Why 6 Months Of Age Is Ideal For Beginning Solids
Human milk provides all the nutrients that babies need for about the first 6 months of life. Once the iron stored in your baby’s liver during pregnancy is used up , iron-rich foods such as meats or iron-fortified cereals need to be added to your babys diet. Around 6 months is also when most babies show signs that they are developmentally ready solid foods, so be sure to watch for the following:
- Your baby shows an interest in food others are eating.
- Your baby sits up with little or no support.
- Your baby holds her head up.
- Your baby picks up soft foods.
- Your baby puts those foods in her mouth.
- Your baby keeps her tongue in the bottom of her mouth and accepts a spoon.
- Your baby keeps food in her mouth and swallows rather than pushing it out with her tongue.
- Your baby indicates fullness by turning her head away or refusing to open her mouth.
If your baby makes no effort to pick up foods and feed herself or reacts negatively to a spoon touching her lips, shes likely telling you shes not yet ready for solid foods. Consider trying a different food. If she still refuses, wait a few days and try again.
For more on introducing solids, including which foods to offer first, read this.
How Do I Incorporate Breastfeeding Or Bottle
Even though your baby is now slurping purées from a spoon , the bulk of her nutrition will still come from breast milk or formula. Consider the solids you serve at first as healthy supplements and a chance for your sweetie to explore new tastes and textures.
When should you bring out a bottle or your breast, and when should you dish out solids? There’s really no set rule. Some parents find that an appetizer of breast milk or formula is a good way to start off a meal, so their little ones aren’t too hungry to settle down to eat.
Other parents offer solids as a first course and breast milk or formula for dessert. Then there are moms who like to completely separate solids from nursing or bottle-feeding sessions.
Since there’s no hard and fast rule, experiment until you find a feeding schedule that works for you.
When Can My Baby Have Water To Drink
Once your baby has reached 6 months, they’re old enough to be offered water to drink. Cooled, boiled water can be offered in a sippy cup at mealtimes and in-between.
As long as a breastfed or bottle-fed baby is offered plenty of milk, they don’t need extra water to drink. It’s the practice of drinking from a cup which is useful.
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Signs Of Readiness For Solids
From birth, babies are accustomed to getting their food primarily from a breast or bottle via sucking. If anything else manages to make its way into their mouths, infants have a tongue-thrust reflex that kicks in to prevent choking and gagging.
By the age of 4 months, the tongue-thrust reflex will begin to disappear. This is one indicator that your child might be ready to give solid food a try.
However, that’s not the only indicator. Your baby’s delicate digestive system lacks the enzymes necessary to digest anything but breast milk or formula. By about 4 months of age, infants start to produce the enzymes needed to digest other foods, such as baby cereal.
Your baby has depended on you to support their head when they are upright. When they start to gain control of their own head, it means their neck muscles are strong enough to keep the throat elongated and help prevent choking.
Previously, your baby’s reflexes helped keep them fed. Rooting, sucking, and crying let you know that it was time for them to eat. Early on, your baby was not aware of what was going on during feeding.
As they grow, your baby likely began to express interest in seeing the bottle or breast because they recognized them as signals that feeding was on the way.
Around 4 to 6 months of age, your baby will usually start to express interest in what you’re eating. They may even try to grab your spoon or get something off your plate.
Is Your Baby Ready For Solid Foods
Solid foods can complement the nutrition from breast milk or formula. When ready for solid foods, your baby will:
- be between 4 and 6 months old
- have good head control, holding head up without wobbling
- be able to sit well with little support
- have doubled their birth weight and weigh at least 13 pounds
- still be hungry after 8 to 10 breast feedings or after drinking 32 ounces of formula a day
- have stopped reflexively thrusting out his/her tongue and does not automatically push solids out his/her mouth with tongue
- show interest in foods that others are eating
- lean toward food or spoon and may open mouth in anticipation
- be able to move foods from the front to the back of the mouth.
- be able to pick up and hold a small object in their hand.
- be able to feed themselves with their fingers.
- drink from a cup with your help.
- be able to turn away to signal enough
If your baby doesnt seem interested, dont force them to eat solid foods. Simply wait a few days and try again.
