So, you bought a suction bowl, silicone spoon, and spill-proof sippy cup because your 6-month-old is ready to have solid food. Yay! Now what? Here are five tips to get you off to a good start.
1. Do liquid puree for your baby's first meal. Pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann, who is also the spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, shares this advice on The Washington Post. She likes to give babies pureed avocado as a starter food. “It’s a good source of healthy fat, which is important for brain development. Green veggies, which are packed with important nutrients, are another great starter food.”
Use a blender or a food processor to puree your child's food. If you're feeding him for the very first time, mix in breast milk until the consistency is runny, recommends nutrition coach and mom Renee Rose Rodrigo. Mom Cherdyn Mojica of The Nanay Avenue (and whose baby food recipes we’ve featured) recommends getting a juicer that can puree, blend, grind and juice. She has used one for eight years now.
Dr. Altmann also adds, “There aren’t any strict guidelines as to what order you should follow when starting solids.”
2. Give sips of water — no sugary drinks, even juice. Doctors strongly advise against giving water to infants below 6 months, but he can drink now because he is eating solids. “Start with a few sips,” said Dr. Altmann. “Learning to like plain water is a healthy habit for life. Babies don’t need juice…It’s much healthier to give them the actual fruit, even pureed or smashed, which also contains valuable fiber.”
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Children below 2 years old should not get any added sugar in their diet including sugar-sweetened drinks, says recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA).
3. Follow your baby’s lead. You'll know your baby is ready to start solids when he is able to hold his head up, opens his mouth when food comes his way, and doesn't push food out of his mouth when you feed him (try again in a week if this happens).
You should also still follow your baby cues as you feed him. “Let him be the guide; if he opens his mouth and turns toward the spoon, let him eat more. If he turns away and closes his mouth, respect his wish to be done,” says Dr. Altmann. “As he gets older and tries to grab at the spoon, use two — one spoon for him and one for you. It may be messy as he tries to self-feed, but that’s okay.”
4. It’s okay to give your baby the “big eight.” As long as you think he’s ready for it, it’s okay to start introducing the “big eight” — milk (before age 1, offer yogurt or cheese that are easier to digest), eggs (both egg white and yolk), fish, shellfish (like shrimp), soy, wheat, peanuts (offer peanut butter), and tree nuts (offer nut butters).
As per extensive research, experts now say these foods are okay to introduce to 6-month-old babies who do not show signs of food allergies (skin rashes, face swelling, trouble breathing, etc.). “You can feed your baby any food (other than honey) with a consistency and texture he can handle,” says Dr. Altmann. Find a list of foods that should not be given to children age 2 below here.
Rodrigo adds, “It is important to keep in mind that you should introduce one new type of food at a time. Then wait for four days before introducing another new food so it can help you single out any allergies.”
5. Start finger food at around 8 to 9 months old. “By the time they are 8 or 9 months old, infants love to feed themselves small pieces of food. I like to start with healthy options that can be mashed up easily by soft gums,” says Dr. Altmann. She suggests steamed soft peas, soft scrambled eggs, chicken, and fruit cut up in small pieces.
Feeding time can be a challenge for any parent who’s new to the routine, but don't be afraid to be adventurous (minus the sugar) with his food! Rodrigo advises, “Start him on vegetables so his taste buds won't get accustomed to food with a sweet flavor profile.”
Click here to further help you separate myths from facts when it comes to baby's first meal.