The Early Days Feeding Baby Food

Tips for Starting Solids

Beginning your baby on solid food is exciting! Little spoons, pink-lipped mouths covered in baby food, and the delighted giggles of a baby who loves mashed bananas are endearing to any adult with half of a heart.

Before you rush to begin feeding baby food to your little one, here are some tips to ensure a positive experience for both you and your baby.


Speak With Your Pediatrician First

Doctor and nurse examining baby in doctor's office

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When it comes to starting your baby on solids, there can be differing opinions on the topic depending on whom you ask. Should you start when they are 4 months or 6 months old (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics)? Do you begin with fruits or veggies? Do you start with purées or skip purées? Should you start your baby with infant cereal or skip it?

The topic can be very confusing. Before you trade in your bottles and burp cloths for jars and bibs, have a chat with your pediatrician. Ask them to clearly explain their opinion on:

Your pediatrician should also be able to offer advice, answer any questions you have, and provide you with resources to support you on your feeding journey.


Feeding Baby Food Can Be Easier With the Right Equipment

Whether you are starting with purées, soft foods, or a combo, it's a good idea to prepare some simple tools and strategies in advance to make sure that you and your baby are supported. Here are some places to start:

  • Several days before they start solids, let your baby take the high chair out for a test drive. Allow them to become used to sitting in the chair, and be sure that they can sit up with little support.
  • Use a small plastic bowl and a plastic baby spoon, which is gentler on the gums compare to metal ones.
  • To prevent spoon tug-of-war, give your baby a spoon of their own to play with during the meal. In the beginning, they'll be lucky to get food into their mouth with their own spoon, so expect that you will need to do the bulk of the feeding. If you're using baby-led weaning, your baby likely won't use a utensil for food. Still, it's important for your baby to play with utensils and get used to them. You can also offer them "Pre-loaded" spoons—spoons that have a small bit of puréed food already on them—that your baby can practice picking up and taking to their mouth.

Let Your Baby Play With His Food

Through the years, the words “Don’t play with your food!” have echoed in many a dining room. Playing with their food allows babies and children to experience the texture, smell, and appearance of food. This can make the food less intimidating and more interesting to the baby.

Remember, so much of this is new to your baby! Food is really, really interesting to them and they want to explore it. Before you offer a new food, consider giving your baby some time to use their hands to explore ("play with") the food.

Place a little bit on their tray and allow them to explore. This will get them used to the smell, texture, and taste. Don’t worry—like everything else your baby gets into, the food will eventually find its way into their mouth.


Start the Meal When Your Baby Is Happy and Slightly Hungry

Did you ever notice when you get overly hungry or tired, you feel uncooperative and grumpy? Or when you are full, food has no appeal? You can expect the same of your baby.

Time the feeding so that your baby is happy, alert, and at just the right hunger level—not too hungry, but not too full. You may wish to start the meal with just a small amount of infant formula or breastmilk to whet their appetite, and then move on to the main course.


Keep Introducing Rejected Foods

Imagine that you've just unsuccessfully attempted to give your baby a meal of blended sweet potatoes. The result was either a closed mouth or a mouth that spewed orange goo at you. Do not assume that just because your baby rejected the food that it was a waste of time (and sweet potato). Try it again.

Part of starting solids is simply getting your baby accustomed to different textures and flavors. Remember that just seeing and touching a new food is an exposure that can bring your baby closer to accepting that food. This is a great practice for feeding toddlers, too.


Be Mindful of Food Allergies

A potentially serious aspect of first feedings is food allergies. Severe allergic reactions, such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling, usually take effect within minutes to a few hours after ingestion. Less severe reactions can take several days to appear and can include eczema, diarrhea, or constipation.

Reactions can also be delayed. Some pediatricians recommend waiting 2 to 4 days before introducing another new food. Although, this reduces the number of new food exposures your baby gets. It's important to speak to your pediatrician about what they recommend for your infant.

Keeping a simple journal of your feedings may help uncover a pattern should problems arise. Additionally, if making your own baby food be sure to know what to watch for with nitrate poisoning.

Though it was once recommended that certain foods be delayed even longer for fear of developing allergies, that no longer is the case. 


Watch for Feeding Cues

You want your baby to feel heard, seen, and learn to self-regulate their feeding. When babies are forced to have bites of food even when giving cues that they do not want to eat, it sends the message that their internal cues aren't respected.

Remember: your baby can’t speak up and say, “Enough with the puréed peas already!” It becomes essential for you as a parent to learn the subtle ways your baby communicates that they have had their fill.

For example, it is likely time to end the feeding when your baby turns their head away, clamps their mouth shut, grows fussy, or throws food.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.