Introducing solids: First foods & textures
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 her lead the way with food. Allow her to decide how much and even whether she wants to eat. 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. Check out our Infant Nutrition: Starting Solids Chart!
Getting Started Any new skill can be frustrating to learn, and eating solid foods is no different. To minimize the challenges, offer your child food when she is hungry, but not ravenous. Your baby’s signs for hunger may include:
- Smiling, gazing, and cooing at you during feeding
- Leaning her body or actively moving her head towards food
- Grabbing at the spoon or a hand holding food
- Attempting to swipe food toward her mouth
- Fussing and crying (provided, of course, you have ruled out other reasons like a full diaper or other discomfort)
Start by offering a small amount of food one to two times per day. It is perfectly normal for your baby to push food out of her mouth while she is learning to handle solids. Remember, your initial goal is to introduce your baby to the new tastes and textures of solid foods. Rest assured, even if she doesn’t do much eating, breastmilk or formula (or a combination) will continue to provide your baby with all of the essential nutrients she needs for the first year of life. Introduce one “single-ingredient” at a time from any food group and wait 2-3 days before introducing a new one. This would allow you to observe for any allergies or intolerances. Consistently exposing your child to a wide variety of healthy, whole foods is key in expanding your baby’s palate. Focus on introducing lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains without worrying so much about the order of the introduction. Babies do naturally like sweet tastes, so letting her experience the real, sometimes bitter taste of vegetables will help her accept them. And if she doesn’t like something at first, don’t worry. Keep offering the food or try preparing it in different ways (sautéed, steamed, roasted or raw) to learn your baby’s preferences. It can sometimes take upwards of 20 tries for a child to accept and enjoy new, unfamiliar foods and flavors, so stick with it! Ideas for First Foods Research shows that the first months of solid food eating is the best window of opportunity to get a child to eat new, healthy foods. Here are some ideas to try (no need to add salt or sugar!):
- Pureed, grated or soft cooked apple, pear or carrots
- Small pieces of ripe, soft banana, avocado, pear, peaches or kiwi
- Soft cooked pureed peas, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes or white potatoes
- Pureed soft cooked meats like chicken, turkey or beef
- Pureed cereals such as rice, barley, oats or quinoa
Advancing Textures Your baby will gradually start eating food more frequently and in greater quantities, eventually eating approximately three meals and two snacks per day. To help you get there, make sure to introduce varied textures of foods. Research shows that waiting beyond nine months to progress to lumpier foods may lead to selective eating and even rejection of alternative food consistencies. So, if you begin feeding your baby purees, be sure to advance to a lumpier consistency once your baby becomes comfortable. When your baby has mastered thick and lumpy purees, move on to finger foods of various consistencies and sizes. By the end of your child’s first year she will most likely be able to sit at the family table and feed herself soft finger foods. Examples of advancing textures include:
- Slivers or finely chopped pieces of soft cooked meat, like soup chicken or ground meat in a broth or mild sauce
- Cubes, strings, or small pieces of cheese
- Cooked whole grain pasta with some butter, olive oil, parmesan or ricotta cheese
- Cooked whole grains, like barley, oats, or quinoa
- Whole-grain bread or waffle strips
Knowing When To Take a Break Just as you learned your baby’s signs for hunger, be mindful of her cues for fullness. Look for these signals to learn when your baby is all done:
- Pursing her lips or closing her mouth
- Turning or moving her head away from the approaching spoon or a hand holding food
- Leaning her 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 her
- Spitting out the food or stopping eating altogether
Foods to Avoid Avoid feeding your baby these specific foods in the first year:
- Honey due to the risk of botulism spores
- Whole milk due to the risk of iron deficiency and intestinal bleeding when given before 9 months
- Excess sodium and added sugars
- Foods that are dietary choking hazards such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, raisins and dried cranberries, 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.
- Coffee, tea and cola drinks containing caffeine which can make babies and children irritable
- Babies under 1 year should not have fruit juice. Children aged 1-3 years should have no more than 4 oz of 100% fruit juice (may be diluted with water)
What to do
- Start by offering a small amount of food one to two times per day. Offering approximately 1-2 tablespoons of food at each feeding should be sufficient.Introduce one “single-ingredient” at a time from any food group and wait 2-3 days before introducing a new one. This would allow you to observe for any allergies or intolerances.
- Offer foods when your baby is hungry but not starving. Aim to offer solid foods about an hour after your baby nurses or takes a bottle.
- 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 her hair, let your baby have fun with food!
- Never force feed your baby. Pay attention to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, and she will eat when she is ready.
- Offer a variety of healthy foods across all food groups. Provide your baby with many opportunities to try different foods and continue to re-introduce foods she may have previously disliked.
- Introduce and advance to different textures of food. When your baby becomes comfortable with a specific texture, make sure to advance to the next stage. If you begin with pureed foods, move next to lumpy purees, then to soft finger foods, and finally to firmer finger foods. Offer your baby water in a sippy cup or regular cup when offering solids. 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. It’s never too early to start fostering a healthy relationship with food.