Between the ages of 6-8 months most babies are ready to start some form of solid foods. By this time they have lost the extrusion reflex which benefits with breastfeeding and bottles but will push a spoonful of food right out of their mouth if they are offered one.
Usually they are exhibiting several of these next milestones:
- Sitting up (with support) and can hold their head and neck up as well.
- They are double their birth weight.
- They are interested in what you are eating and may be trying to grab it.
- They can keep food in their mouth without letting it drool out.
- They show signs of being hungry for more than what they are getting, or are wanting to nurse more often.
Common first foods should be single foods or grains and should be easy on their digestive systems. Sometimes it does take a few days for the body to get used to something new.
Some pediatricians recommend single foods such as rice or oatmeal cereal mixed with formula or breast milk. In addition to cereal you may offer pureed fruits and vegetables. Offer foods when your baby is hungry and more willing to try something new, and then
just offer a small taste. Sometimes in the beginning, it is easier on a baby to add a little liquid to everything that they eat. As your baby gets a little older you may offer foods directly off your plate as long as it is pureed a bit and broken down.
Many parents will continue to nurse their babies while offering solid foods even at the same meal. The goal is to gradually transfer your child over to solid foods, even if it takes many months to do so while making sure they are getting liquids as well. The rate at which a baby adapts to solid food can be very individual. If your baby rejects the new food, just try again later. Sometimes it is not necessarily the taste but the texture that they are trying to get used to. Try again after a few days when they may have forgotten about the experience. Never force a child to eat anything that they do not want especially when they are learning to taste new things.
When you start out, offer foods once daily and watch how their body responds to the food over a few days. As your baby gets older you may gradually choose to not puree the food he eats as much, and leave a little more thickness to his food. Be careful though that even up past the year mark you continue to cut more solid foods into tinier pieces like hot-dogs and carrots so as to avoid a choking hazard.
At about 9-11 months your baby will learn to develop his pincer muscles which will allow him to pick up small pieces of food such as cheerios and other small pieces. This is an important growth development stage and should be encouraged by putting some food on a flat surface like a high chair and allowing them to practice eating in that way. Cutting up the harder solid foods should be continued up past the toddler stage until they exhibit signs they can handle harder more solid foods.
Progressing with solids should not be hard as long as you do it playfully, slowly, and introduce foods one at a time allowing their body time to adjust to the new food. Try new foods in small doses especially if they may be an irritant to their system like dairy or citrus. Some things like honey should not be given to a child before they are one year old to prevent botulism. Also, foods like popcorn, hard
candies and things that can break off into large hard chunks should be avoided until they are older and can handle harder textures of food.
The last step in introducing solids is to help them learn to eat with a spoon. Most children are interested in learning because they see others doing it also. Letting them hold the spoon and then putting something on the end of the spoon that will not fall off can be a first step as they gradually learn to use the spoon and manipulate it into their mouths. This can take time but can also be very rewarding for your child as well as for you by giving yourself a break from spoon feeding.
Introducing solids is a practice that if developed over time can promote happy healthy children with happy adults around them as well. Remember to give them a variety as they get older and to not give up if they do not like something at first. Just keep introducing the food from time to time and they may adjust and begin to like it.