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Introducing Solids To Infants - A Complete Guide

April 29, 2021 4 min read

Just a Bite:

Infants should start trying solids, including potential allergens, when they are developmentally ready around 4-6 months of age. Once they show signs of readiness, introduce a variety of foods, textures, and tastes to help your little one be an adventurous eater. 

The Whole Dish:

Introducing new foods to your baby should be an exciting time. There are new textures, different tastes, and a variety of foods to explore. However at times, figuring out what to feed and how to do it can feel complicated and intimidating.

SpoonfulONE is here to help you get started with tips on how to introduce new foods to your baby in a safe way.

New USDA Guidelines - Evolving Food Recommendations

For the first time in history, the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines provide recommendations for all life stages, including infants and toddlers. 

These dietary guidelines now give parents a new and authoritative source when it comes to their little one’s healthy eating habits, giving parents a roadmap of easy and achievable ways to feed their baby the best way.

What Age Should Infants Start Solids?

It is widely accepted that once your child reaches 4-6 months of age, they are developmentally ready to start eating solids. Some of these signs of readiness include:

  • Gross Motor Skills: Able to sit up without support, and maintain great head control while sitting
  • Reflexes: Loss of the tongue-thrust reflex so they don’t automatically push food out of their mouth 
  • Interest: Follows food with their eyes and shows eagerness and interest 
  • Coordination: Opens their mouth wide when you offer food on a spoon

Once your child reaches these milestones, they will have some of the foundational skills needed to start eating solid foods safely. 

It is important to note that just because your baby will be starting solids, that does not make them a replacement for breast milk or formula, which should be your child’s primary source of nutrition until they are at least one year old.  

Introducing Food Allergens Early

4-6 months also acts as the critical window to introduce infants to potentially allergenic foods along with other complementary foods. 

And according to the LEAP study, introducing peanut-containing foods in the first year reduces the risk that an infant will develop a food allergy to peanuts.

And the same goes for other food allergens. Introducing common allergens regularly, like peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, soy, and sesame ensures diet diversity and thriving tummies for your little ones as they grow.

But it’s important to remember that “one bite” exposure to these allergens is not enough. In fact, regular and consistent exposure to common allergens in the diet throughout early childhood is key to training immune cells.

Furthermore, the AAP states that, “New research has shown that it is safe to start multiple foods at once. Within two or three months, your baby’s daily diet should include breast milk, iron-fortified whole-grain cereals, vegetables, meats (including fish), eggs, fruits, and nut butters (but never whole nuts) distributed among three meals.”

How To Start Solids With Babies

If your baby is ready to try solids and delicious baby snacks, a variety of foods, textures, and tastes is necessary to help build excited, adventurous eaters and can even help prevent picky eaters. Just as you introduce fruits and vegetables, you should be introducing common allergens in a safe way (like shellfish, sesame, egg, and milk!).

Food should always be age-appropriate and the right consistency. When introducing first foods, here are some to avoid:

  • Do not serve raw meats or eggs to your child. All meat and egg should be fully cooked
  • Avoid common choking hazards, like nuts, seeds, and other snack foods
  • Do not add honey to your baby’s food, as it can lead to botulism
  • Avoid adding excess salt or sugar to your baby’s food
  • Milk and sugary juices should not be introduced until 12+ months

There are no rules on which food should come first, that decision is up to you and there are many fun and nutritious recipes to try with your little ones! But it’s important to keep exposure to diverse foods as a routine and part of their everyday feedings. 

There are generally three different approaches to feedings. Whatever method you use is a personal choice that best fits the needs of your child and family.  

  • Finger food first (or baby-led weaning)
  • Spoon feeding
  • And a combination of spoon feeding and self-feeding

Before You Get Started - Parent’s Checklist

  • Is your child at a higher risk for food allergies? 

Certain factors like eczema, family history, or other allergies can put your child at a greater risk for food allergies. If you have concerns, speak to your pediatrician about the best approach for food allergen introduction. 

  • Feed first allergens at home

In the safety of your home, you will be able to personally monitor how your baby responds to the protein. 

  • Make sure your child is healthy

Next, make sure your child is healthy before giving them any peanut products. If they are experiencing symptoms of a cold, fever, or other illness, do not give them any peanut products until these symptoms are gone. Then you will be able to accurately measure your child’s response to these food products. 

  • Be consistent 

If your baby doesn’t like a certain food on the first try, don’t give up! It can take 10-15 tastes of a food for a child to eat it readily. Remember, they have never experienced any different tastes or textures than formula or breastmilk. Also, when it comes to allergen introduction, "one bite" exposure to foods is not enough. Maintaining a routine is essential. 

  • Variety is important 

 A diverse diet with a variety of foods, textures, and tastes plays a huge role in the proper nutrition and development of your child in their first year of life and beyond. When you start introducing solids, encourage your infant to consume a variety of foods from all food groups.