Introducing solids: First foods & textures
Read time: 8 minutes
What to know about starting your baby on solid foods:
- Let your baby lead the way with food
- Learn your baby’s cues for hunger and fullness
- Offer a wide variety of flavors and textures
- Avoid certain foods in the first year
Starting solids is an exciting milestone and huge transition in your baby’s first year. When your baby seems ready (for most babies, at around six months), it’s important to let them lead the way with food.1
Allow your little one to decide how much and even whether they want to eat.2 Keep in mind that erratic eating patterns are perfectly normal. Just like you, your baby may be very hungry one day and less hungry the next. By being mindful of your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, you’ll both learn together.3
Read more: Starting Solids: Signs of Readiness
Getting Started: How much should I feed my baby?
Remember, your initial goal is to introduce your baby to the new tastes and textures of solid foods. At first these foods will not contribute many calories. Rest assured, even if baby doesn’t do much eating, breastmilk or formula (or a combination) will continue to provide your little one with most of the nutrition they need for the first year of life.7, 8
Single ingredient foods first
Introduce one “single-ingredient” food at a time from any food group and wait 2-3 days before introducing a new one.1 This would allow you to observe for any allergies or intolerances. During this time you can continue to offer all other foods that you know your little one can already tolerate.
Learn more: Starting Solids Food Chart
Gradually increase the variety and amount of food you feed your baby
Consistently exposing your child to a wide variety of healthy foods is key in expanding your baby’s palate.9 Focus on introducing lots of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and whole grains in the texture your baby can handle without worrying so much about the order of the introduction.10, 11
Babies do naturally like sweet tastes, so letting them experience the real and sometimes bitter taste of vegetables – repeatedly – can help your little one to accept these foods.12,13 If your baby doesn’t like something at first, don’t worry. It can sometimes take more than 10 tries for a child to accept and enjoy new or disliked foods and flavors, so stick with it!13, 14
Read more: Learning to Love Healthy Foods
Baby’s first foods
Research shows that the first few months of solid food eating is the best window of opportunity to get a child to eat new, healthy foods.9,13 When first introducing foods to your little one, you may choose to cook and puree foods, or gently mash soft foods. Prepared baby purees are also an option.
Here are some first foods to try with your baby:
- Peeled, soft cooked, pureed or mashed apple, pear, carrots, or butternut squash
- Mashed, peeled, ripe banana, avocado, pear, peaches, or kiwi
- Soft cooked (peeled when needed) pureed peas, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, or white potatoes
- Pureed soft cooked proteins like fish, tofu, beans, chicken, turkey, or beef
- Pureed cereals such as rice, barley, oats, or quinoa
- Plain whole milk yogurt blended with fruit
Don’t delay: Advance food textures as soon as your baby is ready
Once your baby is eating more and doing well with purees, it’s important to advance to more solid textures. Research shows that waiting beyond nine or ten months to progress to lumpier foods may lead to selective eating and even rejection of food consistencies other than purees.15,16, 17
If you began feeding your baby purees, be sure to advance to a thicker, lumpier consistency once your baby is ready.
When your baby has mastered thick and lumpy purees, move on to soft finger foods.
Make sure that anything you feed your baby can be easily smushed between your fingers. This way you know your little one will be able to ‘gum’ their food, even if they do not have many or any teeth.15
By the end of your child’s first year they will most likely be able to sit at the family table and feed themself soft finger foods.18
Examples of foods with more texture include:
- Slivers or finely chopped pieces of soft cooked meat, like soup chicken or ground meat in a broth or mild sauce.
- Scrambled eggs
- Strings, pea-sized soft cubes, or small pieces of cheese
- Over-cooked whole grain pasta with some butter, olive oil, parmesan, or ricotta cheese
- Cooked whole grains, like barley, oats, or quinoa
- Cubes or strips of roasted or steamed vegetables: Sweet potato, squash, zucchini, green beans, and asparagus tips.
- Small chunks of soft avocado, banana, and over-ripe peaches.
