Whether you're making baby food recipes or using store-bought food, introducing solids is an exciting time for parents and babies. Your baby is about to eat food, one of the best parts of life (in my opinion!). But, launching your baby's eating career can seem a little daunting. When to start and what to start with and how to do it and what to remember—it can all feel overwhelming.
The good news is, parents have been introducing their babies to solids for millennia; yours will be fine! Begin between the ages of 4-6 months, when your baby can sit up with support and seems interested in the food you're eating. Beyond that, there are just a few things to remember. This list of guidelines from my cookbook Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Meals for Your Baby & Toddler, spells out 10 rules that will help make your baby's transition to solids easier for her—and you.
10 Rules for Feeding Your Baby
1. Transfer just a few tablespoons of food into a dish to feed your baby. You'll want to discard whatever he doesn't eat since bacteria from the inside of his mouth will have been transferred via the spoon to the food in the bowl.
2. Watch your baby's cues, and never force her to eat if she doesn't want to. If she closes her mouth or turns her head, just move on.
3. Always supervise your baby and toddler when he's eating. Choking is a real hazard.
4. Start by serving your baby single-food purees. Wait at least one to two days before introducing another food in case there is an allergic reaction.
5. Just because your baby doesn't like a food, don't stop serving it. Babies often need to be exposed to a new food up to 10-15 times before they'll accept it. Try mixing it with a puree you know she enjoys.
6. Aim to introduce your little one to as many new foods as possible in his first 12 months of life. This will help prime his palate and hopefully make him a more adventurous eater later on.
7. Don't stay in the smooth puree stage for too long. Once your baby swallows easily, transition to chunkier meals.
8. To thin a puree, add a little breast milk, formula, or water. To thicken a puree, stir in a little instant baby cereal.
9. A baby's appetite varies form one day to the next—this is normal!
10. Don't be shy about feeding your baby healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nut butter, dairy butter, or cheese. And be sure to give children under age 2 full-fat milk (after 12 months) and yogurt. Fat is imperative for growing brains.
This is just the beginning of your baby's eating adventure. Have fun, be patient, and enjoy your little one's (often hilarious!) reactions to the new flavors she's experiencing for the first time.
Jenna Helwig is the food director at Parents and author of the books Baby-Led Feeding: A Natural Way to Raise Happy, Independent Eaters and Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Meals for Your Baby and Toddler. She prepared apple puree for her daughter's first bite of solids and still remembers the look of wonder on her baby's face. Follow Jenna on Twitter.