How to successfully transition your baby to solid foods

Children's Health

by Cassandra Bryant, MD

Jun 5, 2019

There are many theories on how and when you should feed your infant. As your baby approaches four months of age, the options can become overwhelming and nerve-wracking as information pours in. From relatives and friends, to the media and your favorite mommy blogger, it seems like everyone has an opinion about how, when and what to feed your baby.

But parents, before we get to that — stop stressing! This should be a fun time as your infant is learning new tricks and skills. Your baby will be grown before you know it. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy this phase.

How to start introducing solid foods

Somewhere between four to six months, your baby will lose their tongue-thrust reflex, which is the best sign that they are ready to take solids with a spoon. Other signs that it is time to feed could be if they start demanding increasing amounts of formula (more than 30 ounces per day) or suddenly have trouble sleeping. Does your baby wake frequently during the night or often refuse to sleep? Sudden sleep changes often occur around four months, commonly referred to as the four month sleep regression.

Once you make the decision to start solids, you have to decide what to introduce. There are no set rules here. However, introducing one new food at a time is highly recommended.

Once you make the decision to start solids, you have to decide what to introduce. There are no set rules here. However, introducing one new food at a time is highly recommended. A good schedule is one new food a week. Also, don’t fall prey to the plethora of old wives’ tales. My personal favorite is the belief that fruit given before vegetables will cause babies to develop a sweet tooth. Don’t worry, there is no validity to this claim. 

Should you use manufactured or make your own? Honestly, with the first foods, it probably doesn’t matter. I do suggest trying to transition to your family’s table foods soon after your baby has a good grasp of the eating technique. Over the years, talking to hundreds of families and my personal experience have shown that you might be less likely to have a picky eater if you start this way. As long as the texture of the food does not pose a choking hazard, they can have it!

Related: 6 common health issues that affect new mothers

Worried about food allergies?

Probably, your biggest concern with introducing new foods is the possibility of food allergies. The newest studies show that the earlier you introduce foods, especially the more “high risk” foods like peanuts, the less likely your child will develop an allergy. The most compelling and real-life example of this would be the country of Israel, which has the lowest incidence of peanut allergy in the world and where peanut butter “biscuits” are often introduced at less than a month of age.

Remember to take it slow. Introducing one new food at a time helps detect any food allergies or abnormal reactions to foods. In the event of a reaction, you will easily be able to determine what caused the problem. Talk to your child’s doctor or an allergy specialist if you are concerned about food allergies.

Note: If you believe your infant is having a severe allergic reaction to a food, do not hesitate to call 911.

It is important to remember that an infant can get complete nutrition from an adequate intake of breastmilk or formula up to one year of age. Therefore, when to start and what type of solids becomes more of a personal decision versus a mandate.

Whatever path you choose, whether starting solids the day your baby turns four months or waiting until nine months to a year when they can self-feed, your preferences are valid and healthy! It’s normal to have questions and worries — don’t be afraid to bring them up with your child’s doctor.

About the Author

Cassandra Bryant, MD, is a pediatrician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Bellville, where she has practiced for 20 years. Dr. Bryant completed medical school and pediatric residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She is married with four two-legged children and numerous four-legged children of various species. In her free time, Dr. Bryant likes to travel as much as possible to learn about other cultures and history.

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