Baby’s First Foods: A Guide to Starting Solids
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
You’ve made it through the newborn stage, nights of endless rocking and shushing, singing and tiptoeing away. Your baby has used her first few months getting used to her surroundings, cooing when she sees you, and even learning to roll over! Her next big adventure? Starting solids.
You may already have a plan for this, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by the amount of advice and guidance you’ve received. Regardless of how you’re feeling about this next step in your baby’s development, it’s an exciting time and a wonderful process as you watch your child discover and explore new tastes and textures.
How do I know my child is ready?
It is recommended to start solids at about 6 months old. However, each baby is unique and may start anywhere between 4-6 months old. Your baby is ready to begin when she:
Has good head control
Can sit up in a highchair and lean forward
Opens her mouth when you bring a spoon close
Appears interested in food when you eat
Does not push the spoon out with her tongue
Can turn her head away to let you know she’s full
What do I start with?
Your baby draws its iron stores from mom while in the womb. Once baby is born, those iron stores begin to deplete and need to be replenished by 6 months of age through complementary foods. Therefore, begin with soft or slow-cooked, pureed, mashed or finely minced iron-rich foods like:
Beans and legumes
Well-cooked eggs (hard-boiled and pureed with breast milk or formula)
Iron-fortified infant cereal
From there, introduce a variety of vegetables, fruits, dairy, and grains. Don’t shy away from flavour! The more variety and flavour profiles you introduce them to the better. To learn more about early flavour learning to help babies accept a wider variety of tastes and textures as they grow, check out this blog.
Some common first foods from each of those categories include:
Pureed or mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, broccoli and peas.
Pureed or mashed mangoes, pears, peaches, banana, applesauce.
Grated cheese, high-fat plain yogurt. (Wait to serve 3.25% homogenized milk as a beverage until at least 9 months of age.)
Small pieces of soft bread, pasta, oatmeal or rice.
What texture should I offer?
There are many different views about what texture is best for baby.
1. There is the staged approach:
Thin puree → thicker purees → lumpier mashed foods → small soft pieces → table food
2. There is baby-led weaning (BLW):
Babies encouraged to feed themselves → small soft pieces of food → table food
**There is a higher risk of choking associated with BLW. If you choose this method, please ensure that all first foods are soft and no bigger than the size of a pea.**
3. There is a combination of spoon-feeding your baby purees or mashed foods while simultaneously offering small, soft-cooked pieces of food on their tray.
All three forms of feeding are acceptable and carry different advantages and disadvantages (this is could be a whole different blog!). Your baby should be having soft foods with lumps by no later than 9 months of age. Ask your physician or get in touch with our dietitian to learn more about each method and choose the one that works best for you and your family.
How often should I feed my baby?
Continue to breast or formula feed your baby as usual and begin solids once a day. I usually recommend my clients to find a time in the morning or early afternoon so you have time to see how your baby reacts before they go to sleep at night. Once you’re comfortable with this, increase to twice a day (ex/ breakfast and lunch). Ensure that your baby receives iron-rich foods at least twice a day.
As your baby gets older, follow her cues and offer food when she shows interest. Slowly work up to offering her solids three to five times a day as meals or snacks. Offer 2-3 Tbsp in total to start and give more if she is interested. By one year of age, your new toddler will be able to eat table foods and have a regular meal and snack schedule.
What if my baby is at high-risk for food allergies?
Since allergies often run in the family, your baby would be considered at high-risk for food allergies if she has a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with a diagnosed allergy such as food allergy, eczema, asthma etc. In 2019, the Canadian Paediatric Society released updated guidance regarding the early introduction of allergenic foods to high-risk babies. The new guidance is as follows:
“Actively offer non-choking forms of foods containing common allergens (e.g. peanuts, egg) around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months, as this can be effective in preventing food allergy in some high-risk infants”.
Key things to note about this new recommendation:
It has been changed from “no need to delay” the introduction of common allergens “beyond 6 months of age” and now advises parents to actively offer those allergenic foods to their high-risk babies when they are developmentally ready between 4-6 months. This means that parents with high-risk babies should make a point to introduce those allergens sooner rather than later. As new and reliable research shows us, the early introduction of common allergenic foods can be effective in preventing food allergy.
What about store-bought baby food?
There are some wonderful baby food options available on the market now, and let’s be honest, they are downright convenient. Depending on what you buy, you can find products that are both healthy and tasty for baby. However, they also cost a pretty penny. Look for store-bought baby food that:
Has healthy ingredients. So if the jar says it’s green beans, make sure the first ingredient in the list is green beans and not water or something else.
Does not include added sugar or salt.
Homemade baby food is more cost-effective, often tastier, and gives you total control over ingredients and texture. It does require some time to prepare. I often advise parents to begin including baby food prep as part of their usual meal-prep time. Try to batch cook your purees and then freeze the extra so it’s easy to take out, thaw, and feed to baby. Putting purees into ice cube trays makes it convenient to take out a few cubes of your choice, thaw, and serve in a manageable portion to reduce food waste.
Should I know anything else?
To prevent choking, avoid feeding your baby hard foods like raw vegetables, nuts, candies, and dried fruits. Cut round foods like grapes into quarters to minimize the risk of choking and avoid foods with small bones or anything very sticky like lots of peanut butter (spread it thinly) or marshmallows.
Do not give your baby honey before the age of one, even if it is pasteurized as it can cause a serious food poisoning caused botulism.
When making homemade foods, there is no need to use salt or sugar below the age of one. Juice, even 100% pure juice is not the first choice. Your baby is better off receiving calories from breastmilk, formula or cow’s milk (after 9 months of age), and solid food.
Starting solids is a big adventure for parents and babies. Enjoy this time and have fun with it!
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