Nothing is cuter than watching a baby grin with a yogurt-covered face or shove chunks of peach into their mouth. But when you’re first making the transition from milk to solids, it can be a little daunting to know where to start. Dr. Mollie Grow of Seattle Children’s breaks down everything you need to know.
Start Solids Between 4 and 6 Months
Signs that your child is ready for solids include having good head control, being able to sit up on his or her own and losing the "extrusion reflex,” where they push food out of their mouth with their tongue. “You’ll know your baby is ready to start trying foods when they avidly watch what you’re eating and start leaning forward and reaching for it,” Grow tells Us Weekly. (At first, they will mostly just be tasting foods, so the amount of breast milk and formula they drink should remain the same.)
Begin With Whole Foods, One at a Time
While rice cereal used to be the standard first food for infants, feel free to start with a fruit, vegetable or grainlike oatmeal instead. “Around the world, babies are given all different kinds of foods,” Grow points out. She suggests introducing one food at a time, so you can watch for an allergic reaction, but says you can pretty quickly start mixing foods, such as yogurt and fruit or vegetables and a grain, to develop more complex tastes. And while the newest feeding trend is Baby Led Weaning, which involves skipping purees in favor of letting babies feed themselves from the start, Grow suggests trying both at first — especially if your baby doesn’t have teeth yet.
What to Watch Out For
If babies are allergic to a food, such as peanuts or eggs, most will have a reaction the first time they have it. “New research has shown that it’s better to introduce peanut butter and eggs earlier rather than waiting until a year, which used to be the recommendation,” Grow tells Us. She suggests giving babies a small amount of a food initially — think a teaspoon of peanut butter — and waiting to see if they have a reaction, such as swelling in their lips, throwing up or trouble breathing. (The latter requires an immediate visit to the ER.) As for choking, foods that are round and hard are the ones you need to watch out for. “Grapes, carrots and hot dogs are common choking hazards,” says Grow, “and they’re all foods that are ubiquitous in childhood.” Globs of peanut or other nut butters on bread can also cause choking, so be sure to spread them thin.
While feeding your child nutritious foods is very important, “don’t discount the social part of eating,” advises Grow. “Babies are watching what you eat and how you eat. It’s a powerful part of culture.” She suggests sitting down for meals as a family, having conversations and letting your child decide when he or she is finished eating.
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