introducing solids to baby

Introducing solids to baby can be full of unknowns (and honestly kind of scary), especially for first-time parents. I always had parents in my office at this stage of infancy with a laundry list of questions and concerns they had about starting their infant on solid foods.

Once you’ve educated yourself on the basics of introducing solids to baby (which I will cover below) you really just have to listen and do what is best for your little one and your family. Watching them discover new foods and develop new skills is one of my favorite things about this feeding journey.

Let’s dive in…

When to Start Introducing Solids to Baby?

You can typically start introducing solids to babies around 4 to 6 months of age. What I look for (and what you should look for) to determine if my clients are ready to start solids are a few different developmental milestones or achievements.

If your tiny foodie is between 4-6 months of age and does all four of the below, it may be a good time to start introducing foods:

  1. Sit up with little to no support.
  2. Hold their head steady.
  3. Open their mouth when a spoon of food is placed in front of them.
  4. Shows interest in food and eating.

Related: When Do You Start Feeding Baby Food to Your Baby?

How to Start Introducing Solids to Baby

Your baby is meeting all the developmental guidelines to start introducing solid foods, but now what? How do you start introducing foods? Does it even matter?

The answer is YES! There is a method to introducing solid foods that will allow your baby to develop their feeding skills and cause the least disruption/discomfort to their digestive system.

Here is my simplified guide to follow when introducing solids to baby:

#1. Start By Feeding Rice Cereal Once Per Day

Rice cereal is a great first solid food to start your baby on. It is super easy on your baby’s stomach and easy to digest.

You mix the cereal with breastmilk or formula, so it is similar in taste to what your baby is used to. Lastly, you prepare the cereal, so you can thin out the cereal to a consistency you and baby are comfortable with.

You can find baby rice cereal in the baby food section at the store. Gerber Single-Grain Rice Baby Cereal or Earth’s Best Organic Infant Rice Cereal are my favorite two to use and recommend.

For the first feeding: Mix one tablespoon of rice cereal with 4 tablespoons of breastmilk or formula. Make sure the rice cereal is thin and runny.

You can bump up the amount you feed your baby as well as add less liquid to make it thicker as baby grows, but for the first month or so you will want to keep the cereal fairly runny.

#2. Introduce Baby Oatmeal or Barley Cereal

After a week or so of rice cereal, if your baby is tolerating it well you can try baby oatmeal or barley cereal. These are also available in the baby food section, next to the rice cereal. You can prepare these the same way you do your baby’s rice cereal.

#3. Introduce Single-Ingredient Fruit and Veggie Purees

After a couple of weeks of cereals and oatmeals, if your baby is tolerating them well, you can start introducing some single-ingredient fruit and vegetable purees. Whether you are using store-bought or homemade, great purees to start with are:

  • banana
  • apple
  • sweet potato
  • prune
  • carrot
  • pear
  • butternut squash
  • green bean
  • peach

When buying baby food at the store look for baby foods labeled as “Stage 1” or “Supported-Sitter.”

Gerber has a “Starter-Kit” that you can buy (I love this!). The vegetable starter kit comes with carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes. The fruit starter kit comes with pears, bananas, and apples.

#4. Space out trying new foods by 3-5 days.

It is common for your baby to have a negative reaction to certain foods when starting to introduce solids to them. By negative reaction I don’t mean an allergic reaction. There may just be some foods that cause your baby to be gassy, constipated, etc.

By spacing out introducing those new foods, if they do develop a negative reaction you will be able to pinpoint exactly what food it is and then hold off on feeding that food for a bit. Don’t count that food out forever. Just maybe try again in a month or two once your baby’s digestive system is a bit more developed.

#5. Progress Stages As Baby Gets Older

As baby gets older and starts to meet more developmental milestones you can bump them up to the next stage of baby food:

I really encourage parents to follow the developmental milestones when determining what stage their baby is at rather than the recommended age. Some babies may be ahead and some may be behind. A good way to know when your baby’s digestive system is able to handle these new foods is by them showing these developmental signs on the outside.

If you have ANY questions about how to introduce solids to your baby, please feel free to contact me! I am here to help!

Making Your Own Baby Food at Home

Making your own baby food at home is a great choice if you have the time to devote to it, you make sure you are making age-appropriate purees, and you follow food safety guidelines.

First things first, you want to choose fresh fruits and vegetables to make your own purees with. You can use canned or frozen fruits and veggies, but make sure they have no added sugar, salt, or syrups.

