Get a solid start on starting solids

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Highlights
  • Babies need Iron in their diet around the 6-month mark, when their own Iron-stores may be used up. And iron fortified baby cereals are a great way to get it to them!
  • When should you give baby cereal? When he hits those baby book-worthy milestones, like head and neck control, sitting with support and showing interest in your food.
  • Single-grain cereals are a great place to start, because they let you keep an eye on any sensitivities baby may have to a new food.

It might be time to start baby on solids! You ready, mom? If you’re wondering why cereal is often recommended as the first solid baby food, how to know when your little one is ready, and how to get started introducing solids, you’re in the right place.

The Iron FYI

Iron is an essential nutrient that helps support baby’s brain development and learning ability. Babies are born with a supply of Iron, and they start using it right away. Breastmilk and infant formula both provide iron to your baby’s diet, but around the 6-month mark babies need iron from solid foods in their diet too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding your baby Iron-fortified infant cereal or meat. And good news – two servings of infant cereal provide 90% of your baby’s daily iron needs!

When is baby ready for solids?

Before 4 months of age, your munchkin has yet to develop the skills needed to move solid foods around in his mouth and successfully swallow. At this age, he’s not ready for anything but breastmilk or infant formula. When your little guy is at least 4 months old and has reached the milestones of a Supported Sitter, he may be ready for his first cereal experience! It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor too. 

Texture with mom's touch

Infant cereals are perfect for the first tries of solid food. Cereals are also super because you’ll mix them with breastmilk or baby’s formula, and those familiar tastes help him accept the new one. You can easily switch up the consistency by mixing it thinly to start, then a little a thicker as baby masters eating from a spoon. This will help you to keep pace as his eating skills continue to develop.

Supported sitter milestone cues:

  • Pushes himself up with elbows straight while lying on his tummy.
  • Sits with very little help because he’s gained more control over his head and neck.
  • Turns his head to the left or right.
  • Moves his tongue backward and forward in a smooth rhythm when you put a small spoon to his lips. This allows him to draw food in and swallow it. If he’s pushing the spoon and food out, this is his body’s reflex telling you he may not be ready. Keep trying in a few more days, though, as your baby’s oral skills are always developing.

Good to know

Not all babies reach these milestones at the same time, so be sure not to start too soon. Talk to your doc around your baby’s four-month visit about when to start introducing solids.

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How it all comes together:

  • Choose a time of day when you do not have to rush, while he’s wide-awake and mildly hungry.
  • You may want to Breastfeed or offer him formula first so he won’t be fussy or too hungry – but it’s up to you!
  • Only a little spoon for your little one! Be sure to use a small baby-sized spoon that’s been coated to protect your baby’s tender gums.
  • Sit him in an upright infant seat or high chair, making sure his head is in an upright position and not tilted back.
  • Let him explore. Place a dab of cereal on his high chair tray so he can "finger paint" with it and become familiar with its texture. Let him explore the feel and smell of the cereal. This is both fun and messy!
  • For the first bite, try putting a dab of cereal on his bottom lip. If that first taste went well, get his attention by putting a spoonful of cereal where he can see it. When he opens his mouth gently place the spoon just inside and let him try removing the cereal from the spoon using his lips. Feed your baby as slowly or as quickly as he wants and always look out for his fullness cues like refusing to open his mouth, leaning back in his high chair, or turning his head away from the spoon. It’s all about the experience and working together!
  • Not ready yet? Don’t be surprised if your baby’s first taste pops right back out. It’s a natural reflex! If your baby seems unhappy about this experience, give it up for now and try again later.

Good to know

Breastmilk or formula will still be your baby’s main source of nutrition. Starting solids is a time of introducing new flavors and textures to your baby, so get ready to explore!

Tips on introducing cereals:

  • Get started with baby oatmeal or rice cereal. Wait several days after introducing one, and if there are no reactions, try introducing the other or a different baby cereal such as barley. Offering only single-grain cereals at first lets you pinpoint any possible food sensitivities or reactions that your baby may have to a new food. So keep your eyes open for a rash, diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Always feed prepared cereal from a spoon, not a bottle, unless directed by your pediatrician.
  • We recommend mixing baby cereal with breastmilk or formula when you first start. Move to a thicker consistency once you feel your baby is mastering the thin texture.
  • Prepare only as much as you think your little one will eat. Never save prepared cereal as it can easily grow bacteria.

Be on mom watch! Waiting three days before introducing a new food or taste lets you watch for any signs of any intolerance or sensitivity—such as a rash, diarrhea, runny nose or vomiting. If you suspect a reaction, stop feeding your baby the new food and speak to your pediatrician.

We’re here to help

For questions or advice on introducing solids and when to start your baby on cereals, just text Dotti! She’s your Personal Baby Expert and is backed by Registered Dietitians.

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