Solid Foods for Babies
It is not essential to begin solid foods until 6 months. Babies are usually ready to start solids when they can hold their heads up when sitting in a high chair, open their mouths when food approaches, and successfully swallow the food without pushing it out with their tongues. At that time, it is recommended that iron-fortified foods be introduced into a baby’s diet, and any baby cereal is a good source of iron. Baby cereal offers a chance for children to learn to eat from a spoon and is a good first food because you are in control of the thickness. To start, mix approximately 1-4 tablespoons of cereal with breast milk or formula. In general, it’s best to make a thinner mixture at first and gradually thicken the cereal as the infant progresses. Once your baby has eaten cereal for 4-7 days, you can to start introducing vegetables or fruits as well, but it doesn’t matter with which you start. Infants in this age range only need to have 1 to 2 meals of solids per day and are still getting virtually all of their calories from breast milk or formula.
Always remember to allow at least 4 days between each new food, so you can watch for allergic responses. Allergic responses can come in the form of hives, vomiting, or lip swelling. If this happens, do not give any more of that food and call us. Allergic reactions are not very common, but if your child’s reaction is concerning you, do not hesitate to call 911.
Between 6 and 9 months, you can continue to introduce new fruits and vegetables in pureed form and can increase to 2-3 meals of solid foods per day. When you introduce new foods, think about how they act in your mouth. If they are dry or sticky, add a little breast milk, formula, or water to thin them. This is especially true of hardboiled egg yolks or peanut butter. As your baby approaches 8 or 9 months, you may want to introduce meats to their diet. Again remember to wait 4 days before introducing each new food. As your baby approaches 9 months, watch for development of a “pincer grasp,” as this is a good time to begin finger-feeding.
From 9 months to 12 months, infants progress from pureed foods to finger-feeding soft, chopped table foods. There are very few foods (no honey, raw apples, or raw pears til 1 year old) that your child can’t eat, provided the foods are soft and cut into small pieces. At this point, your baby should be eating 3 meals per day, with a balance of fruits, veggies, and proteins such as meats, fish, and/or eggs. Be careful with round and/or skinned foods such as grapes. These should always be cut into very small pieces and the skin may need to be removed. Hot dogs and similar foods should be avoided. You may want to offer a sippy cup of water with meals for practice.
12 month olds and older should be eating regular table foods almost exclusively, and should have 3 meals per day and 1-2 snacks. At 12 months, children should switch from formula to whole milk, or milk substitute, and those children who are still breastfeeding may also be supplemented with whole milk. In general, milk should be thought of as part of a well-rounded diet, and children will drink less milk than the amount of breast milk or formula that they had consumed prior to 1 year. Aim for 16-20 ounces of “milk” per day. Please refer to our page on vitamins if your child refuses milk. Juices should be limited as much as possible (4 ounces or less per day), and are not a necessary part of the diet.