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Solid foods: How to get your baby started
Solid foods are a big step for a baby. Find out when and how to make the transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods.By Mayo Clinic staff
Does your baby suddenly seem interested in what you're eating? Does your baby open his or her mouth if you offer a spoon? It might be time to start introducing solid foods.
Is your baby ready for solid foods?
Breast milk or formula is the only food your newborn needs. Within four to six months, however, your baby will begin to develop the coordination to move solid food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing. At the same time, your baby's head control will improve and he or she will learn to sit with support — essential skills for eating solid foods.
Most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding between ages 4 months and 6 months. If you're not sure whether your baby is ready, ask yourself these questions:
- Can your baby hold his or her head in a steady, upright position?
- Can your baby sit with support?
- Is your baby interested in what you're eating?
If you answer yes to these questions and you have the OK from your baby's doctor or dietitian, you can begin supplementing your baby's liquid diet.
What to serve when
Continue feeding your baby breast milk or formula as usual. Then:
- Start with baby cereal. Mix 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal with 4 to 5 tablespoons (60 to 75 milliliters) of breast milk or formula. Many parents start with rice cereal. Even if the cereal barely thickens the liquid, resist the temptation to serve it from a bottle. Instead, help your baby sit upright and offer the cereal with a small spoon once or twice a day. Once your baby gets the hang of swallowing runny cereal, mix it with less liquid. For variety, you might offer single-grain oatmeal or barley cereals. Keep in mind that some babies eat cereal with gusto right from the start. Others are less enthusiastic. Be patient and keep trying.
- Add pureed meat, vegetables and fruits. Once your baby masters cereal, gradually introduce pureed meat, vegetables and fruits. Offer single-ingredient foods at first, and wait three to five days between each new food. If your baby has a reaction to a particular food — such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting — you'll know the culprit.
- Offer finely chopped finger foods. By ages 8 months to 10 months, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits, well-cooked pasta, cheese, graham crackers and ground meat. As your baby approaches his or her first birthday, mashed or chopped versions of whatever the rest of the family is eating will become your baby's main fare. Continue to offer breast milk or formula with and between meals.
To help prevent food allergies, parents were once told to avoid feeding young children eggs, fish and peanut butter. Today, however, researchers say there's no convincing evidence that avoiding these foods during early childhood will help prevent food allergies. Still, it's a good idea to check with your baby's doctor or dietitian if any close relatives have a food allergy. You may consider giving your child his or her first taste of a highly allergenic food at home — rather than at a restaurant — with an oral antihistamine available, just in case.Next page
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