You might feel like you’ve just bottle or breast-feeding down, and now it’s time to introduce solids. Where do you start? What foods are best? How do you prepare them? Find the answers to these questions and more below. Follow our tips to make the transition to solids simpler.

baby-eating-pureed-solids

Photo: Kelly Sue DeConnick via Flickr

1. Know when baby’s ready. Look for some cues from your baby that he’s ready for solids. This should be around the 6 month mark.

These may include:

  • Sits up unassisted
  • No longer has the tongue-thrust reflex (with this reflex, baby will push the food out of their mouth)
  • Working on the pincer grip (pointer finger and thumb) and the ability to pick up items in their hands
  • Reaches for, or shows an interest in, your food

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding or bottle-feeding exclusively for the first six months before introducing solids.

2. Breastfeed or bottle feed before the meal. When you first start solids, the goal isn’t for baby to get full. Most of their nutrition and calories should still come from milk or formula. Because it’s a new experience and they’re learning to eat for the first time, it may take twice as long as a regular meal. Your baby may get frustrated or be fussy because he or she is hungry and not getting filled up through the solids. To avoid this, breastfeed or bottle feed about an hour before offering solids.

introducing-solids-to-baby

Photo: Cody via Flickr

3. Have the right tools on hand. Planning on making your own purees? Want to have the best silicon spoon for baby? There are a lot of baby food tools out there, and many can help make the introduction of solids a little smoother. Read our story on 15 baby feeding gadgets, and stock up on a few.

making-baby-food

Photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via Flickr

4. Choose the best food to start with. There are different schools of thought and opinions on what to introduce to babies first. Many recommend starting with single-ingredient baby cereal or oatmeal, mixed with formula or breastmilk. Cereal should not be mixed into the baby’s bottle; only offer it once your baby is sitting upright, as part of meal time. Others believe that you should skip the cereal and start instead with another single ingredient, but non-rice-based, food — pureed, of course. Try apple sauce, mashed bananas, carrots or sweet potatoes. You may want to ask your pediatrician for advice, and choose what you believe is best for you and your baby.

5. Take your time. This is a new experience for both of you. Find a time in the day that works for both you and your baby to feed solids when you can allow yourself enough time, because as we mentioned above, it will take longer than you expect. Your baby is figuring out how to take in food for the first time, dealing with swallowing, using a spoon, etc.

messy-baby-food

Photo: Bradley Gordon via Flickr

6. Be prepared for a mess (it can be cute!). It’s OK (and kind of fun) to get messy with solids. Have your camera ready to capture those moments. Your baby is exploring this new experience, and will want to touch, smear and even spit out a few bites. Get some good bibs, make sure Baby’s not in their Sunday best (maybe even just go for a diaper and that’s it!) and set up the eating space in an area, like on a tile floor, that can be easily cleaned or wiped down.

7. Rejection is a thing, and it’s okay. Your baby might spit out, gag and otherwise reject new foods. That’s okay, and expected. In fact, it can take multiple attempts – even up to nine or 10 times – to get a baby to accept or try a new food. Don’t give up, but don’t push too hard either — watch for your baby’s cues. You can always try again on another day.

baby-solids-pincer-grip

Photo: Kona Gallagher via Flickr

8. Try different textures and expand Baby’s palate. Around eight to 10 months, try introducing foods with more textures, beyond the purees your baby is probably now used to eating. Watch your baby’s cues for readiness. Foods like soft pasta, yogurts and other steamed veggies and fruits are great to start with. Remember, your baby’s molars don’t come in until after 12 months, so avoid foods that are tough and would require lots of chewing. Looking for food inspiration? We shared 10 easy vegetable recipes here.

9. A reminder on introducing cow’s milk. Even though your baby is eating pureed solids and some finger foods, he or she should not be given cow’s milk until they reach at least one year old. This is because babies can’t easily digest cow’s milk and it doesn’t contain the levels of nutrients, like iron, that they need. Your pediatrician will most likely provide guidance on when to introduce cow’s milk at your baby’s one-year well-visit, and you should always feel comfortable asking your doctor at other visits for advice as well.

baby-with-solid-foods

Photo: Lars Ploughmann via Flickr

10. Remember, every baby is different. Guidelines are just that – guidelines. Your own eyes and instincts are best. Every baby is different and may develop or hit milestones at her own pace. Use your well-child visits to talk to your baby’s healthcare provider about any concerns, and of course feel free to reach out even in between appointments with concerns.

What was your baby’s favorite first food? Tell us!

—Jane Putnam