Feeding

A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding Your Baby Solids

written by DANA PETERS, R.D.
feeding guide"
feeding guide
Source: Canva
Source: Canva

As a pediatric registered dietitian, I’m used to fielding questions from excited and, at times, somewhat nervous parents about starting solids with their babies. This milestone is one many parents look forward to sharing with their children as food is an integral and cultural part of our lives. While eating feels intuitive to many of us, when it comes to feeding our babies and children, many parents want to know “how do I even start?”. 

There’s certainly no shortage of information out there about feeding solids to your baby—from traditional puree methods to baby-led weaning, homemade baby food enthusiasts to brand-loyal mamas. And while all of this information can be a good thing, it can actually be really confusing for parents to figure out what works best for them. As with pretty much all things in parenting, there is no one right way or one right answer and different methods work for different families and even different kids within families. 

This comprehensive feeding guide breaks down all you need to know about when your baby starts solids, from first bites to finger foods, in a way that best suits your family and lifestyle. 

 

The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Baby Solids

This guide will not only cover all you need to feed your baby solids. Remember—there is no one right way to feed your baby, but a lot of really good ones. And the best one overall is the one that works for your family. 

Keep reading to find out when to introduce solids to your baby, signs your baby is ready for solids, how to go about introducing solids including which foods to choose as well as a sample schedule for feeding baby solids. 

 

 

When to Introduce Solids to Baby

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend starting solids with your baby around 6 months of age. However, age is just one factor when deciding it is time to start solids. Since all babies are not the same, watch for the physical signs listed below and check in with your pediatrician before getting started. 

 

Signs Baby is Ready for Solids

Oftentimes, age takes center stage when it comes to talking about readiness for solid food. However, there are a handful of physical signs your baby should meet before they eat solids. They include: 

  • Sits upright with strong head and neck control 
  • Doesn’t push food or spoon away with tongue 
  • Brings objects to their mouth
  • Shows an interest in food  

 

feeding guide

Source: Canva

 

 

How to Introduce Solids to Baby

The process of starting solids can seem daunting, and if you ask a couple mom friends how to begin, you’ll likely get a couple different answers. That’s because starting solids, like many things baby-related, doesn’t have an exact outline or timeline to follow. Gone are the days when everyone started with rice cereal. Now you can choose traditional purees, baby-led weaning or a combination of both. Either way, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help ensure success for you and your baby!

Start Slow

Learning to eat is a skill that takes practice, time and patience—just like learning to crawl or talk. Start your baby out slowly by offering small portions at one meal a day. Gradually work up to more meals and larger portions. 

Set Up a Safe Eating Space 

Even though it’s tempting to let our babies sit on our laps while they explore food for the first time, the safest place for a baby to eat is in a well-supported high chair. Make sure their back is straight upright and that a caregiver can sit facing the baby. 

Eliminate Distractions

When it’s time to eat, eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off screens, put away toys, and allow your baby time to explore and focus on the food in front of them. 

Sit Down and Eat Together

If possible, sit down and eat with your baby. They learn about eating by watching caregivers enjoy food alongside them. Do your best to be present and, for safety reasons, never leave your baby alone while they are eating. 

Choose Age-Appropriate Foods 

Serving foods safely and in an age-appropriate way should be your top priority. Whether you start with purees or baby-led weaning, make sure foods are soft enough for baby, cut to an appropriate size, and cooked to a safe temperature. 

Offer Foods Without Pressure

Follow your baby’s lead when it comes to how much they eat. Even though they don’t talk, they let us know when they’ve had enough! It can be tempting to encourage “just one more bite,” but allowing your baby to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues sets them up for a lifetime of eating success. 

 

starting solids

Source: Shutterstock

 

What Solids to Start Baby On

There is no one perfect food to start with, but there are a lot of really good choices! Early on, your baby needs nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, protein and healthy fats (among others!), so many parents choose to prioritize foods containing those. Fruits and vegetables are also popular choices and are equally as important to introduce during this time. Lastly, new research recommends serving the top allergen foods to your baby early on unless otherwise told by your pediatrician. 

