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When Can My Baby Start Eating Solid Foods?

Article Translations: (Spanish)

A friend of mine just started giving her 3-month-old applesauce and rice cereal. My son is just 2 weeks younger than hers, and I am wondering if I should be introducing solids soon, too. When should I start?
Taylor

The best time to introduce solid foods is when your baby has developed the skills needed to eat. If you are breastfeeding, doctors recommend waiting until your son is 6 months old. But he might be ready for solids sooner than that.

How will you know? To eat, babies need good head and neck control and should be able to sit up in a high chair, which usually doesn't happen until they're 4 to 6 months old. Also, if you try to feed your son solids before this age, you may notice that he pushes food out of his mouth just as quickly as you put it in. Babies start to lose this natural tongue-thrusting reflex at the 4- to 6-month mark, which makes it easier for them to start eating solid foods.

Other signs that babies are ready to eat solids foods:

  • they're interested in foods (for example, they may watch others eat, reach for food, and open their mouths when food approaches)
  • they have the oral motor skills needed to move food to the throat and swallow it
  • they usually weigh twice their birth weight, or close to it

Wait until your baby is at least 4 months old and shows these signs of readiness before introducing solids. Babies who start solid foods before 4 months are at a higher risk for obesity and other problems later on. They also aren't coordinated enough to safely swallow solid foods and may choke on the food or inhale it into their lungs.

When the time is right, start with a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal (rice cereal has traditionally been the first food for babies, but you can start with any you prefer). Start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of cereal mixed with breast milk, formula, or water. Another good first option is an iron-rich puréed meat. Feed your baby with a small baby spoon, and never add cereal to a baby's bottle unless your doctor recommends it.

At this stage, solids should be fed after a nursing session, not before. That way, your baby fills up on breast milk, which should be your baby's main source of nutrition until age 1.

When your baby gets the hang of eating the first food, introduce a variety of other foods, such as puréed fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, or yogurt. Wait a few days between introducing new foods to make sure your baby doesn't have an allergic reaction.

Experts recommend introducing common food allergens to babies when they're 4–6 months old. This includes babies with a family history of food allergies. In the past, they thought that babies should not get such foods (like eggs, peanuts, and fish) until after the first birthday. But recent studies suggest that waiting that long could make a baby more likely to develop food allergies.

Offer these foods to your baby as soon as your little one starts eating solids. Make sure they're served in forms that your baby can easily swallow. You can try a small amount of peanut butter mixed into fruit purée or yogurt, for example, or soft scrambled eggs.

Fruit juices are not recommended for babies. There is no benefit to offering juice, even to older babies. Juice can fill them up (leaving little room for more nutritious foods), promote obesity, cause diarrhea, and even put a baby at an increased risk for cavities when teeth start coming in.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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