Baby’s First Foods: A Guide to What Babies Eat and When

A baby’s first solid foods are exciting for most parents. Sure, they’re messy, but it means less time spent behind a pump or feeding bottles. It also means more flexibility in your baby’s meals and schedule. Whether it’s homemade baby food or out of the jar, there are recommended first solids for babies. Additionally, there are some foods you should avoid altogether until your baby has turned one.

Free Close Up Photo of a Mother Feeding Her Baby Stock Photo

And despite what you might have heard, there is no truth to the myth that adding baby cereal to your little one’s bottle will make them sleep through the night sooner. Your baby will sleep through the night when they’re developmentally ready, usually between five and six months. However, things that will help your baby sleep through the night are a consistent bedtime routine and time, learning to self-soothe, and putting them to bed while still awake. Learn more about safe sleep habits by reading our blog Safe Sleep and Preventing SIDS: Tips for the first year of life.

This blog examines when infants should begin solids, what solids to try first, foods to avoid, and signs of allergies to food intolerance. So read on to discover everything you need to know about starting your little one on solid food!

When Should My Baby Start Solids?

Like most developmental milestones, starting solids is a spectrum. However, most babies are ready to begin solid foods at six months. Some parents begin solids as early as four months; however, it isn’t necessary. Your infant gets everything they need nutritionally from breastmilk or infant formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that parents should not introduce solids before four months old. Once your child is between four and six months old, look for signs of readiness indicating they might be ready!

a baby is holding a napkin in his mouth

Signs of Readiness to Begin Solids

  • Sits up alone or with support.
  • Can control head and neck.
  • They open their mouth when food is offered.
  • Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
  • Brings objects to the mouth.
  • Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
  • Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.

What Should My Baby’s First Foods Be?

There is no food that must be first. However, most parents start with baby cereal. Standard baby cereal is rice cereal. However, if the only solid you are feeding is cereal, offer your baby a variety of cereals, including oats, barley, and multigrain, and ensure they are fortified infant cereals. Baby cereal has a consistency similar to cream of wheat and is very bland. So once your baby has begun eating solids, you may wish to mix in some fruit purees like apricots, plums, and bananas!

The APA says there is no specific order of foods you should offer your baby. However, you should offer only one new food at a time. You can watch for signs of allergic reaction or intolerance by offering new foods one at a time. Offer your baby a single-ingredient food, such as peach puree. Then, wait 3-5 days before introducing the next food. If there are no signs of allergies, offer a new single-ingredient food. Keep adding on single-ingredient foods until you’ve covered the rainbow!

Signs of Food Allergies in Babies

  • Itchy, watery, or swelling eyes
  • Stuffy, runny, or itchy nose
  • Swelling or itching in the mouth
  • Hoarse voice, coughing, swelling in the throat
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing when breathing
  • Low blood pressure, pale skin, or loss of consciousness
  • Nause, diarrhea, vomiting, reflux, abdominal pain
  • Hives, itchy skin, eczema

Food allergies can be scary for parents, but most reactions to foods show up quickly and are mild. If your baby shows a severe allergic reaction to a food called anaphylaxis, call 9-1-1. While rare in infants, signs of anaphylaxis include wheezing and gasping for breath, swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat, loss of consciousness, or pale or flushed skin.

Mild food allergies or food intolerance can also present as colic. Colic is hard to diagnose or define because infants cry often in the first several months of life. However, colic is generally described using a 3-3-3 rule. Doctors diagnose colic as crying that lasts three or more hours, three or more days a week, for three months or more.

Signs of colic include:

  • Intense crying that may seem more like screaming or an expression of pain
  • Crying for no apparent reason, unlike crying to express hunger or the need for a diaper change
  • Extreme fussiness, even after crying, has diminished
  • Predictable timing, with episodes often occurring in the evening
  • Facial discoloring, such as skin flushing or blushing
  • Body tension, such as pulled up or stiffened legs, stiffened arms, clenched fists, arched back, or tense abdomen

Foods to Avoid Until After Your Baby Is One

Because some foods are more prone to cause allergic reactions in babies or are not safe, like honey, there are some foods babies should not be exposed to until after they’ve turned one year old.

  • Cow’s milk (as a beverage)
  • Fortified soy drinks
  • Honey
  • Peanut butter

Potential food allergens such as dairy in yogurt, eggs, wheat, shellfish, and foods containing peanut or tree nut ingredients can be introduced before age one. Be sure when offering potential allergens you follow the one new food at a time rule. However, if food allergies run in your family, it is wise to have your baby allergy tested before offering any potential allergens.

Before age one, you should also avoid chunks of fruit or uncooked vegetables, cheese, and fruit juice. Any non-pureed foods you offer your baby, such as diced-up strawberries or peaches, should be no bigger than a pea to prevent choking.

Takeaway

Giving your baby their first food is exciting, but there is no need to rush to feed solids. Observe your baby for signs of readiness, like holding their head and neck up, showing an interest in food, and waiting until they are at least four months old. When they’re ready, offer one new food every three to five days to rule out food allergies and build a colorful diet one new food at a time! Before you know it, your little one will be grabbing the spoon, feeding themself, and covering themselves head to toe in apricots and peas!

September 29, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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