Moving Your Baby to Solid Foods
Naturally, you may get a lot of conflicting advice, such as Aunt Wanda's persistent instructions to start feeding your baby table food at 2 months old, but the age actually differs. You may wonder when you should begin introducing solid foods and what you should serve. Healthcare professionals overwhelmingly recommend that your baby's first food be rice cereal, which you can start serving around your baby's fourth month. (If you're breastfeeding exclusively, you can wait until your child is 6 months old.)
Rice cereal contains a starting nutritional base of carbohydrates and, like other infant cereals, is fortified with iron, which is important for your baby's brain development. Additionally, rice cereal is easy to digest, which is very important during these early months.
As your baby adjusts to the new taste and texture of rice cereal, slowly introduce other cereals (such as barley and oatmeal after several weeks of rice cereal) and basic veggie purees. It's okay to begin feeding some fruit purees before your baby reaches her seventh month, but you may find that your child starts to love the sweet taste of the fruit and won't want anything else. With that addiction in mind, try to hold off on the fruit until the latter part of the sixth month.
What are the signs that your baby is ready to begin eating cereal? Watch for these three signs:
- Your baby puts things in his mouth.
- Your baby can easily hold his head up on his own.
- Your baby seems interested in food when someone else is eating.
If you're saying "Yes, yes, yes" to the preceding bullets, then your baby can begin rice cereal during month four. However, what if your baby doesn't have these signs? In this case, wait a bit longer while your infant grows and develops.
The fourth month is just an average benchmark and doesn't mean that there's a problem if your baby isn't quite ready for solids. Naturally, if you have questions or concerns about your baby's development, you should check with your pediatrician. If your baby was born prematurely, he may develop more slowly, so check with your baby's doctor instead of spending time worrying and biting your nails.
If your baby seems to have all the readiness signs, but she seems only to push the cereal back out of her mouth instead of swallowing any, she may have a normal tongue-thrust reflex. This thrusting reflex is a normal condition that helps a baby to nurse.
Test your infant's reflex by touching your baby's lips with a spoon or your finger. If her tongue comes out of her mouth every time, she still has the reflex. Wait a week or so and try again. She'll outgrow this reflex in time and begin swallowing as you feed her.
Don't think that if your baby pushes the spoon out of her mouth on the first try that you should give up. Infants know only about suckling and have to learn to use the tongue to move solids from the front to the back of the mouth. This process takes time, and your first few tries of feeding cereal may end with most of the food down the front of your baby's bib, so don't get discouraged.