Your beautiful baby is about 4 months old now, and you are beginning to think about the transition to solid foods. But you are not quite sure when and what you should feed your little darling. Worse, you have visions of mashed peas being hurled through the air, covering your hair, and hitting the floor and the walls.
Breast milk or fortified formula are the only foods your baby needs for the first 4-6 months. Breast milk or formula should remain the core of the baby's diet for the first year of life.
Your baby's development partly determines when they are ready to begin eating solid foods. Most babies are ready to begin solid foods at about 6 month of age. Starting solids sooner than 4 months could put the baby at risk.
Solid foods may be slowly introduced if your baby:
Your baby should learn to eat semisolid and solid foods from a spoon and with fingers. Never give your baby semisolid or solid foods from a bottle or infant-feeder because the baby could choke or take in too much food at once. Eating from a spoon and with fingers is the first step toward independence and will help your baby develop chewing and swallowing skills.
Here are some tips that can help you and your baby make an easier transition:
Offer single component foods, such as cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meat rather than combination foods. Also, wait a few days before introducing new foods. This will allow you to see any signs of a food allergy and to know which food caused them.
Talk to your child's doctor about when to offer highly allergenic foods, such as tree nuts and eggs. Offering them early may reduce the risk of a food allergy.
Introduce strained lean meats—one at a time. Offer a variety of pureed or finely chopped meats, including chicken, beef, and turkey.
Iron-fortified infant cereals are easy to digest and help meet your baby's iron requirements. They are frequently the first foods that a baby eats. Cereal should be thin at first—one part cereal to four parts breast milk or infant formula. Your baby will be ready for thicker cereal as eating skills develop.
Do not use cow's milk to mix cereal because it lacks important nutritional elements, such as iron and vitamin C and may be difficult for babies to digest. Give only about one teaspoon of cereal twice per day, at first, and then gradually increase to 2-3 tablespoons twice per day. Other grain products such as rice, soft breads, cooked pasta, and teething biscuits can be added a little later.
Introduce strained fruits and vegetables one at a time.
Signs of food allergy may include:
Extreme and life-threatening allergic reactions are rare but include difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, decreased blood pressure, and passing out.
Your baby will be able to eat mashed or finely chopped foods when you see teeth appear and detect chewing motions. As teeth grow in, you can introduce finger foods, such as cooked vegetables and soft fruit without seeds or a peel.
Eating a variety of foods will help your baby have a well-balanced diet and develop good eating habits for the future. Also, be sure to offer your baby foods that vary in color and texture.
Babies less than 3-4 years old should not eat small, hard foods, such as chips, pretzels, raw carrots, celery, raisins, popcorn, snack puffs, nuts, or seeds. Large pieces of food should also be avoided— whole grapes, hotdogs, sausages, and large or tough pieces of meat and poultry. Also try and avoid candy, cough drops, and chewing gum.
Babies do not need added sugar, salt, or seasonings. They need to develop a taste for the natural flavor of foods. Avoid adding seasonings to your baby's food. If you buy commercially-prepared baby food, read the label to make sure sugar, salt, and seasonings are not added.
Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Dietitians of Canada
Dos and don'ts for baby's first foods. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/dos-and-donts-for-babys-first-foods. Updated January 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Duyff, RL. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Publishing; 1998.
Food allergy. EBSCO DynaMed web site. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 28, 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Heartsaver First Aid With CPR AED—Classroom. American Heart Association. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/WorkplaceTraining/HeartsaverCourses/Heartsaver-First-Aid-With-CPR-AED_UCM_303778_Article.jsp#.Vl8KpE2FPIU. Updated September 2, 2014. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Switching to solid foods. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Working together: American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Breastfeeding and solid foods. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Working-Together-Breastfeeding-and-Solid-Foods.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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