It’s worth noting that up until one year old, your baby’s main source of nutrition will remain either breast milk or formula. However, introducing solid foods fills some nutrient gaps, helps develop taste preferences as well as strengthen and develop the chewing muscles. 

 

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body to muscles and organs as well as supports brain development in young children. Needs are increased early in life due to rapid growth. In order to make sure your baby is getting enough, try to include an iron-rich food with every meal if possible. 

  • Meat (beef, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Lentils 
  • Tofu
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

 

Protein-Rich Foods

Protein provides the building blocks to support growth and development in babies and young children. Many protein foods are highly-nutrient dense as well, which is important for babies who only eat small amounts of food at a time. 

  • Meat
  • Poultry 
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Nut butter
  • Whole grains

 

Healthy Fats

Don’t skimp on the fat! Babies need fat for energy, to help with nutrient absorption and certain fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for brain development. Easily incorporate fat into your baby’s meals by choosing full-fat dairy products, using olive oil or butter to prepare vegetables and by spreading nut butter thinly on toast or crackers.

  • Avocado
  • Fish
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Butter 
  • Nut butter
  • Eggs

 

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that help promote optimal growth and development. They also provide fiber and early exposure increases the likelihood babies will continue to enjoy fruits and veggies later on in life. 

Most fruits and vegetables can be prepared safely for babies. Try steaming hard, raw produce such as apples or carrots until they are soft enough to be easily squashed between your fingers. Be sure to cut any small, round fruits or veggies such as grapes and cherry tomatoes as they are choking hazards when left whole. Other choking hazards include chewy or sticky foods, hard candies, popcorn, and hot dogs. 

 

Top Allergenic Foods

The current recommendation is to introduce the top allergens early (around 4 to 6 months) to help reduce the risk of food allergies. Talk with your pediatrician to determine if your baby is at a higher risk for a food allergy. Some risk factors include family history of food allergies or eczema. If you can, introduce the following foods early in the day so you can watch for any signs of an allergic reaction. These can include skin reactions (rashes, hives, swelling) or digestive upset (vomiting or diarrhea). If you suspect something is off, contact your pediatrician right away.

  • Dairy 
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts 
  • Sesame 

 

Sample Baby Solids Schedule

When starting solids, it can be helpful to follow a schedule, especially since your baby’s needs are gradually evolving. The following sample schedules can help make sure your baby is getting all the nutrition they need whether they are nursing or bottle feeding along with starting solids. 

feeding schedule

 

Click to Download as a PDF

 

Sample Feeding Schedule – 6 months

6:00 a.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

7:00 a.m.: Breakfast: Avocado puree or avocado toast with sliced strawberries

10:00 a.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

1:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

4:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

7:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

 

Sample Schedule – 9 months 

6:00 a.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

7:00 a.m.: Breakfast: Whole grain waffles with peanut butter (cut into small pieces), chopped bananas 

10:00 a.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

11:00 a.m.: Lunch: Bean pasta with olive oil, steamed broccoli and blueberries

2:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

5:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

6:00 p.m.: Dinner: Shredded chicken breast, roasted sweet potatoes, chopped watermelon

7:00 p.m.: Breastfeed or bottle

 

Sample Feeding Schedule – 12 months 

6:00 am: Breastfeed or cow’s milk/milk alternative 

7:00 am: Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, orange slices (chopped), toast

10:00 am: Morning snack: Whole milk yogurt

12:00 pm: Lunch: Hard-boiled eggs, English muffin, thinly-cut apple slices

3:00 pm: Afternoon snack: Hummus with pretzels, bell pepper slices 

6:00 pm: Dinner: Quesadilla with guacamole, chopped pineapple pieces 

7:00 pm: Breastfeed or cow’s milk/milk alternative 

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