- Whole-grain bread or waffle strips
Read more: Meal Plan for 6 to 9 Month Old Baby
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods pose a health risk while others pose a choking risk.
Foods to avoid during the first year of life:
- Honey due to the risk of botulism spores20
- Whole milk due to the risk of iron deficiency and intestinal bleeding when given in large amounts during infancy.21 (Note that feeding your baby yogurt or using whole milk in recipes is perfectly safe as long as they do not have a milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance).
- Added sugar and salt (Do not add sugar or salt to foods).22
- Choking Hazards such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, popcorn, whole grapes and cherry tomatoes, whole kernel corn, olives, hot dogs; hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots; chunks of meat or poultry; hard candy, gum drops and jelly beans.23, 24
- Caffeine-containing foods such as coffee, tea and cola drinks which can make babies and children irritable.25
- Fruit juice. Babies under 1 year should not have fruit juice.26 Children aged 1-3 years should have no more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice (may be diluted with water) 26
Learn about: Preventing Choking in Infants and Toddlers
Tips on how to get your baby started on solid foods
Allow your child to learn to eat by experimentation
Even if this means playing with the food; throwing most (or all) of the food on the floor; tasting the food only to then spit it out; and even smearing the food in their hair – let your baby have fun with food! It’s messy but will help your little one learn to feed themselves as well as be more likely to taste a new food you’ve provided.29
Read more: Teaching Your Baby to Self-Feed
Follow your baby’s hunger and fullness cues
Any new skill can be frustrating to learn, and eating solid foods is no different. To minimize the challenges, offer your child food when they are showing signs of hunger, but are not ravenous. 1, 4 , 5 A child that is too hungry may not have the patience to practice eating solids.
Your baby’s hunger cues:
- Smiling, gazing, and cooing at you during feeding
- Leaning their body or actively moving their head towards food
- Grabbing at the spoon or a hand holding food
- Attempting to swipe food toward their mouth
- Fussing and crying (provided, of course, you have ruled out other reasons like a full diaper or other discomfort). This is a late sign of hunger. Your little one may be too hungry at this point and may prefer breastmilk or formula over solids to fill their bellies quickly. 1, 4 , 5
It’s important to practice responsive feeding: Feeding your little one when they indicate hungry and stopping when they’re full. Let baby decide how much food they want to eat. Don’t try to get in one more bite!
This is the time your little one is learning to listen to their body and to stop eating when they are full. Forcing your little one to eat when they don’t want to may have unintended consequences, such as overriding your baby’s internal hunger and fullness cues or developing unhealthy eating habits.28, 19
Your baby’s fullness cues:
- Pursing their lips or closing their mouth
- Turning or moving their head away from the approaching spoon or a hand holding food
- Leaning their body away from the advancing spoon or hand with food
- Acting uninterested or wanting to avoid the food entirely
- Becoming easily distracted from the food in front of them
- Spitting out the food or stopping eating altogether
- Throwing food onto the ground or play with the food28, 19
Start practicing the Division of Responsibility
When it comes to feeding your little one, the Division of Responsibility (DOR) can help take the stress out of mealtime.
- Your job in the DOR is to provide healthy foods, at a table or highchair, and at specific meal and snack times.
- Your child’s job is to decide how much of each food to eat… and whether they will eat it at all.30
This strategy can be used beyond infancy into childhood to help keep peace at the table and help prevent picky eating.31
Let baby practice with utensils and cups
Start offering a small amount of water in a sippy cup or soft infant cup (only a few ounces per day total) to allow your little one to practice. This will help them build their fine motor skills as well as get them used to drinking water.32
Provide baby spoons and forks and let your little one have fun.33 At first it may be just something to play with, but eventually they will get the hang of it!
Include your baby in family meals
From the beginning, expose your baby to a variety of healthy food choices and appropriate mealtime behavior.34 It’s never too early to start fostering a healthy relationship with food. Turn off the TV and any other distractions and allow everyone to focus on their food and each other.35
Read more: Family Meals: Healthy Eating Patterns
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