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Which food should I give my baby first?

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

Rice, oatmeal or barley? What infant cereal will be your baby’s first solid meal?

Traditionally, single-grain cereals are usually first, but there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby.

Baby cereals are available premixed in individual containers or dry so you can add breast milk, formula or water. Just make sure that the cereal is made for babies and iron-fortified.

Many pediatricians will recommend starting vegetables before fruits, but there is no evidence that your baby will develop a dislike for vegetables if introduced to fruit first. Of course, we are born with a preference for sweets.

If your baby has been mostly breastfeeding, consider baby food made with meat, which contains more easily absorbed sources of iron and zinc that are needed by 4 to 6 month-old babies. Check with your child’s health care provider.

When can my baby try other food?

Give your baby one new food at a time and wait at least two to three days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting. If you see any of these signs, stop using the new food and consult with your child’s health care provider.

Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include the following:

  • Breast milk and/or formula
  • Meats
  • Cereal
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Fish

Home-prepared spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots are not good choices during early infancy. They may contain large amounts of nitrates. Nitrates are chemicals that can cause an unusual type of anemia (low blood count) in young babies. Commercially prepared vegetables are safer because the manufacturers test for nitrates. Peas, corn and sweet potatoes are better choices for home-prepared baby foods.

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 3 to find out when to introduce finger foods.