Are you spending more time thinking about first foods for baby than you ever have on your own diet?
Welcome to mamahood.
Up to this point, your baby’s been quite happy to exist on a diet of formula and/or breast milk.
And now this demanding customer is suddenly wanting the finer things in life – cereal, soft carrots, avocado… When does it end?!
If you’re searching for the best first foods for baby, congratulations! You’re on the cusp of a fun (and messy) milestone. 🎉
In this article: 📝
- When do babies start eating baby food?
- What are signs of readiness for baby food?
- Can I start my 4 month old on baby food?
- How do I start my 6 month old on baby food?
- What baby food should I introduce first?
- What are the best first finger foods for baby?
- What solids should baby avoid?
When do babies start eating baby food?
The CDC recommends an exclusively liquid diet (breast milk or formula) for the first 6 months of your baby’s life, and continuing breast milk/formula while introducing solid foods until baby is at least 12 months old.
Starting around six months, you can slowly begin introducing bits and bobs to complement their milky meals. 🍼+🍐=💗
“I recommend offering milk BEFORE solids,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Kacie Barnes, “so that we’re sure they’re getting adequate nutrition from the milk and they aren’t frustrated and hangry by solids time (because they aren’t very efficient at eating towards the start).
So how do you know if they’re ready for some solid snacking?
Let’s take a look:
What are signs of readiness for baby food?
Babies are actually pretty good at letting you know when they’re up for something more solid—so your best bet is, as far as possible, let ‘em lead.
Pushing too hard here can lead to food fussiness later on.
That being said, waiting too late can also have implications for them like making it harder to kick the bottle or breast when you feel ready.
If you feel like you’re ready to give solids a go, take a quick look through this checklist:
- Can they hold themselves up in a seated position? “Supported sitting is okay,” says Barnes, “we just want to see good head and trunk control.”
- Can they hold their heads up high?
- Do they seem to want to put absolutely every object into their mouths? (Yes, this is a good sign)
- Have they got rid of that weird tongue-thrust reflex that pushes everything out of their mouths?
- Can they OPEN WIDE?
- And lastly, do they want it? They’ll probably let you know that they’re pretty keen by lunging at your snacks and opening their mouths. Subtle.
So, bottom line: start introducing the idea around six months and if they’re into it, awesome.
If they’re not, patience.
Watching their mood at mealtimes is a very good indicator.
Next question: if the readiness is there, how do you actually do it?
Can I start my 4 month old on baby food?
In most cases, it’s best to wait until closer to six months to introduce solids.
“I really don’t recommend solids this early,” says Barnes.
“You could offer some tastes here and there but I’d limit it to one, maybe two mealtimes per day, and really still keep the focus on breast milk/formula exclusively.
I know it is exciting to move to the next stage of feeding solids and you may be eager to get there, but they still are getting 100% of their needs met through breast milk/formula and there’s no clear advantage to starting solids at 4 months.
The one exception is for children who are at high risk for certain food allergies, where early introduction may be recommended by the allergist.”
How do I start my 6 month old on baby food?
Because breast milk/formula is still going to be their staple, the trick is to work the solid infusion into our pre-existing feeding schedule.
There’s no exact science to this, and every baby-mama combo is different – but here’s a sample Day in the Life of Introducing Solids:
- First thing in the morning: Breast/bottle feed as soon as they wake up in the morning. (Hopefully not too early for your sake.)
- Breakfast: If they’re big drinkers, try offering a small solid snack before their milk feed. If they’re not big drinkers, offer the milk before the snack.
- Lunch: Repeat as per breakfast.
- Afternoon snack: Repeat as per lunch.
- Dinner: Repeat as per snack time.
- Bedtime: It’s bottle/breast time.
Remember, for infants, solid food is all just an add-on to their main diet of breast milk/formula.
The scales will start to tip in favor of solids around 9+ months.
If your baby is nine months or younger, continue to feed them in the region of 20 to 28 ounces (total) of breast milk/formula every four hours or so.
Listen to your baby. Figure out what works for the two of you.
If you’re worried about anything, give your healthcare practitioner a shout.
So what are the best first foods for a baby? Here are some ideas of what could be on your menu.
What baby food should I introduce first?
Think simple foods, one at a time:
1. Simple foods
As in one ingredient only (you can add breast milk/formula to thin out the puree, if you want).
And because that tiny digestive system is still getting used to life on this planet, steer clear of additives, including salt and sugar.
2. One at a time for allergens
“We recommend the “one at a time” approach WHEN you’re introducing an allergen,” recommends Barnes, “but other than that, it’s okay to have multiple ingredients (like avocado and hemp seeds)”.
Wait a few days.
Try the next one.
Just to make sure no reactions like baby rashes or stomach issues occur.
Here what’s on the menu when starting on solids:
Baby cereal 🌾
Mix a simple grain (like whole grain or oat) with a small amount of breast milk, formula, or water to create a thin creamy consistency.
“We no longer recommend starting with rice cereal,” says Barnes, “you can make your own grain porridge or oatmeal, but rice cereal is not the best first food.”
And that’s it!
Pro tip: soft spoons go a long way to making the whole experience more comfortable for them.
Most baby cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals that your baby needs, like iron, B9 (folic acid), and C.
Fruit and veg 🍠🍐
Pureed and one at a time (to rule out allergies).
No need to add anything to them.
So what vegetables should baby eat first?
Think options that can be softened up easily.
Carrots, yams, butternut squash, avocado, plantain, pear, beats, beans, and banana all make great options.
And voila. Dinner is served.
(A word of caution: this whole operation can get quite messy. Bib up your baby – and yourself, if necessary.)
Psst, if you’re after some fresh, frozen healthy baby meals directly to your door, you can get 25% off your first 3 boxes of Mamamade purees with the code PEANUT25. Shop here.
What are the best first finger foods for baby?
Around 9 to 10 months, they’ll be getting their pincer action on and will be able to hold some food themselves.
That’s when you can get going with finger foods which allow you to sit back and relax (haha) while they dine.
Some of the best first finger foods for baby are tiny bits of soft protein (meat, chicken, tofu, eggs), pasta, bread, baby crackers, cheerios – and any of the fruit and veg that you’ve already been giving them.
Make sure the pieces are small enough to not be a choking hazard.
“Or large enough,” says Barnes.
“In baby-led weaning (BLW), you actually want to serve large wedges or spears of things so that baby can grip and gnaw on them because they are not likely to bite off dangerous pieces.
Small pieces can be harder for them to navigate (unless they are smaller than could cause an obstruction).”
What solids should baby avoid?
Until your baby is a year old, avoid giving them cow’s milk, juice, and honey, as well as anything that could cause them to choke (nuts, raisins, hot dogs, etc.).
“Cow’s milk is okay to thin out oatmeal or something,” adds Barnes, “but not as a drink on its own.”
Also a friendly reminder, “choking hazards like hot dogs are choking hazards until age 4 and should be sliced long ways (and more ways for younger eaters).
If your little one doesn’t seem too keen on the nosh you’ve so painstakingly prepared, don’t take it personally.
The whole thing is very new to them too.
It’s totally fine to abandon ship and try again the next day.
Giving them some power over what goes into their bodies is a great way to kickstart their relationship with food.
For more on this, here are the ins and outs of baby-led weaning.
Mealtimes are where some of your best memories are going to be made – just ask the mamas on Peanut.
You’ll even enjoy decorating your kitchen floor together in shades of avocado green and oatmeal beige. Mmm…