If you're reading this, chances are you've got a little one who's about to take a big step in their culinary journey: starting solid foods! This is a major milestone in your baby's first year of life and one that you've likely been eagerly awaiting. However, it's also natural to feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain about the process and which solid baby food schedule to follow (especially if you’re a first-time parent!). There are countless opinions and recommendations out there on how and when to start your baby on solids, and sifting through all of that information can be intimidating.
But fear not! As a dietitian, I'm here to help you navigate the ins and outs of starting your baby on solid foods and how to choose the first baby foods, so you can feel confident and excited about this new adventure in your baby's development. Let’s get started!
Timing is everything
First things first, when to start solid foods? Introducing your baby to solid foods is a thrilling adventure, but it's important to time it just right. Babies have sensitive digestive systems that need time to mature, and starting solids too soon can put a strain on their digestive tract which leads to tummy troubles like constipation and diarrhea. Plus, your baby may not have fully developed their swallowing reflexes yet, so it can increase the risk of choking. On the other hand, waiting too long can lead to picky eating habits down the road and might even increase the risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
It’s important to note that every baby is unique, so it's crucial to watch for clear signs that your little one is ready for this next step.
Signs of readiness
Usually, starting solids around six months of age is considered the ideal time, but it's best to keep an eye out for these signs:
Can sit up unsupported and able to hold their head up steadily
Has lost the tongue-thrust reflex which means that they are able to move food from the front of their mouth to the back and swallow it safely
Start opening their mouth when food is offered, and show interest in food
Capable of picking up objects and bringing them to their mouth using their hands
Remember that every baby develops at their own pace, so use these signs as general guidelines rather than strict rules. If you're unsure whether your baby is ready for solids, talk to your pediatrician or a registered dietitian for guidance.
Introducing allergy foods
The top 8 allergenic foods include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. It's important to introduce these foods one at a time, offering them for the first time at home, and not in another setting (e.g. daycare facility). Have at least one adult be present to give their full attention to the infant and be available for 2 hours afterwards (and at a time the infant is usually awake) in case allergy symptoms develop. This way, you can watch for any signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, vomiting, or difficulty breathing. If your baby does have an allergic reaction, stop feeding them that food and seek medical attention immediately. Research has shown that allergy symptoms resulting from the body’s immune system making antibodies typically occur immediately or within 2 hours of ingestion of the offending food. Introduce a new high allergy food every 2-3 days until you have completed them all. It’s very important to keep feeding the food regularly (i.e., 2-3 times/week) after it has been introduced, as not doing so may lead to the development of food allergy.
Solid Baby Food Ideas: The importance of Iron rich foods
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in your baby's growth and development. It's especially important for their brain development and cognitive function. Breast milk and formula provide enough iron for your baby's first six months of life, but after that, it's important to introduce iron-rich foods into their diet.
Check out this solid baby food chart for some of my favs:
Iron-fortified cereals (like an oat/chia blend): use this make pancakes, muffins, coat a slice of avocado, or make a traditional cereal
Regular oatmeal stirred with smooth nut butter
Pureed/shredded meats from your instapot or slow cooker
Finger shaped meatballs
Canned tuna or salmon patties (or mash with avocado)
Panfried or scrambled tofu
Squished beans black beans or kidney beans
Quesadilla with refried beans
Hummus on toast stick
Bean based pasta (we like chickpea and red lentil best) with butter + parm
Pasta sauce cooked with split red lentils
Which foods to avoid:
Honey (or foods made with honey) for the first year because it may contain the spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Although harmless to adults, these spores can cause infant botulism in babies under 1.
Cow’s milk can be difficult for babies to digest and process and also interfere with iron absorption. A splash in baking won’t hurt but avoid milk to drink (or in bottles) until after age 1. Cheese and yogurt are also fine.
Sugary sweets take up valuable tummy real estate without a ton of nutrients, save these of them after age 2
High mercury fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and fresh tuna
Choking hazards: Whole peas (unless they’re smashed), whole grapes, raw firm-fleshed veggies (carrots, bell peppers), raw firm-fleshed fruit (apples, unripe pears), whole chunks of meat or poultry, popcorn, whole nuts, chunks of peanut butter, hot dogs, chewing gum
Baby-Led Weaning Vs. Pureed Foods
When it comes to starting solids with your baby, there are two popular approaches: baby-led weaning (BLW) and pureed foods. BLW involves offering your baby whole, soft foods that they can pick up and feed themselves, while pureed foods involve spoon-feeding your baby pureed foods. There is no right or wrong here and most parents end up doing a combination of them both. BLW can help your baby develop their hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, and independence, while pureed foods can be a good option for babies who aren't yet ready for more textured foods, plus it’s a good way to bond with your little one. Ultimately, the goal is to introduce your baby to a variety of healthy foods and let them explore and enjoy eating
Responsive feeding involves paying attention to your baby's cues and allowing them to determine how much and what to eat. This means offering a variety of healthy foods and allowing your baby to explore and enjoy them at their own pace. It's also important to avoid pressuring your baby to eat or finish all the food on their plate or taking food away before they finish, as this can create negative associations with eating and lead to picky eating behaviors. Instead, focus on creating a positive and relaxed mealtime environment, where you honor their inner instincts and help them develop a healthy relationship with food.
How much & how often: Solid baby food schedule
At age 6 months, aim to start with 1-2 meals per day. By 9 months aim for 2-3 meals per day and by 12 months the goal is 3 meals and 1-2 snacks per day. Ideally, baby should eat as many of these as possible with a parent or caregiver. Continue
Bottom line: Remember, every baby is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting solids. Trust your instincts, pay attention to your baby's cues, and don't be afraid to get a little messy – some of the best memories come from those sweet potato-stained cheeks and broccoli-covered bibs! With a little patience and a positive attitude, you and your baby can enjoy this exciting new chapter in their journey towards a healthy growth and development.
If you need some solid baby food recipes, definitely have a look at my website , you can provide your little one with a variety of nutritious and delicious meals. Still confused? Work 1:1 with me to have your own solid baby food guide.