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Switching to solid foods

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Denise Lenarz, MD

When parents ask me for advice, it’s usually to clear up differing opinions that they have heard from others or read online. To help you prepare for your baby’s transition to solid food, follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics book “Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know.”

Solid food quiz

  • Can your baby hold his/her head up? Your baby should be able to sit in a high chair, feeding seat or infant seat with good head control.
  • Does your baby open his/her mouth when food approaches? Does your baby watch you eat, reach for your food and seem eager to be fed?
  • Can your baby move food from a spoon into his/her throat? If you offer a spoon of rice cereal and your baby pushes it out of his/her mouth, your baby may not have the ability to move it to the back of his/her mouth to swallow it. Try diluting cereal for the first few times and then gradually thicken the texture. You also may want to wait a week or two before trying again.
  • Is your baby big enough? Your baby should have doubled his/her birth weight by about four months (and weigh at least 13 pounds).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding/formula as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about six months. When you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding/formula until at least 12 months. Check with your child’s health care provider about vitamin D and iron supplements during the first year.

How do I feed my baby?

  • Start with half of a baby-sized spoonful or less.
  • Show it to your baby and talk about it (“Yummy . . . See how good this is?”). Your baby will make some funny faces, may roll the food around in his/her mouth or reject it altogether.
  • Try giving your baby a little breast milk/formula first, switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food, and finish with more breast milk/formula. This will prevent your baby from getting frustrated from hunger.
  • Allow your baby time to learn how to swallow solids. Your baby will wear most of the cereal for the first few feedings. Increase the amount of food gradually with just a teaspoonful or two to start.

If your baby cries or turns away, go back to nursing or bottle-feeding exclusively for a time before trying again. Starting solid foods is a gradual process and your baby still will be getting most of his/her nutrition from breast milk/formula.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s nutrition, talk with your child’s health care provider. Log in to MyChart to send a secure message to your provider.

Read part 2 to find out which foods are best for your baby.