Transitioning to solid foods: Where should my baby start?

After breastmilk or formula, the next step is solids. How much and what to feed your baby may be difficult with the many choices that are available today.

Do you want the best nutrition for your baby and are nervous about what and how much to feed? It can be overwhelming! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with an iron-fortified rice cereal. Mix the cereal with breast milk or formula. Make the cereal smooth and runny at first. Increase the thickness and amount over time.

Get your baby used to eating rice cereal off a spoon. Then you may introduce oat or barley cereals or pureed fruits or vegetable. Some experts recommend not offering wheat cereal or any wheat products until a baby is eight to 12 months old or older. Waiting may reduce the chance of developing a wheat allergy.

A common order of introducing foods after one or more cereals is first vegetables, then fruits, then meats. Ask your child’s doctor to recommend what is right for your baby.

With each new food you introduce:

  • Make sure it is a single-ingredient food, not a mixture of foods.
  • Check that the food has no added salt, sugar, starch or artificial coloring or flavoring.
  • Make sure it is pureed or mashed very smooth with no lumps until the baby is ready for finger foods.

Feed the food for three to five days several days to a week before introducing another food. This gives you a chance to notice any food sensitivities or allergies. Stop the new food if you notice diarrhea, vomiting or rash which may indicate a food allergy. Only mix foods, such as cereal and fruit, after you have introduced each food by itself and start with softer, smoother textures and gradually move toward thicker foods.

In the beginning, feed your baby small servings – as little as one to two small spoonfuls. Eventually you may find that your baby eats as much as two to four tablespoons of each food at a meal.

Always put the amount you feed your baby will eat into a serving bowl. Never feed directly from the jar. Throw away any uneaten food in the bowl after each meal. Never put leftover food back into the container. Your baby’s saliva could contaminate and spoil jarred or leftover food.

Begin by serving solids at one meal a day. Gradually work up to about three meals and two to three snacks each day. Remember that breast milk or formula continues to be an important source of nutrition until your baby is one-year-old. Do not let your baby fill up on solid food alone.

In general a six-month-old breastfed baby who has begun solid food will nurse about six times a day. A six-month-old formula-fed baby will generally drink seven to eight ounces of formula three to four times a day after beginning solid food.  Amounts will gradually lessen as your child approaches one year.

The Health and Nutrition Institute programs of Michigan State University Extension may be a helpful resource that can also provide you with weekly nutrition classes and the support you need!

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