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The most overwhelming part of starting your baby out on real food is what to feed at what age.
There are many, often contradicting, ideas out there, and the best is to make sure you listened to expert advice, people’s experiences and your own intuition.
These need to work together in order for you to be able to form a full picture.
I cannot tell you what’s right for your baby exactly, and while a pediatrician is a learned expert and very helpful, overall this is your child, so you only know what’s best for him.
Watch her closely and observe any adverse reactions to foods.
Above all remember, you will not mess your child up for life just because you didn’t do first foods perfectly.
Read and be informed, but don’t go to extremes and drive yourself absolutely crazy with finding the very best way, because it may look different for different people.
In this article, I am going to provide you with a step-by-step guide to what to feed your baby.
If you want to have all your other questions answered about first foods, read this post.
And while ultimately it comes down to your decision, there are some universal guidelines that help us know what are the recommended foods at what age.
*This is my experience and my recommendations, based on my research and my feeding strategies that have evolved over time. Read my full disclaimer here.
I approach all feeding from the viewpoint that I am feeding my baby to nourish him and teach him to like different flavors and textures in the long term.
My goal is not to help him sleep through the night or to stop breastfeeding.
Keeping that in mind, I aim to introduce foods that aren’t usually allergenic and have a high nutritional value.
Step 1. Introduce apples (around 6 months)
First I smashed a little bit of apple and just offered a few drops of “juice”, then I grated/pureed some apple and gave that for a few days.
As excited as I was to break out the spoons and bowls, don’t imagine this as actual eating. I just offered the first bites while my babies were sitting in their swing or rocker.
Why apple you ask? I have never heard of anybody who was allergic to apples, though I am sure it exists, so apples are a pretty safe choice when it comes to allergies.
Apples are also slightly sweet, just like breastmilk, full of vitamins and they don’t tend to cause constipation.
Step 2. Introduce broth (around 6 months 1 week)
Yes, broth. But not the Swanson carton kind. You can very easily make broth at home and start giving some to your little one.
One reason behind this step is, that broth is a great liquid to use when pureeing solids.
Another reason is that homemade broth is super nutritious and easy to digest.
A third reason is that you can cook meat and veggies in it, making an entire meal in one step!
Step 3. Introduce egg yolks (around 6 months 2 weeks)
Several sources say that eggs cause an allergic reaction if introduced too early, which is true, in part.
The egg whites are the ones that cause an allergic reaction for most individuals, therefore you can safely feed the yolk to your baby. (wait with whole eggs till about 11-12 months)
If there is an allergic reaction to yolks, it’s likely that your baby would have had a reaction even if you had introduced the food later.
I usually soft boil the eggs, peel it halfway and cut the top, white part off. I give a teaspoon or two to the baby. Then increase the amount in the next few days.
You will waste some eggs, but the nutritional value of yolks is worth it.
You can read in detail about why to introduce yolks and broth to babies in this article from the Weston A. Price Foundation. I don’t agree with everything, but it’s good food for thought. (see what I did there?)
Step 4. Introduce cooked, easy-to-digest veggies (around 6 months 3 weeks)
If you aren’t so sure about the first 3 steps, you can begin here as well. Starting with veggies is the most usual recommendation of pediatricians.
Carrots are my first choice because they cook in the broth anyway, so why not puree them and feed them to baby?
It is also perfectly fine to buy already made jar food of carrots, zucchini, green beans, butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
They make excellent choices nutritionally and are also easy to digest and rarely cause allergies.
I would introduce 2-3 of these veggies for variety and then alternate between Steps. 4-8 until you pretty much introduced all veggies, fruits, meats, and grains.
Step 5. Introduce cooked meat (around 6 months 3 weeks-7months)
The reason behind this is that the iron content of meats cannot even be compared to anything else. It is by far the highest, naturally occurring iron-containing food available for your child.
While red meat is higher in iron, chicken is easier for young tummies to digest.
The iron found in meats is called heme-iron, and its absorption is easier for the body than non-heme iron’s (such as iron found in legumes and veggies).
Iron intake is one of the reasons why complementary feeding starts to become so important around 6 months.
Iron levels are known to deplete around that time and breastmilk cannot supply a high enough amount for baby’s needs. That’s why you see all cereals state on the box: fortified with iron.
It is also important to note that iron is absorbed by the body better if it is paired with Vitamin-C containing foods, such as:
Just mix up pureed meat and one (or more) of these and you maximized iron absorption. (of course, only after you have safely introduced all these foods on their own first.)
Step 6. Introduce fruits and harder to digest veggies (around 7 months and up)
Almost all veggies and fruits are game, as long as you can cook and puree them. Don’t forget to include onion and garlic too!
I often hear the expression “feed the rainbow”, which is a great visual in determining what variety to give my children.
There are a few rules when it comes to offering veggies and fruits.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) may cause gas or belly ache in babies, so keep an eye out for these signs of difficulty in digesting.
The key is to start small and gradually increase the amount as baby tolerates it.
Tomatoes and should be left to be introduced later, as they are likely to cause digestive problems or allergic reactions, recommended age is 8-10 months.
Citrus (oranges, lemon), tropical fruits (mango, papaya, kiwi) and other acidic fruits (pineapple, cantaloupe) are usually not recommended till 11-12 months of age due to the high possibility of rashes and allergic reactions.
