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Babies, solid foods, and when they should meet

After many months of feeding Baby a steady diet of breastmilk or formula, you might be thinking, “Isn’t she sick of this by now?” While Baby may not be old enough to crave a cobb salad or some yellowtail sashimi just yet, her palate may be ready for some culinary expansion. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend starting to introduce solid foods to complement breastfeeding or formula at around 6 months old. So where to begin? Just follow the ABCs…

A: Assess

Baby will let you know that she is ready to sample solids in her own way. Look for physical cues during mealtime, like an interest in the foods that you are eating. Baby should be able to sit comfortably in a high chair and keep her head up on her own consistently before attempting any non-liquid nourishment. She should also be able to lean forward and open her mouth when she&;s interested in food, and to turn away when she isn&;t hungry. Some babies might seem to be ready a little sooner, and some babies might not be quite ready for another few months, but keep in mind that if Baby does start trying solids before 6 months old, it should just be to sample the goods, explore, and have fun – it’s important that breastfeeding or formula is still her sole source of nutrition.  

B: Blend and serve

Most parents officially start their babies’ solids careers with pureed edibles like apples, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes, and other mild-flavored foods. These foods will be easiest to consume if they’re finely pureed, and will be healthiest for Baby if they don’t contain any additives, like salt or sugar. But before feeding her her first solids, try warming her up with a regular helping of breast milk or formula – a happy baby is more likely to enjoy this new food adventure than a hungry one. Then, take a plastic spoon and offer Baby a teaspoon or two of solid mush. If Baby rejects the offering at first, let her inspect this strange new spoonful for a few minutes. More often than not, this apprehension will be swiftly overruled by infant appetite. Babies who are especially wary of this new set of flavors may be more willing to give it a chance if the food is mixed in with a little breast milk or formula, so there’s something familiar there. If Baby responds to a new solid by developing a rash, diarrhea, blood in poop, vomiting, or facial swelling, then the two of you have likely discovered a food that she is allergic to. If you suspect Baby might have a food allergy, it’s a good idea to take that food out of her diet, and to consult with her doctor. Certain foods should never be given to children under a year old, including cow’s milk, honey, and foods that could be choking hazards, like nuts, grapes, or candy.

C: Cultivate

Baby’s culinary growth should go smoothly if you give her at least 3 days to get used to each new solid. In general, you’ll want to allow plenty of time for Baby to get accustomed to different food tastes and textures. Once she warms to most pureed solids, try taking things to the next level by introducing mashed and strained foods, which are commercially known as Stage 2 baby food (Pureed baby food products qualify as Stage 1). Just remember to throw away any unfinished jars of baby food after the first use, because bacteria from Baby’s serving spoon will contaminate the leftover food.

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