How–To's of Feeding Baby His or Her First Foods

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Your baby is at least four months old now, and you're sure he or she is ready for more than the breast or the bottle. Now what?

First, Get the Gear

Once your baby is ready for more than breast milk or infant formula, you'll need the following to start:

  • Highchair
  • Small, sturdy plastic bowls
  • Small spoons coated with plastic
  • Bibs with Velcro or snaps
  • Small towels for clean-up (There will be a lot of clean up!)

What to Serve

"Solid" food is a bit of a misnomer, as baby's first foods are more semi-solid in consistency. Runny foods resemble breast milk or infant formula so they help to increase acceptance, and they reduce choking risk because they're easier to swallow.

As your child relies more on food and less on breast milk and infant formula, iron-fortified infant cereals and pureed meats become the best sources of iron. As for his or her very first food, start with iron-fortified rice cereal, or any other single-grain cereal such as oatmeal or barley, as they are considered to be the least allergenic.

To start, mix about one teaspoon of iron-fortified infant rice cereal with four to five teaspoons breast milk or infant formula. The mixture should be cool to lukewarm, but never hot.

While it's traditional to start with infant cereal, you can also serve your child pureed meats as one of his first foods, and then introduce fruit and vegetables. Wait a couple of days before introducing a new food to see if your child is allergic. The first time he eats a food with an allergen he is sensitive to, there will be no outward symptoms. When you wait between new foods, it's easier to pinpoint the food that's causing the reaction.

When to Eat

Starting solids is unfamiliar territory for babies and for his first-time parents.

Think of it this way: Your child is getting accustomed to the spoon and you're trying to figure out how much to feed and what he or she likes to eat, so you're both learning.

The spoon, the bib, and the highchair are new for your baby, so don't spring spoon feeding on him when he's tired, overly hungry, or both. A couple of hours after the first bottle and before the first nap of the day may be the ideal time.

If your child is reluctant to be fed with the spoon, forcing him or her to eat can make both of you tense. Every child is different. Wait a day or two and try again.

The Bottom Line

Your baby's first meals with solid foods are major milestones, but not so much from a nutritional stand point. During the first few days or even weeks, your baby may not eat as much as you think he or she should, but rest assured your little one will eventually eat more. At first, breast milk and infant formula continue to be the main source of nourishment. As time goes on, he or she will require less liquid nutrition and more solid food.


About the Author

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian, a writer, and mother of three. She has worked at the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Heart Association, and for seven years counseled children and adults about healthy eating and disease prevention at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston.

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