At around 6-8 months of age, your infant may be ready to try solid foods. Your baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to handle solid food before that. Starting solid foods sooner can increase the risk of an allergic reaction and even make it more difficult for your baby to learn to self-feed.
Not sure if your baby is ready? First of all, watch your baby, not the calendar. Our daughter completely refused anything other then breast milk until about 8 months old, at which point she enthusiastically began eating everything in sight! Some tell-tale signs that will let you know your baby is ready are:
- Sitting with good head control. Your baby does not need to be able to sit unassisted, but should be able to sit while supported to be able to swallow properly. They also need to be able to keep their head steady and upright.
- Stops pushing food out of mouth with tongue. If your baby is still doing this, put away the spoon for now and try again in a few weeks.
- Eyes your food. Have you noticed your baby staring hungrily at your plate? Maybe even reaching out for the food on it? This is a major sign that they’re ready to try solids.
The best food to start with is rice cereal. It is mild and easy to digest. Nurse or bottle-feed your baby first, otherwise they’ll be too hungry and just get frustrated. Mix a small amount of cereal with enough water, breast milk, or formula to make it the consistency of a thick soup. Put a little on the tip of a spoon and let your baby look at it and smell it. Gently put it in your baby’s mouth and let them taste it. If they just let the food sit in their mouth and don’t try to swallow it, they are probably not quite ready yet. If they do swallow it, try another bite. At first they may not eat much, but once they get the hang of it they will eat quite a bit.
Once your baby is doing well with the rice cereal, you can start introducing other foods. As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended to introduce vegetables first, and then fruit. Otherwise, your baby will be used to the sweet fruit and may not want to try the veggies. Only introduce one new food at a time, and allow 2-3 days in between each new food to make sure your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction. Don’t introduce a combo food until your baby has tried each type of food in it individually. Meat should be introduced last. You should continue giving your baby breast milk and/or formula until they are a year old.
Making your own baby food is an easy, healthy alternative to store bought baby food. You will have complete control over what your baby eats and you can be sure that it is fresh and free of additives. Wash the food first, and then steam it. Steaming it makes it nice and soft, but ensures the nutrients remain in the food. Once it’s cooked, use a baby food processor or food mill to puree the food. A blender will work well at first, but since it quickly purees everything, you may want to switch to a food processor later on so you can control the texture of the food. You can make a large batch of food all at once and then freeze it for later. Ice cube trays work great, or you can also get freezer trays with lids that are specifically designed for baby food. You can store frozen baby food for up to 2 months. If you use a microwave to thaw the food, be sure to stir it well afterwards to get rid of any “hot pockets”.