Feeding your Baby: The Transition to Solids, Part 2

Dr. Mason

Dr. Mason

(This post is continued from yesterday’s Part 1 segment)

So, when do you start your baby on solids? My advice is to watch your baby and see when he wants to start solids. It should not be until she has developed enough body and head control to be able to sit up in a high chair, but babies vary on when they can do this. It’s generally in the four to six month range. For my first daughter, it was at five months that she could sit in a chair, but she didn’t eat solids until six months of age. After your baby can sit up in the high chair, you’ll naturally start putting him there, likely with some toys on the tray, when you have things you need to do (like eat your own dinner!)

There will come a day when you see your baby watching the food make its way from the plate to your mouth with great interest. Then she’ll give you a look like “I’d like some of that!” This is when you need to convince him, at your next sit-down together, that what you were eating was mom’s milk (or formula) mixed with a small amount of rice cereal and “sure, you can have some.” Just put a small amount in, and keep in mind that you want it to be runny at first, and the mixture will continue to thicken for a couple of minutes as the flakes absorb moisture. Put a small amount on a spoon and hold it up in front of baby. If she’s ready, she’ll lean forward and take the spoon into her mouth. If he doesn’t seem all that interested, it’s no big deal. The essential source of nutrition for a baby is human milk (or formula) from birth to six months, and from six months to one year, it’s still the major source for nutrition. You can try again later.

I do recommend starting solids by nine months, because by that time we’re talking about picking things up (like Cheerios) and learning to eat various things is an important part of brain development. Nutritionally speaking, a baby can do just fine on nothing but mom’s milk (or formula) until one year of age. Generally, everybody can’t wait to feed the baby, and I can recall only one time I’ve ever had to urge a mother to start solids with her baby at a nine month well child check.

Now, I just described using rice cereal mixed with human milk or formula because that’s been the most common first food advised over the past 40 years, and it’s what I gave my own kids. I should note, however, that not everybody agrees with this. Some feel that pureed meat should be the first food, because it is an excellent source of bio-available iron and zinc, for which some older babies have deficiencies. One thing is certain: do not give honey to a baby less than one year of age, due to the small, but real risk of infant botulism. If you’ve been nursing your baby, she’s been exposed to the variety of flavors that is in your own diet, so adding a little dried spice or herbs could be o.k., but don’t add salt or sugar to your baby’s food.

That’s all we have space for today — ask questions in the comment section and I’ll try to address them!

Dr. Julia Mason
Pediatric Hospitalist
Meriter Hospital

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