Introducing Solid Foods
Use only breast milk or formula and water for your baby’s first four to six months. Cow’s milk—such as you would buy at a grocery store—is not recommended for the first nine to twelve months.
Despite rumors to the contrary, cereal has not been shown to help a baby sleep through the night, nor does it provide any nutritional benefits to young infants.
Between four and six months of age, most infants will begin to display “signs of readiness” for solids such as:
- Obvious interest in foods others are eating.
- Ability to control their head and neck, and to sit up with support in a highchair or lap.
- Loss of the tongue thrust reflex, so solids are not automatically pushed out of the mouth with the tongue.
Start with single foods rather than mixtures of food, so allergies or intolerances can be easily identified. Feed the new food for three or more days before adding another new food.
Always feed solids with a spoon rather than a bottle or “feeder.” Your baby has the option of refusing foods from a spoon. Consult your physician or registered dietitian if you have problems or concerns with feeding.
Food for Baby’s First Year
Birth to Six Months
What and how you feed your baby is important, especially during the first year, when a baby grows so fast. The average baby will be double its birth weight by five months of age and three times its birth weight by the first birthday.
A smaller-than-average baby often grows even faster. Breast milk or iron-fortified formula is baby’s most important food in the fist year and should be the only food for the first four to six months.
Six to Twelve Months
- Use a spoon to introduce solid foods to the baby starting at four to six months. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, starting solid foods closer to six months reduces the chance of food allergies and obesity.
- Continue breast-feeding or formula. At nine or 10 months, feedings from the breast or bottle should be gradually decreased as baby eats more solid food.
- Do not put food in the bottle and do not use an infant feeder.
- Baby’s first solid food is cereal. Measure one teaspoon of dry, iron-fortified cereal and mix it with about two tablespoons breast milk or formula (cereal should be runny).
- Gradually thicken the cereal as baby gets used to eating solid foods. Start with rice cereal. Do not use barley, oats and wheat until the sixth month.
- The next foods to feed baby are mild-flavored, strained vegetables.
- After vegetables, try mild, non-citrus fruits with no added sugar. If you give a baby the naturally sweet fruits before vegetables, it might be harder to get the baby to eat the vegetables.
- Plain, strained meats can be added at six to eight months.
- Start only one new food at a time. Wait about a week between each new food. At first, feed only one to two teaspoons of each new food.
- Don’t feed the baby foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt.
- As baby gets older, the baby will be interested in finger foods such as slices of mild cheese, cooked mashed vegetables, banana slices, plain crackers or dry cereal.
- Avoid food such as raw vegetables, hot dogs, popcorn, nuts, grapes, raisins, whole kernel corn and hard candies as they can cause choking.
- Don’t force the baby to eat. Their appetites and needs can vary.
- During the first year, avoid peanut butter (risk of allergies) and honey (risk of botulism).
- Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of formula or juice.
- Start giving small amounts of liquid in a cup to the baby when the baby is between six and eight months old. A cup with a sipper cap may be helpful.
- Stop giving bottles around 12 months of age. After this time, always give liquids by a cup.
- It is easier to wean directly from breast to cup (without introducing a bottle at all) unless baby is too young to get enough milk from the cup only.
Source: Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture