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Five tips for transitioning baby to solid foods

Welcome to the beginning of spaghetti-covered baby photos! Introducing solid foods is a fun developmental stage in baby's first year, and there are many right ways to go about it. Here are five tips to encourage healthy eating habits.

1. There is no exact date to start
Most pediatricians recommend sometime between four and six months; before then, baby should be on an exclusive diet of formula or breast milk. It may be appropriate for formula-fed infants to start on solids a bit sooner. Signs that baby may be ready for solids include:

  • Having good head and body control
  • Showing interest in food
  • Being able to eat off a spoon and handling food with his or her tongue.

2. There is no "magic" first food
Many pediatricians now recommend starting with fruits or veggies; many parents choose cereal. The texture and consistency is what is more important, so initial foods should be soft or pureed to a smooth consistency. The goal is to have a positive interaction, and as your baby becomes comfortable, you can begin with more textured and small finger foods. We started with foods like Cheerios or baby puffs, peas, cut up fruit like blueberries, strawberries and bananas; steamed veggies like carrots, beans or beets; avocadoes and scrambled eggs.

3. Baby will let you know
Once my daughter was doing well with starters, like Cheerios or small pieces of soft fruits, we began offering small amounts of what we were eating during meal time. This is called baby-led weaning, and is a way of introducing foods that the family is eating to baby. To safely do this, cut foods into small pieces to avoid choking. I like to cut, steam and store extra veggies in the fridge for an easy addition during mealtime. Steaming, mashing or extra cooking helps make what you're eating more manageable for baby. 

4. You can make your own 
Transitioning to solids doesn't have to be expensive; you can make your own baby food at home. Here are a few tips:

  • Steam or cook foods such as sweet potatoes or carrots and puree until smooth in the blender.
  • Save purees and freeze in ice cube trays. Food should ideally be frozen the same day it is made and usually will last in the freezer 6-8 weeks, and is okay in the fridge for 2-3 days after being defrosted.
  • Avoid adding salt or seasoning. As baby becomes older and eating a wider array of foods, then you may start to add some seasonings.
  • Foods that are heated should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Room temperature or cold foods from the fridge work just fine.

If making your own baby food isn't for you, there are many commercially prepared foods available that are good, healthy and convenient options. I like combining graham crackers or Cheerios with puree packs I buy at the grocery store. Whatever route you choose, make sure all foods are cut into small pieces to avoid choking.

5. Keep an eye out for allergies
Studies have shown that early introduction of foods – rather than waiting – is the best strategy to lessen the risk of food allergies. However, if food allergies run in your family, discuss a feeding plan with your pediatrician. Both honey and cow's milk should be avoided until baby is at least one year old. Other dairy products like cheese and yogurt can be introduced during baby's first year as well as nut butters and eggs.

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