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Starting your baby on solid foods

How to safely and successfully introduce solid foods into your child's diet.

Up until now, your baby has been getting all the nutrition he or she needs from breast milk or formula. But there comes a time you may want to spice up that diet with a few solid foods. Most babies aren't ready until they are 6 months old. Others won't be ready until later. Check with your doctor to find out what's right for your baby.

Getting started

You can introduce solids at any feeding, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Sit your baby up straight to help prevent choking, and give him or her small bites from a spoon. Don't put solid food in a bottle. Feeding a baby this way could cause choking.

Allow plenty of time between bites. Don't get discouraged if your baby turns away, spits out food or makes a funny face. Learning to eat solid foods takes practice.

What to serve?

For most babies, it doesn't matter what the first solid foods are, the AAP says. However, single-grain cereals are often introduced first.

These cereals can be premixed or dry with added breast milk, formula or water. No matter which type of cereal you choose, be sure it is made for babies, advises the AAP. Only baby foods contain the extra nutrients kids need at this age.

If you're heating up baby food, be careful. Microwaves can leave hot pockets that can burn a child's mouth. Carefully stir any heated foods and test the temperature on your lip. It should be warm, not hot.

What to expect

You'll likely notice changes in your baby's bowel movements once you add solid foods. Stools will become more solid and may vary in color. And sugars and fats found in foods may give stools a much stronger odor. All this is normal and part of your child's digestive system getting used to different foods.

However, extremely loose stools may mean the digestive tract is irritated. And diarrhea, vomiting or a rash could signal an allergic reaction to food. Call your doctor if any of these occur.

Branching out

Once your child is used to cereals, gradually introduce one new food at a time. Good choices include strained fruits, vegetables and meat, along with yogurt and cottage cheese. You can prepare these yourself or buy prepackaged baby food varieties.

Avoid serving honey during a baby's first year. It may contain botulism spores, which can be harmful to infants.

And, while it's OK for babies to drink small amounts of juice after 12 months of age, they don't need it. Too much juice can spoil a child's appetite for healthier foods. Offer water if a baby seems thirsty between feedings.

Finger foods

Babies who can sit up and use their hands to bring objects to their mouths are ready for finger foods. Try out small pieces of mashed-up banana; wafer-style cookies or crackers; and well-cooked and cut-up yellow squash, peas or other vegetables. Just make sure all foods are soft, don't require chewing and are easy to swallow.

By 8 months old, your baby may be ready for coarser "junior" baby foods along with toast, well-cooked pasta, ready-to-eat cereal, small pieces of chicken and scrambled eggs.

Eating right

Don't be afraid to call a doctor if you have questions about how much and what types of food your baby should be eating.

Reviewed 10/4/2022

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