Introducing a baby to solid foods can be a very exciting time for parents. Seeing how a baby experiences and reacts to different foods is yet another way to get to know your baby. When your pediatrician says that you are ready to start solid foods, usually between 4-6 months, you may have a lot of questions about how much food to give, what kids of food to give, and in what order food should be introduced. These are the most common types of questions I answer at well visits for 4-6 month olds. Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics article on starting solids foods for a good introduction and overview. Of note, there have been studies that show that introducing a child to food before the age of 4 months can be associated with obesity in childhood.
Usually rice cereal is a commonly recommended as a first solid food, but whole grain cereal is a nice option and gets babies used to the more complex taste of whole grains. Infant cereal is a nice starting food because it can be mixed to a variety of consistencies by adding water, breast milk or formula. A thin puree of a fruit or vegetable is another good starting place. An infant new to solids may have a tendency to thrust food out of the mouth with the tongue when first introduced. This is amusing to watch and is definitely a good photo opportunity! Mixing cereal to a thin, porridge consistency allows some of it to flow more freely into the back of the mouth, and may prompt the baby to swallow. In my practice I usually tell families to give infants an opportunity to practice once a day with infant cereal or puree until they seem to get the hang of it. After a couple of weeks you may want to increase to twice a day. Keep in mind that at this early stage food is not offered as much to “fill” babies, but as an opportunity to taste and practice swallowing solids.
Regarding purees, you can start with stage 1 store bought baby foods, which have only one ingredient and are pureed to a very smooth consistency. Another great option is to make homemade baby foods. Homemade baby foods can be prepared without much time or expense and can introduce babies to a different flavor profile than store bought baby foods offer.
What are the benefits of homemade baby foods?
- Economical- A large volume of food can be made for very little cost. Freezing small portions means there is less waste, too.
- Easy and fast- Because babies eat so little, a lot of what you prepare can be frozen and popped out of the freezer as you need it. There are also little shortcuts you can learn to make baby foods with the same ingredients you use to make food for the rest of the family.
- Controlled- You control exactly what goes in the food. If you want certain varieties of or blends of fruits and vegetables, or if you want to prepare organic baby foods, you can decide for yourself.
- Tastes more like real food! – This is a great reason. Although store bought baby food is healthy, fast and easy, it often is much blander than what you can prepare on your own. Introducing a wide flavor profile early may imprint those tastes so that babies are more used to those foods later on as toddlers and children.
Things you will need
- Saucepan or pot for cooking
- Steamer basket
- Blender, food processor or baby food mill
- Cookie sheet for roasting
- Ice cube trays and freezer bags for freezing and storing food
Homemade baby food as easy as 1-2-3