Your guide to starting solid foods—ready for cereal
- Fortified Infant Cereals have nutrients that growing babies need with a texture appropriate for their age.
- Developmental milestones, such as head and neck control and smooth tongue movements, indicate it may be time to introduce cereal to your baby.
- Never introduce foods before four months of age unless directed by your baby’s doctor.
- Fortified Infant Cereals are an important source of Iron, which babies need in their diets around the middle of the first year.
- Begin feedings with breastmilk or infant formula before offering solid food.
- Start with single-grain cereals first–typically oatmeal or rice–and look for sensitivities.
Congratulations on reaching this exciting milestone and get ready to have fun feeding your baby his first foods. Starting cereal is a new and exciting step in your baby’s eating development, but it often comes with many questions. You may be wondering why cereal is often recommended as the first solid baby food, how to know when your baby is ready, and how to really get started. The guidelines that follow will help you through this next phase of his big move to solid foods.
Baby cereal is often recommended as the first solid baby food because it’s nutritionally and developmentally appropriate.
Infant cereal has iron
Iron is an essential nutrient that can help support your baby’s brain development and learning skills.
Babies are born with a supply of Iron, which they start using from birth. Breastmilk or infant formula also help provide iron to your baby’s diet, but around the middle of the first year, your baby's natural Iron stores have decreased and dietary iron is needed from solid foods. To ensure your baby is getting enough iron, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend feeding your baby iron-rich infant cereal or meat. 2 servings of infant cereal provide 90% of your baby’s daily iron needs.
Infant cereals are easy to digest and perfect for first tastes of solid food, because you are mixing it with breastmilk or his formula. You can easily change the consistency by mixing it thinly, and then you can move to a thicker texture as your baby gets older. This will help you to keep pace with his developing eating skills when starting solids. Introducing a variety of flavors during this time is an important part of establishing lifelong healthy eating habits.
When to start introducing solids
Before 4 months of age, babies have yet to develop the skills needed to move solid foods around in their mouth and successfully swallow. At this age, he is 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!
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. It is always smart to speak with your pediatrician around your baby’s four-month visit about when to start introducing solids.
Here are a few tips on introducing cereal:
- Choose a time of day you do not have to rush, when he is wide-awake and mildly hungry.
- Breastfeed or offer him formula first so he won’t be fussy or too hungry.
- Use the appropriate spoon. Be sure to only 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 lip. If he's agreeable to that first taste, put the next bite into his mouth when he opens it. Sit facing your baby and hold a half-spoonful of cereal about 12 inches from his face. Get his attention and put the spoon up to his mouth. Feed your baby as slowly or as rapidly as he wants and always look for his fullness cues. It’s all about the experience!
- Try, try again. 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, a time of exploration.
Helpful tips on introducing cereals:
- Start with infant oatmeal or rice cereal. Wait several days after introducing one, and if there are no reactions, try a different infant cereal. Offering only single-grain cereals at first lets you pinpoint any possible food sensitivities or reactions—such as a rash, diarrhea or vomiting—that your baby may have to a new food.
- Prepared cereal should never be fed from a bottle—only from a spoon—unless directed by your pediatrician.
- When first starting cereal, mixing it with breastmilk or formula is recommended. Move to a thicker consistency once you feel your baby is mastering the thin texture.
- Prepare only as much as you think your baby will eat. Never save cereal that’s been prepared, as it can grow bacteria very easily.
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, schedule a free session
to talk with one of Gerber’s Registered Dietitians.
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