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How Much Solid Food Should Your Baby Eat
Dr. Prabhakaran says start by introducing your baby to the idea of eating at this stage, its not about getting nourishment. How much should your baby eat? Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons once a day, and make it fun, she says.
Follow the mini-meal up with breast milk or formula. Once eating becomes more enjoyable, and everything is going well, increase the practice to two then three times a day.
The goal for feeding is one small jar of strained baby food per meal. If your child starts drinking less, its par for the course. As babies eat more solid food, they naturally decrease the amount of breast milk or formula they consume. But continue to offer it.
What Are Signs My Baby Is Ready For Solid Food
To decide if your baby is ready for the big step into the world of solid foods, look for the following clues and then consult your doctor:
- Your baby can hold her head up well when propped to sit. Even strained baby foods should not be offered until then. Chunkier foods should wait until a baby can sit well alone, usually not until 7 months.
- The tongue thrust reflex has disappeared. Try this test: Place a tiny bit of baby-appropriate food thinned with breast milk or formula in your baby’s mouth from the tip of a baby spoon or your finger. If the food comes right back out again with that tiny tongue, and continues to after several tries, the thrust is still present and baby isn’t ready for spoon-feeding.
- Your baby reaches for and otherwise shows an interest in table foods. If she’s grabbing the fork out of your hand or watching intently and excitedly with every bite you take, that may be a sign that she’s hungry for more grown-up fare.
- Your baby is able to make back-and-forth and up-and-down movements with the tongue. How can you tell? Just watch carefully.
- Your little one is able to open wide. That way, food can be taken from a spoon.
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Foods To Avoid Serving While Doing Blw
You want any foods you offer to a baby while doing baby led weaning to be soft enough to squish between your fingers and safe for them to eat and digest. Plan to avoid:
- Anything hard, sticky, or crunchy
- Added salt
- Cows milk
- Added sugar
- Super slippery foods that would be hard for baby to hold
TIP: Always sit with your baby and watch them try to eat. They are your best guide for making adjustments to the foods you serve.
When To Consult A Doctor
In some cases, it is a good idea for caregivers to consult a pediatrician before starting solids. This is particularly true if a baby was preterm or has special needs.
Severe eczema or early allergy symptoms can also change how someone introduces baby foods. A doctor can advise on the best approach.
If a baby suddenly starts refusing food, it can signal a medical condition. Caregivers should consult a medical professional about this to get a diagnosis. They may also have tips for overcoming the problem while the baby recovers, such as providing chilled foods to ease teething pain.
Keep Kids Safe From Choking
- Babies and kids are learning how to eat they need to be watched when eating because they can choke.
- Start with smooth, soft foods as baby learns to chew, move on to minced foods.
- Grate, cook or mash apples and carrots and other hard fruits and vegies.
- Dont give whole nuts, popcorn or other hard foods to young kids under 3 years.
- Feed kids when they are awake and alert.
- Never force kids to eat.
- Never leave baby alone with a bottle.
- Stay with young kids when they are eating.
Tips For Introducing Solid Foods
- Until your baby is 9 months, offer them milk before solids. After 9 months, they can have milk after their solids.
- Be sensitive to your baby’s cues or signals that they are hungry or full. Don’t force them to eat or keep offering food if they’re turning away, closing their mouth or not swallowing.
- Give your baby plenty of time to practise their new eating skills. At first, they’ll spit the food out, may seem unsure or pull faces at the taste of certain foods. Remember, eating solids is as much about learning as it is about nutrition.
- Let your baby make a mess. As soon as they are ready, offer them finger foods and the opportunity to pick up food and put it in their mouth.
- Always supervise your baby when they are eating solid foods. Small, hard foods can be a choking hazard although babies can choke on any food of any texture.
- Make sure you cook and store your baby’s food safely. Never reheat food that has been reheated previously, or that has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
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Feeding Solid Foods To Infants In Child Care
Introducing solid foods is an important milestone in infant development. Child care providers can help infants make the transition from formula or breast milk to solid foods, in partnership with the infants family.
Be sure to let parents take the lead on introducing solid foods, together with their childs doctor. Work with parents to set up a feeding plan. Introduce the same new foods at the same time at home and in child care. Here are some guidelines child care providers can share with parents:
Dangers Of Feeding Your Baby Solids Too Soon
If you’re a new parent, the question of when to start your baby on solid food can feel daunting. Well-meaning family members and friends have their own beliefs about introducing solids and may expect you to agree with their opinions. But starting solid foods too early can have health consequences.