To make your own baby food:

  1. Boil or bake the fruit or veggie you wish to use.
  2. Puree the fruit or veggie in a blender, food processor, or baby food blender.
  3. Add breastmilk or formula to thin and smooth out the puree to an age appropriate consistency. Here is a great guide to baby food textures.
  4. You can add spices and herbs (in small amounts) to your homemade baby food to give it a bit of flavor. NO salt OR sugar. If you are using a spice blend, double check to ensure it doesn’t contain sugar or salt.
  5. Add the homemade puree to an ice cube tray and pop in the freezer. When baby food is frozen pop the cubes out and throw into a freezer bag. Label the bag with the date (I found it helpful to also label what kind of baby food it was). Throw back in the freezer.

Your homemade baby food will stay good in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days if stored in an air-tight container. They will stay good in the freezer for 1 month.

Check out Baby Foode if you are interested in making your own baby food. The website is a GREAT resource for information on making your own baby food and she provides a TON of recipes for you. This was super helpful when I started making my own at home + she includes ideas for spices and herbs to add to your purees!

How Much Should You Feed Baby?

Two common questions parents ask me once baby starts eating solid foods are:

  1. How much should my baby eat at a feeding?
  2. How often should I be feeding baby solid foods throughout the day?

The tricky part is there is no perfect answer that fits every baby. Every baby is different and how you chose to progress them through their journey of learning to eat solid foods is up to you. Here are some general guidelines to follow.

  • When starting out it is common for baby to only be eating 5 or 6 bites (about 10 minutes) as they are just starting to learn. Some babies will start by eating more. Just follow their cues to show they are full (like closing their mouth to the spoon or turning away).
  • Jar and plastic containers of baby food are based on the manufacture’s standards and not the recommended serving size for your baby. Again, watch for their cues that they are full. As they get older you may notice they eat more and even finish a jar (or two)!

Related: How Much Should Your Baby Eat? A Baby Feeding Schedule By Age

What to Avoid When Introducing Solids to Baby

There are some foods and general rules you will want to avoid when introducing your baby to solid foods.

Choking Hazards

The most obvious is to avoid choking hazards. When your baby is eating all pureed foods just keep in mind that extra thick rice cereal or baby oatmeal is considered a choking hazard. If you are making your own baby food make sure you are thinning the baby food out with breastmilk or formula.

Once your baby starts to eat more table foods closer to 8 months old or so (or if you are following a baby-led weaning method of introducing solids) then make sure you educate yourself on what foods are considered choking hazards. Here is a great resource.

Adding Cereal or Baby Food to Bottle

Don’t add baby cereal or baby food to the bottle. There is a general theory where parents believe if they add it to the bottle then your baby will sleep longer or better. This isn’t true for most babies and you end up just adding extra unnecessary calories from carbohydrates into your baby’s diet.

All baby foods (rice cereal, baby oatmeal, fruit, and veggie purees) should be spoon-fed to your baby.

Adding Salt or Sugar to Baby Food

Baby’s kidneys are not developed enough to be able to process and filter out sugar and salt like our kidneys can. Therefore, avoid adding any salt or sugar to your baby’s food. Spices and herbs are okay to add in small amounts for flavor. Here is a great article to read if you are interested in adding spices/herbs or need ideas.

I often make mashed sweet potatoes or regular potatoes with dinner (I either add brown sugar or salt), so I would just scoop out my little guy’s portion before adding any seasoning. I also would thin out his portion with breastmilk or formula before he could eat the mashed potatoes at the consistency that we do!

Introducing Foods Based On Your Likes/Dislikes

This is actually really common across parents! They tend to buy foods (or make foods) they find appetizing. But it is important for your child to try everything and develop their own likes and dislikes.

I hate prunes and dates, but they ended up being one of my little guy’s favorite things to eat (super helpful when he was constipated)! So make sure you are introducing all kinds of foods and flavors for them to try.

If you find your baby isn’t the biggest fan of a certain fruit or vegetable don’t permanently count that fruit or vegetable out forever. Keep introducing it over time – maybe every month or so. They may just not be feeling it at the time.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Introducing solids to your baby can be scary and uncertain, especially for first-time parents. Hopefully, the above information will help guide you through this journey of introducing new tastes, textures, and foods to your baby.

Download the 20 Superfoods for Babies + Toddlers PDF Guide for superfoods you can introduce to your baby when they start solid foods to help boost the nutrition of their diet – even if it’s just a few small bites at first!

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