I have successfully given my babies mango and papaya earlier(9-10months) but waited with the others longer.
Read more about introducing citrus here.
Whole berries should also be avoided until at least 12 months, due to the many seeds that are difficult to digest, however, seedless purees of berries are a great option. (please, buy the jar and don’t try this at home!)
Step 7. Introduce Grains (around 7 months and up)
I avoid rice cereal as a first food because it doesn’t have anything on eggs and broth or meat nutritionally.
However, grains are also important sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals so they should be included in a baby’s diet.
Ideally, you introduce grains in form of ground up “cereal” or cooked and pureed.
Hot cereals make great breakfast mixed with veggies and fruits. You can also add grains in cereal form to fruit purees.
When you cook rice and meat for dinner, take a portion out before you put strong seasonings or sauces on and puree that for your child for an easy homemade meal.
Aim to always choose whole grains as they have the most nutrition.
I always use white Jasmine and Basmati rice because I like the taste better so I compromise.
Grains can also be introduced in form of pasta, and you will start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when your kid can finally eat the spaghetti you cooked for dinner, pureed.
Step 8. Introduce Oils (7months and up)
A teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil is all that’s needed, but oil is essential for healthy brain and eye development. Just mix it in with whatever food you provide that day.
Don’t forget about Vitamin-D drops either, if you’re baby is breastfed. That is the one nutrient breastfed babies tend to be low on. I like this brand.
Step 9. Introduce Fermented Dairy (8-9 months)
Your baby is probably eating 2 small “meals” a day by now, if not, there is usually nothing to be alarmed about. All babies develop differently.
If you haven’t faced any major allergic reactions thus far, you can try to introduce fermented dairy products, such as hard cheese and yogurt.
The reason why fermented dairy is recommended is that fermentation (or in the case of cheese, aging) reduces the lactose content of these products. Lactose is the sugar in milk that tends to cause allergies.
Wait with milk and cream until 12 months of age.
However, if you baby is casein intolerant, you should continue to avoid any and all dairy. Casein is the protein in milk and it cannot be “cooked out” or reduced.
When my second baby was born, he was sensitive to casein through my breastmilk and I had to stop eating all dairy containing foods.
I didn’t even bother introducing him to dairy until after he was 2.5 and started out with fermented dairy first. Thankfully, he outgrew his sensitivity by then!
If you’re in this same predicament, I recommend coconut milk and coconut milk yogurt as an alternative. Babies and young kids don’t know what they are missing really, unless you have older kids who eat ice-cream in front of them. (ask me how I know)
The AAP recommends full-fat dairy for children under 2 years old. I recommend full-fat dairy forever, because taste.
Step 10. Introduce spices and herbs. (8-9 months)
It’ not necessary to salt baby food, but there are plenty of other ways to make baby food tasty. Use cinnamon, basil, oregano, garlic and onion powder, marjoram, etc. in small amounts.
Step 11. Introduce texture (9 months and up)
It’s usually safe to start adding more texture to your babies diet at this point.
They have likely developed the motor skills to grab small pieces of cooked food or baby puffs, have no trouble opening their mouths and swallowing food and are interested in self-feeding.
Of course, some babies will be ready sooner and some later, and there are also the parents who never puree any food for their kids.
Either way, at some point you will want to just mash whatever food you’re serving and then later just cut it up into pieces and see what happens.
Some foods, like meat or super fibrous veggies (broccoli, asparagus, etc.) should still be pureed or cut across the grain to prevent choking.
By this time, babies usually sit at the table for mealtimes (in a highchair, of course) and get a safe bite or two from mama’s plate. All this is encouraged in order for your baby to transition even more into the world around him.
I usually included mine at the table even earlier, but it was more for social purposes, not so much for eating together at that point yet.
Step 12. Introduce seafood (9 months and up)
By seafood, I mainly mean wild caught fish, such as salmon, tuna, mahi-mahi, cod, and tilapia.
Fish is high in good fats (remember brain and eye development) and it’s also super easy to cook soft enough for baby.
Shellfish is a little bit different because that is one of the top allergens, so doctors usually encourage parents to wait until well into the first year (usually closer to 2) before adding that into their children’s diet.
Step 13. Introduce the rest. (12 months and up)
Babies this age eat 3 full meals a day and snacks. Amounts vary, as I am sure you have already noticed.
Now that the hard part is behind you, relax and enjoy your baby discovering the world of food, unlimited.
Nuts and nut butters, foods that are choking hazards (grapes, whole hotdogs,etc.) or very hard to chew foods (pickles, uncooked fruits and veggies, etc.) are to be avoided.
Use common sense in determining what you should feed your baby at this point.
Nutritious foods are preferred to empty calories (chips, sweets, juice) or highly processed foods (boxed meals, deli meats, ready-made baby meals, etc.).
Remember, the better habits you start with your child now, the better your chances to have a non-picky, healthy eater.
There are several questions I have not addressed in this post that are related to feeding your baby solids, please read my post about all those here.
I hope you find this step by step guide to introducing solids to your baby helpful in sorting out the overwhelming amount of info out there!
Please don’t hesitate to comment or email me with any questions!
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