If your baby seems to want solids, or you’re hoping solid food will calm fussiness, you might be eager to get started. Before you do, take a look at what the research says about when to start your baby on solids, including baby food.
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How Should I Introduce My Child To Foods
Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.
Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.
Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.
Potentially allergenic foods include cows milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cows milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cows milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your childs doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.
Recognize The Signs Of An Allergic Reaction
When introducing new foods, its best to do so in the morning or daytime so that you can monitor your baby for a reaction. Its also a good idea to keep liquid Benadryl on hand in case you need the drug fast, Dr. DiMaggio said.
Babies tend to have milder allergic reactions to foods than older kids, and symptoms like rash, hives around the face or vomiting are most common. Severe reactions which can involve symptoms like wheezing or trouble breathing are uncommon in babies, but not unheard of, Dr. Fleischer said. Dont hesitate to call 911 or go to an emergency room if youre concerned.
If you think your child had an allergic reaction, stop feeding the food in question and make an appointment with your childs physician, who may refer you to an allergist for further testing. Skin contact with acidic fruits or vegetables can also cause skin redness, which is not an allergic reaction but is often mistaken as one by parents.
Signs Baby Is Ready To Start Solid Food
Knowing your baby is ready for Stage 1 foods goes beyond celebrating their half-year birthday. Its important to look out for developmental and social signals, as well.
One of the biggest indicators that your baby is ready for solid foods is that theyre showing an interest in what other family members are eating, says Dr. Kristen Treegoob, a pediatrician at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.
If you notice baby staring at your food and opening their mouth or leaning forward if food is ever offered, these are signs that solid foods have piquéd your babys interest, according to Thompson.
I knew my son was ready for solids when, at 7 months, he started staring like, really staring at all of our food during dinner, says mom of two Erin Henderson, of Waltham, Massachusetts. It reached a point where we felt bad eating in front of him!
Other signs your baby may be ready for solids, according to Custer and Thompson, include:
- They can sit up with little to no support.
- They can hold their head up without being wobbly.
- Their tongue thrust reflex has disappeared. Before introducing solids, its important to make sure your baby can open their mouth for a spoon and accept food off of it, rather than pushing it away with their tongue, which is an involuntary habit until about 4 months, says Custer.
What To Do About Dairy Products
It is absolutely OK to offer soft, milk-based foods from 6- to 12-months old. The only dairy product to avoid is whole milk, which does not offer the range of nutrients and iron that breast milk and formula have. It will take time for your baby to get enough nutrients from table foods and your child should continue receiving breast milk or formula during that time.
It is safe to give your child yogurt and cheese, as these can be great sources of protein. Typically, we recommend whole-fat yogurt, but non-dairy yogurts and cheeses are also OK.
Within a few months of starting solid foods, your babys daily diet should include a variety of foods, such as breast milk, formula, or both meats cereal vegetables fruits eggs and fish.
Start With Purees Or Finger Foods
Traditionally, pediatricians have recommended starting with thin fruit or vegetable purees or baby cereals, and then gradually advancing in texture to soft finger foods, like pliable pieces of fruit, cooked vegetables, scrambled eggs or tender chunks of meat or fish over the course of a few months.
But interest in baby-led weaning, in which babies skip the purees and start feeding themselves solid foods straight from the family table, is growing. Some proponents believe that this approach encourages more adventurous eating, as well as an improved awareness of fullness cues which may even decrease the risk of obesity.
But those benefits are still up for debate. A recent clinical trial of 206 mothers in New Zealand, for instance, found that babies who started solids around 6 months with the baby-led approach were similar to those who started with purees in terms of weight, appetite regulation, and calorie- and nutrient intake at 12 or 24 months. Those in the baby-led weaning group did seem to enjoy their food more at 12 and 24 months and were less fussy about food at 12 months compared with the group that started with purees.
The trial also assessed the risk of choking, which is a common concern about baby-led weaning. At 6 months, the baby-led weaning group experienced more gagging than those who were fed purees, but were not more likely to choke.