This is intended to educate and is in no way a substitute for individualized medical advice. Speak to your child’s doctor for individualized medical advice.
How do I know if my baby is ready to start solids?
The CPS and AAP, as well as WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and sometimes there is confusion about when to start solids. This is because the latest research shows starting foods that cause allergy (allergenic foods) earlier (4-6 months), if there is a family history of allergies, is likely to reduce the risk of your child developing food allergies.
Signs of readiness:
- Showing interest – it’s important your baby is showing signs of interest. Watching you eat, reaching out to try to eat, opening their mouths, grabbing your food/dishes, are all signs they may be interested. This along with being able to turn their heads away or show you they are not interested is also important. The key is, the feeding experience should be nice for both of you, and these two things – showing interest, and being able to turn away (or your being in tune with them not being interested anymore) – can prevent force-feeding that can have longer term implications.
- Able to sit upright and keep their head up – To protect the airway, you want to ensure your baby is sitting upright and able to keep their head up on their own. We wouldn’t eat food lying down due to risk of choking – a baby shouldn’t either.
- Opening their mouths when you approach with a spoon – it’s important your baby opens his/her mouth when approached with a spoon, as a sign of showing interest. If he or she is not doing this, remember, you can try again another time, but what is key is not to press the issue.
What to start with?
Start with iron-fortified food, including infant cereal, leafy green vegetables, lentils, beans, or meats. Fruits can also be introduced at this time. Once you have introduced various foods and they are tolerated, start considering introducing allergenic foods. We started with peanut butter – a small, rice grain sized bit of peanut butter mixed in her organic oatmeal cereal. Monitor for rash and other signs of allergy. I think a good rule of thumb is to introduce one allergen for at least three days before moving onto another allergen, because this way, if there is a reaction, it is easier to discern what could be causing it.
Once an allergenic food is introduced, keep introducing it regularly. We try to do this once or twice a week once we have introduced it, although it sometimes becomes challenging to keep track of and we have often found ourselves doing so once every couple of weeks. A helpful tool is to create a weekly and even monthly schedule.
How do I prepare the food?
If you plan on introducing foods at 4 months, pureed foods would be best. We introduced infant cereal and pureed foods. By 6 months, we started baby led weaning, as babies are able to tolerate various textures at this age. Always check with your child’s doctor. Ideally, you want to introduce as many textures as possible by 9 months so your baby is likely to keep an open mind to a greater repertoire of foods.
What are allergenic foods?
Peanuts, tree nuts (like almonds), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs.
How to introduce dairy?
Milk is not recommended before at least 9 months of age. However, given that dairy is a potential allergen, you can introduce yogurt and cheese.
- Another important thing to remember is a mother can eat allergenic foods during pregnancy and if she chooses to/is able to breastfeed. These are thought to help reduce risk of allergy development in those who have a family history of allergy.