Babies are wonderful. Sure. All the sweet sentiments and quotes about expecting society tacks onto babies and parenthood are absolutely true. What we often forget to warn moms about, though, is that it’s a lot of work to keep them clean, fed, and nurture them into the little tiny humans they grow up to be. Especially that feeding bit. It doesn’t matter which fancy breast pump you bought, how many bottles you have in your collection, or that you intend to raise a foodie baby. Feeding is always a struggle, and it starts straight out of the gate. Maybe she doesn’t like your nipples, and no breastfeeding position will get her to latch. (She might be tongue-tied!) Perhaps he’s highly allergic to your dairy-heavy diet. A month in, you could still be sampling formulas to find one that doesn’t give your baby the world’s angriest diaper rash.
No sooner than you get the hang of bottle-feeding or nursing, it’s time to start your babe on actual food. How do you know when it’s time to start solids? What first foods should you start with? And how do you keep them from gagging on a spoon of rice cereal? Oof, it takes patience, Mama.
Luckily, we’re your one-stop-shop for all things baby food. So let’s dive in.
Is my baby ready for solid food?
Even if it’s your very first rodeo, you might start sensing when your baby is ready to try solid food. Take the word solid with a grain of salt here, baby’s very first foods are mostly mushy rice cereal and purées. They’ll take a keen interest in watching you eat and might even start reaching for it. But, there are other readiness signs, too.
- Able to sit up mostly independently and control head movements. This will help ensure good eating posture, which will, in turn, keep them safe. When you feed them in the high-chair, the back should be upright, not tilted back.
- Their tongue-thrust reflex has subsided. Is your babe still scooting around with their little tongue sticking out? It might be a sign the tongue-thrust reflex is still there. This is why pediatricians recommend feeding your baby some purée thinned with formula or breast milk. Put just a tiny bit on the tip of a baby spoon and feed your babe. Try this a couple of times. If their tongue immediately pushes it out each time, their tongue reflex hasn’t left, and your baby isn’t ready to eat. (You can start trying this at about 4 months, though most experts say babies won’t be ready until at least 6 months old.)
- Still hungry. After your baby has gotten their recommended portion of milk for the day and still seem hungry, it might be time to switch up their eating habits.
- Interest in table food. When you’re eating, does your little one break their neck to see what’s going into your mouth? Curiosity and their interest in food is also a sign they should start solid foods.
- Tongue movement. Does your baby make back and forth and up and down motions with their tongue? If so, that’s a sign too.
Know What Baby Gagging Looks Like
This one is hard on the soul, Mama. But, you’ll need to learn the difference between a gagging baby and a choking baby. Then you’ll need to practice not reacting to gagging. Not sure how to tell the difference. This video will help.
First Food Suggestions: Stage One Baby Food
Now that you’re sure your kiddo is ready to eat, where do you start? First, know that it’s up to you if you want to do purées or “real” food. Many parents find the ability to modify the food they’re already serving to be the easiest and least expensive option. Others like the convenience of those little tubs of food. You can do either one… or you can do both! There are many handy-dandy checklists you can use if that helps you feel more organized. We like this one.
The World Health Organization encourages looking for iron-rich foods to introduce to your baby first. With that in mind, most feeding experts suggest the following first foods.
- Iron-fortified baby cereal — it comes powdered and looks like oatmeal
- Beans — cooked until soft
- Eggs — scrambled and chopped into very tiny pieces, roughly the size of a pea. Or hard-boiled and cut into long, skinny wedges
- Chicken or turkey — If your baby is still figuring out food and eating, it’s best to go with ground meats that you can sauté into small pieces perfect for little pincers
- Nut butter — smeared lightly on toast strips or blended in with complimentary purées
- Fish — just make sure you’ve gotten all the bones out and flake it well
Other Great First Foods
If you’ve looked at purées, you may see the “first food” kits that come with three to four options. Those options are typically sweet potato, green beans, bananas, carrots, apples, or pears. All of those options are great and filled with tons of vitamins. You can serve the purée version or prepare them in a baby-friendly way. (Thin slices, small pieces, or softened.)
- Vegetables are a fantastic choice to start with, as they are generally nutritious and not likely to trigger allergies. Good options for first choices include sweet potatoes, carrots, and avocado.
- Fruits are fine, too. Yummy and easily-digestible first fruit options include bananas, applesauce, prunes, peaches, or pears.
A note on the texture of your baby’s first foods. Your baby’s first solid foods should be super creamy and smooth. If you’re one of those brave souls preparing your own baby food, make sure you strain, purée, or finely mash it, and then thin it with liquid if necessary. This infographic from the feeding specialists at Feeding Littles might help put things into perspective.
Solid Starts also makes great suggestions.
*A note about allergies. Unless you already know your baby is allergic to something, the best way to avoid allergies is early and frequent exposure.
Don’t Give Up
Think of all the foods you probably didn’t like at first. The texture was weird. It was sweeter than you expected. At this point, everything your babe puts in their mouth is a new, weird texture. That’s why, lucky us, they put literally everything in their mouths! If your tiny human did okay with butternut squash and banana but immediately spit out the applesauce, don’t be discouraged. Try again, tomorrow or next week.
What can my 6-month-old have for breakfast?
To wean baby off a breast milk or formula breakfast, start with soft and healthy foods like:
- Mashed hard-boiled eggs
- Cornmeal or porridge mixed with formula or breast milk
- Mashed strawberries
- Pudding with mashed fruits
- Mashed banana
*To help baby start their day off right, make sure their breakfast is filled with carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
When can you give a baby water with their solid foods?
When your infant is under six months, they should be on a breast milk or formula diet. However, when you introduce your child to solid foods, you can also start giving them water. Make sure it’s a tiny amount. It’s important to avoid water during your child’s early months because it can prevent them from absorbing all of the milk’s nutrients, which is essential to their health and growth.