At four to six months of age, begin introducing solid foods, remembering that the best balanced nutrition is still breast milk and/or formula. At this time, the goal is to introduce your little one to new tastes and textures and begin to learn how to eat.
Start with rice cereal. We begin with the cereals because they are iron fortified, so we are getting some extra iron in early. Mix two to three tablespoons with enough formula or breast milk to make slurry. Aim for the consistency of loose cream of wheat. Initially, your infant will try to suck at it and it will be messy which is perfectly normal.
After cereals, begin to introduce the sophisticated flavor of vegetables: carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. After your little one has developed a taste for nutritious vegetables, begin to introduce naturally sweet fruits: bananas, pears, peaches, apple sauce, etc.
Every four to five days add one new food. Spacing the introduction of new food is important. If your child breaks out in a rash, it would be nice to know what they ate the day before. It makes it easier to pinpoint possible food allergies.
Only use about half of a Stage One jar to get started or consider making homemade purees. Homemade purees can be poured into ice cube trays for freezing and then transferred in to freezer bags for storage. Simply pull out a frozen cube and defrost for meal time.
At around six months, you can introduce a cup with water. Both sippy cups and a cup with a straw work well and help to minimize the mess.
Finally by the age of nine months, your child should be eating three full meals a day including meats and plenty of variety.
At about nine months of age, or whenever your child is able to pick up objects, begin introducing finger foods. This helps to build hand-eye and hand-mouth coordination, an important phase of motor development. It is also a period of learning about different textures and consistencies, an important step in cognitive development for your child.
During this time, your little one can eat anything they can gum. Think small, soft vegetables or diced table foods. You can try dry cereal like cheerios, kix, etc. Pass on the nuts, popcorn, and hot dogs for now, as these are the most common foods children tend to choke on. As long as there is no past problem of nut or egg allergy, you can also introduce foods like scrambled eggs, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Remember this is the time children are running out of the iron you gave them in the uterus, so also consider introducing iron rich foods, like small pieces of meat, beans, and cooked cereals.
In addition to crucial motor and cognitive development, your little one is also experiencing some level of autonomy — “I’m doing this all by myself!!” This is when the grilled cheese sandwich cut into sixteenths comes in handy.
It’s a messy but exciting time! ENJOY!