it's pureed," says Sarah Adams, MD, a pediatrician at Akron Children's Hospital. The easiest food, though, is probably infant cereal that's diluted with breast milk or formula. (Altmann recommends oatmeal instead of rice, due to concerns about arsenic). Have your baby nurse or drink part of a bottle first, so they're not starving, then give them a very small amount of food—less than half a spoonful. If they seem confused or spit it out, don't push it. You can try again in a week or two.
After that, introduce one new food from any food group every 3 to 5 days. "You want to space it out, to watch for allergic reactions like vomiting, diarrhea or rashes," explains Altmann. Whenever possible, Altmann recommends that you make your own baby food, rather than rely on commercial brands. A Congressional report released in February 2021 concluded that ingredients in many baby foods, including organic brands, have high levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium.
"You don't have to buy a special blender, but I personally like the BEABA Babycook, which steams and purees your food," Altmann says. "I used to use it every Sunday, freeze individual portions into an old-fashioned ice cube tray, and pop it in the freezer. Each day I'd defrost two cubes of veggies and two cubes of protein for lunch and dinner."
Once your baby reaches 6 months of age, you can begin to introduce more allergenic foods such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and fish, says Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, New York. "We know now that if we introduce foods like peanuts early enough, we can significantly lower the risk of children developing that allergy by about 80%," she explains.
The one exception is if your child has severe eczema, she notes, as that puts them at higher risk to develop a food allergy. Check with your pediatrician. They may refer you to an allergist for testing before you give your baby these more allergenic foods.
But within a couple of months of your little one starting solids, "their diet should include a wide variety of pureed foods like meats, cereals, fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, and whole grains," Nowak-Wegrzyn says. Give them a new food once or twice a week along with foods they eat all the time. If they don't like it, offer it again in a few days. Babies sometimes have to try a new food up to 15 times before they'll eat it.