Food, glorious food! Some of our most joyous times are centered around delicious meals and tasty treats. Inviting your baby to the family dinner table and introducing her to the tastes that are special in your home and culture is a major milestone. Most experts recommend waiting until around 6 months before introducing any solid foods to supplement your child’s bottle or breastfeeding meals. When she is ready, providing your child with a variety of foods can help set her up for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Sometime between 4 and 6 months of age, your baby may begin to show signs of readiness to begin trying solid foods.
Your baby may be ready if she:
- Can sit up on her own
- Holds her head up for long periods of time
- Shows an interest in food — even trying to grab food from your plate
- Still seems hungry after regular breast or bottle feeding
- Doesn’t automatically push food out of her mouth with her tongue (this is a reflex that babies outgrow as their muscles develop)
Introducing solid foods is exciting for you and your baby. Here are a few tips to guide you as your baby explores new tastes and textures, and develops the skill of learning how to eat.
- Start slowly, introducing one new food at a time and waiting three to five days before each new food. Watch for allergic reactions (rash, vomiting, or diarrhea) and consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
- Start with simple foods made for babies, such as infant cereals and pureed fruits, and veggies.
- Offer a variety of colors, flavors, textures, and temperatures. Your baby’s food preferences form in these early months of trying new foods so the more varied your baby’s early food experiences, the less likely it is that he will be a picky eater.
- Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods, such as breast milk, formula, or both; meats, cereal, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and fish.
- Remember that your baby will continue to get most of her nutrition from breast milk or formula during the first year, even after you start feeding solids. You can introduce whole milk when she turns one.
- If she is thirsty, you can also offer water. Sweet beverages — even 100% juice — can have too much sugar, unneeded calories, and can be bad for baby’s teeth.
- Avoid adding cereal to your baby’s bottle feedings unless your doctor recommends it.
- Keep portions small. Your baby probably won’t eat very much at first so try offering just a spoonful or two of one new food at a time. These first few bites are more about discovering new foods and learning how to eat. Brandless pouches are re-sealable, so it’s easy to dole out a small portion and save the rest for next time.
- It’s normal for your baby to make faces. All of these new tastes and textures can be shocking! Don’t be surprised if he makes a terrible face and then asks for more!
- Sometimes it can take 10 to 15 tries and several months before a new eater will accept and enjoy a new food, so be patient and keep trying! Make sure you offer fruits and vegetables every day. (Has he tried the Brandless Pear, Banana, Pumpkin, and Squash pouch yet?) Your child’s food preferences are formed during these crucial first few months of eating. Help him acquire a taste for a colorful and varied diet that includes all of the food groups.
- Pay attention to your baby’s signs of fullness, such as turning away or closing his lips. It is your job to offer choices and your baby’s job to decide what and how much to eat. Don’t try to coax baby to eat more after he indicates that he is full. It can lead to habits of overeating and unhealthy weight gain.
- Try not to rush mealtimes. It can take a long time to get a baby used to eating something new. Be patient and embrace the messes! It’s all part of the learning process.
If your baby can pick up food and bring it to his mouth, then you can offer him finger foods that he can feed to himself as long as they are cut into very small pieces and are soft and easy to swallow. Examples include small pieces of banana, teething wafers, such as the Brandless banana and vegetable varieties; well-cooked pasta; scrambled eggs; or well-cooked, finely-cut potatoes, peas, and chicken.
Don’t give your child anything that requires chewing at this early stage.
Even when your child is a toddler with plenty of teeth for chewing, there are certain foods that need to be cut up especially well, monitored, or avoided to reduce choking risks. Foods like hot dogs, grapes, and baby carrot chunks that are slippery and often served or bitten off in whole, round pieces are a common choking hazard. Chips, pretzels, crackers, and cookies that are crispy and hard can also pose a risk, because babies have a hard time chewing them into small, soft bits that are easily swallowed.
Brandless has some seriously awesome snacks that aren’t right for your baby (think Dill Pickle Partially Popped Popcorn!), but we highly recommend them for moms and dads. Brandless Organic Cheese Duck Crackers and Organic Whole Wheat Animal Cookies are pretty cute and sooo tasty. Use your best judgement when deciding when your toddler is ready to handle these and other seemingly kid-friendly snacks.