Baby Nutrition: Introducing Solid Foods

By Brenda Schwerdt St. Luke’s Clinical Dietician

One of the most exciting milestones in a baby’s first year is the introduction of solid foods. It can also be a delight to watch your child explore new foods, flavors and textures. However, knowing when the time is right for this introduction can be tricky.

Your newborn has everything they need from breast milk or formula, and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first six months after birth. However, most babies will begin eating solid food between four and seven months as a complement to breastmilk or formula. The true measure of when your child is ready comes from physical cues — not their age.

If your child can sit upright, stick out their tongue and loves watching you eat, it’s time. Below are a few tips on how to introduce solid foods into your child’s diet.

Bland or bitter?

The first solids a baby is introduced to should be pureed and free of lumps and chunks. Beyond that, the choice of which foods to introduce is up to parents. In America, rice cereals are the food of choice. The consistency is easy to control, and they are typically fortified with the nutrients babies need.

However, new research suggests that parents could also lead with pureed vegetables in an effort to introduce new flavors to a child’s palette early – especially bitter ones like broccoli. This can help develop a taste for a broad range of foods.

Start slow

Whatever you choose, start slow. Introduce one new food group at a time, waiting two or three days before introducing another. This will give your child’s system enough time to let you know if there are any potential issues or allergies with that particular food.

Keep in mind that not all food allergies manifest in the same way. Watch out for everything from skin irritations to head cold symptoms (stuffy nose and watery eyes). If your family has a history of any particular food allergies, discuss this with your primary care provider.

Expect changes to the frequency and consistency of your child’s stool. Introducing new foods may confuse the GI tract at first. Babies can get bloated, constipated or spit up more than usual. Use your judgment — if it seems like a particularly strong reaction, call your primary care provider.

Level up

Some major baby food companies have removed age guidelines on product labels and replaced them with physical milestones such as “sitter,” “crawler” and “walker.” These are much more accurate, and serve as a good guide as you continue to expand your baby’s diet.

Since no one knows your child better than you, your own instincts are the best gauge. Feel free to experiment with foods and textures within general guidelines mentioned above. As your child develops the ability to mash foods with their gums or as teeth begin to sprout, introduce small pieces of foods, such as cheese, soft veggies and fruit, and crumbly crackers that dissolve easily. Soft, cooked meats or fish can be tried as well.

If you have any additional questions or concerns about any aspect of introducing new foods to your baby’s diet, contact your primary care provider.

Before you know it, you’ll be making your child a plate of the same dinner you’re having. Then you’ll watch in both delight and horror as some gets in your child’s mouth and most ends up on the walls and floor!

St. Luke’s Birthing Center is located in Duluth, MN, with St. Luke’s clinics in the surrounding region, including Superior, WI. To schedule a tour of St. Luke’s Birthing Center, call 218.249.5605.

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