Introducing your baby to foods other than breast milk and formula is exciting, but can also be confusing, scary and even a little frustrating. Fortunately, Kristen Knuf-Clements, Clinical Dietitian at Renown Health, offers tips and advice in a quarterly class about starting your baby on solid foods.
How do you know if your baby is ready to start eating foods other than breast milk or formula? There are some easy signs to look for to see if pureed vegetables are in your near future.
Your little one might be ready for solid foods if he or she:
- Confidently holds up neck and head
- Props him or herself up on their arms while laying on their tummy
- Watches intently while you eat
- Reaches for food
- Can sit with support
When are babies generally ready for solid foods?
Most babies are ready to start eating purees between four and six months of age. At six months, some infants are even ready for a little texture.
However, if your child was born prematurely, take that into consideration. For example, if the infant was a month early, start time may be 5-7 months. Of course, every child is different, so watch for the signs of readiness listed above and speak with your child’s care providers if you have any questions or concerns.
Starting to experiment with food before your child turns one is essential for baby’s development. Presenting solid foods that the baby can pick up can improve your child’s fine motor skills as they learn to use the pincher grasp to hold food and raise it to their mouths.
Introducing solid food provides an increased energy intake. It also can make them more accepting of a wide array of flavors which may result in being a less picky eater later on. It also ensures they’re getting enough iron and other required nutrients in their diet.
It’s important to remember that babies should receive the majority of their nutrition, calories and hydration from breast milk or formula for the first year. At first, solid foods are a small supplement that enhances their development – they aren’t a requirement. So don’t worry if your baby makes a big mess, spits out their food or outright refuses to eat it. They are still getting the nutrition they need from breast milk and formula. By around 9 months of age, intake of food starts to increase, and as your baby approaches one year, food becomes the primary source of nutrition while breast milk and formula take a back seat.
If your baby refuses a feeding, don’t force it. Simply keep experimenting with different flavors and textures of food. You can also experiment with the food delivery methods: some children prefer to feed themselves while others enjoy being spoon-fed. And be sure to continue providing breast milk and formula until your pediatrician says they are ready to switch to other forms of milk.