Is my baby ready for “real” food?

Introducing solid foods to your toddler.

As your child moves into their second year, they move from exclusive breast or bottle feeding to eating table foods and being part of the family meal. There are many things to consider as your child makes this transition. The first thing to consider is what foods to introduce first. Traditionally the first foods introduced are rice or oat cereals, followed by vegetables or fruit and then meats. Although this progression is fine, some of the latest research suggests that meat or poultry might actually be a better source of iron and zinc, making it an ideal first food.

There are certain developmental signs that your child is ready to start solids. The first sign is when your baby can sit up and hold their head and neck. If your baby has doubled their weight and is able to keep food in their mouth, and move to the back of their throat for swallowing, they may be ready. Usually this happens between four to six months. Try to introduce new foods when your baby is well rested and happy. If your baby rejects you efforts at introducing solids give them a week and try again.

As you begin to introduce new foods, Michigan State University Extension says it is important to introduce one food at a time and wait to wait three to five days before introducing another. Monitor your child for any signs of allergies such as diarrhea, vomiting or rashes. If your baby shows any of these signs, discontinue this food and discuss it with your health care provider.

Food textures also play an important role in baby’s acceptance of foods. Often babies prefer to begin with soft, smoother textures and gradually move toward thicker foods. Around nine to 12 months, your baby will be ready to start trying some finger foods and feeding themselves. Although it may seem that your child is getting more food on the outside than the inside this is an important developmental milestone that will be well worth the mess in the end. Be aware of choking hazards such as round, slippery or sticky foods. Some examples of choking foods include popcorn, peanuts, grapes, cherry tomatoes, hard candies and peanut butter. Avoid these foods until the child is 4-years-old or cut them carefully to avoid choking dangers.

Allow your child to set the pace with feedings. Offer nutritious foods two to three times per day, but let your child decide how much, or if they eat at all. Feeding is a new adventure for both the child and parents, so enjoy this fun time in your child’s life.

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