How to tell if your baby is ready for solid baby foods

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Highlights
  • Readiness for solid baby foods depends on both your baby’s age and his developmental skills.
  • Talk about your baby’s development with your doctor to figure out when to start solids.
  • Infant cereals and single-ingredient purees are good choices for first solid baby foods.

You may be wondering when to start your baby on solid food—and which baby foods to choose.  With all the trends out there, it can be really confusing. One person tells you to avoid pureed food and another is pushing you to feed your baby cereal now. Here's how you can tell if your baby is ready, and the first baby foods that make the most sense.

Start with age and baby development
Major health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest waiting to start solids until about 6 months of age. Your baby may be ready for his first solid baby foods anywhere from 4 to 6 months depending on his development. In fact some babies may need an extra source of Iron in their diet between 4 and 6 months.

When is baby ready to eat solid baby food? The first signs to look for are being able to hold his head up steady and sit with a little support. This is the hallmark of the Supported Sitter milestone. Other important "readiness" cues include:

  • Shows he wants food by leaning in to eat.
  • Learns to open his mouth when he sees the spoon coming.
  • Better lip control to remove food from spoon.
  • Turns head to show he is done.

 

Skip the pureed baby food? 
Some parents may choose to feed their baby using a method called Baby-Led Weaning (BLW). This method involves putting small pieces of food in front of baby (6 months at the earliest) to grasp and to feed himself while the whole family eats.

One thing to think about with this method is that it doesn’t give parents a chance to gradually add more complex food textures to match their child’s eating skills over time.

Plus, children at this age do not have teeth for grinding complex textures or the tongue, lip, jaw and cheek coordination skills to chew and swallow food safely. Additionally, it may be harder to meet the high nutrient needs (such as Iron and Zinc) of babies who mostly self-feed, without foods specially fortified for infants, such as infant cereal.

Best first baby foods
It makes sense to match first foods with baby’s eating skills. Starting with infant cereals and pureed food allows the Supported Sitter (with little to no teeth) to use his tongue to move food back to swallow. Infant cereal allows you to change the texture by adding more or less liquid when you mix it. Start with thin infant cereal and gradually make it thicker as your baby’s eating skills progress. Here are some choices for first solid baby foods:

  • Iron-fortified GERBER® cereal with breastmilk or formula.
  • Any of GERBER® 1ST FOODS®.
  • Mashed banana.
  • Mashed, cooked sweet potato or avocado mixed with breastmilk or formula for a consistency baby likes.

 

Your baby was born with a protective reflex to get rid of anything solid in his mouth when it touches his tongue. Around four to six months, your baby will be able to control this reflex, allowing him to eat a spoonful of cereal or baby food without automatically spitting it out. At first, baby may push or spit food out of his mouth. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like the food. It’s just a reflex that will calm down with time and practice.
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