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What Are The Best First Foods For Baby & When Do We Start Solids?

Your baby starting solids is such an exciting time! It's messy, and can be frustrating at times, but this is a major milestone that many parents look forward to as their babies grow. But being excited to start solids and knowing how and when to start them are two very different things. Here's what you need to know about getting started, transitioning from bottle or breast to solids, and finding the best foods for your growing baby.

Weaning From Breastfeeding/Bottle Feeding

Don't think that because your baby is starting solids, it's time to wean completely from the breast or bottle. For babies between the ages of 4-6 months, all of their calories and nutrition should still come from formula or breast milk - solids should be used to complement breast milk and formula feedings, not replace them. From 7-10 months, your baby will still be getting the majority of their calories from liquids, and you should be using solids to get them used to new flavors, foods, and textures. At around 9 months old, your baby should be eating 20-28 ounces of formula or breast milk every 3-4 hours. By 12 months, they will wean to about 16-24 ounces every 4-5 hours.

When To Start First Foods

You can introduce solids as soon as your baby had mastered some important developmental skills, like being able to sit upright and hold their own head up, exhibiting a curiosity in the world around them, and losing the tongue thrust reflex. This usually happens between 4-6 months of age, but many parents choose to introduce solids for the first time between 5-6 months old. Of course, it will all depend on your baby. But don't introduce solids before 4 months of age, per the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. And always check with your pediatrician before getting started.

Baby food from beets on the table against the background of toys. Selective focus.
Credit: iStock

Getting Started And Best Foods

Before introducing solids, settle on a feeding schedule that complements their breast or bottle schedule. Between 4-6 months, you'll probably feed your baby two solid meals, after their bottle or nursing, amounting to approximately 2-4 tablespoons each meal. Between 7-12 months, you can continue with the two after-liquid meals, and add a third meal. They should be eating meals the size of a baby's fist during this time. Choose a time when your baby is most alert and happy to introduce solids initially. As they get used to this new way of eating, you can adjust the meal times as needed (doing a morning, afternoon, and evening meal, for example).

You have a lot of options when it comes to deciding on your baby's first foods! A lot of parents choose to start with a cereal with formula or breast milk mixed in. Baby cereal is an easy training food, and the addition of breast milk or formula makes the flavor a bit more familiar for them. But you don't have to start with cereal! You can also start with pureed fruits, vegetables, and even meats. Look for foods that are easily mashed or pureed into an appropriate consistency (no chunks and nothing too thick), like avocado, banana, carrot, or sweet potato. Green beans and butternut squash are also great first foods. And contrary to popular belief, introducing fruits before veggies isn't going to turn your baby into a sugar fiend. There's absolutely no research to back that up, so feel free to start with a fruit like apples, pears, or bananas.

Experts used to recommend waiting 3-5 days between new foods, to see if your baby has any kind of reaction. And if your baby is at high-risk for food allergies, then that's still the best course of action. But if you want your baby to learn to like new foods and flavors, you can introduce foods faster. Just try to stick with isolated foods (so don't combine two foods into one puree, for example). You could safely give your child sweet potato, avocado, and banana on the same day, for example, since it would be easy to pinpoint any sort of reaction.

READ NEXT: Study Finds Babies Who Start Solids Before 6 Months May Sleep Better

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