When and How to Start Baby on Solid Foods?

When and How to Start Baby on Solid Foods?, Savannah Walsh holding her youngest son in a swaddle.

What do you need to know before transitioning from bottle or breast to solid foods? Savannah Walsh shares her mom tips for when, what, and how.

MyRegistry contributing writer Savannah Walsh is a Canadian blogger, a mom of five little ones, and the face behind That Caffeinated Mom, where she talks pregnancy, birth, and everyday mom life in her own relatable and very candid storytelling style.

I remember with my eldest daughter, I was counting down the days until she got to start solids. It was so exciting!

“What will she like? What won’t she like?”

“I can’t wait to start making baby food!”

“She is never going to eat store-bought baby food, only homemade steamed and pureed fruits and vegetables.”

Yeah, that didn’t last long.

I quickly realized how overwhelming and stressful it can be, starting a baby on solid foods. First, deciding what food to start with. Then, how do you start to feed your baby? How quickly can you introduce a new food? How do I tell if my baby is allergic? There’s the fear around introducing high allergens like peanut butter. When can they start using a spoon by themselves? When do they start finger foods?

With the rise of “baby-led feeding” in the past few years, I feel as if the pressure on moms is even greater.

“Are you doing baby-led feeding?”

“You know you don’t need to do purees anymore, right?”

“Oh, that rice cereal is so pointless and not good for your baby.”

Opinions and judgments on moms are at an all-time high when it comes to starting to feed your baby solids.

So let’s talk about it. What are the real rules around starting solids? What’s the best way of introducing new foods to your baby? Is baby-led feeding really the way to go?

When to Start Giving Your Baby Solids

Generally speaking, pediatricians recommend starting to feed your baby foods in addition to breastmilk or formula at 6 months of age, when a baby’s gastrointestinal system is better developed. Some people really want to start solids right at the 6-month mark, and others like to wait until their babies have hit more milestones.

In our family, we’re traditionally more delayed in starting solids. We firmly don’t try any solids until a minimum of 6 months, and we usually wait a bit longer. Generally we don’t really do any solids beyond a taste here and there until our babies are sitting up unassisted and have at least one or two teeth.

However, this time around our youngest babe, Cullen, has just turned 6 months old but is not quite sitting unassisted and (as much as teething is a daily complaint in our house) has no teeth. Normally I would be holding off to start solids, but for some reason I felt compelled to start giving him some easy solids just after he turned 6 months, regardless of him not hitting the other milestones quite yet.

Truthfully, when starting solids I really do believe in following your mom gut about whether your baby is ready.

How to Start Feeding Solids

Traditionally, there are two ways to start your baby on solids.

  • Pureed foods. This is (for my generation of moms, at least) the more traditional way of starting solids. It usually starts with rice cereal or oatmeal made with breastmilk or formula, then slowly introduces new and easy-to-digest foods that are all either homemade or store-bought purees. Mom (or dad, sibling, whomever!) feeds the baby the purees with a spoon.
  • Baby-led feeding. Baby-led feeding isn’t new, however it has become more popular in North America over the past few years. It cuts out not only the purees, but for the most part the spoon too! It’s a method of offering your baby age-appropriate foods and textures that normally the family is eating already, and it encourages baby to develop hand-eye coordination by feeding themselves directly off their plate. (Please research appropriate cut sizes and soft foods for your baby for their age and milestones.)

Okay, So Which Is Better?

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of both.

Puree feeding

Pros

  • Easy to track what your baby is trying and when
  • Can be easier to pick up on a potential allergy
  • Reliable texture that baby knows for each feeding

Cons

  • Can take longer to develop a wide palate for foods
  • Can take longer for babies to get comfortable feeding themselves
  • Doesn’t help baby discover new textures
  • Can be time-consuming preparing and feeding alternate meals for baby

Baby-led feeding

Pros

  • Helps baby discover a variety of textures and tastes
  • Involves little to no additional work to prepare and feed
  • Helps baby try a wide variety of foods in a shorter time

Cons

  • Can be messy!
  • Can be nerve-racking for some parents
  • Can take baby longer to eat

I don’t think there’s a simple one-is-better-than-the-other answer. Each family will have their own needs and desires that may make one method easier than the other, which to me is what the decision should be based on—what works better for you and your family.

Good Foods to Start With

These are some of the foods recommended as an “easy” start to feeding, meaning they are easier on the baby’s stomach and digestive system.*

  • Baby rice cereal
  • Baby oatmeal
  • Pear
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Apples
  • Green beans
  • Butternut squash

*There is no evidence that waiting to introduce baby-safe (soft) foods such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanut products, or fish beyond 4 to 6 months of age prevents food allergy. However, testing for peanut allergy is recommended for babies with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. Check with your child’s doctor about how and when to give peanut products. –via healthychildren.org

So What Do We Do?

In our family, we do neither and both at the same time! We do a little bit of puree feeding and then mainly baby-led feeding. Normally we start off baby oatmeal casually, and then we’ll start giving pieces of banana and avocado, for example. For Cullen, this is mainly all we’ll be doing until he gets some teeth in, and then we’ll start offering him more of the foods we eat regularly. But if I feel he needs to try more foods before he gets some teeth? I’ll give him some puree! (I have to say, peach baby food is my favorite thing even as an adult. You’ll find me snacking on it like Joey and Phoebe.)

Regardless of how you choose to start giving your baby solids, it’s an exciting and intimidating milestone to hit. If you feel comfortable, ask fellow moms you trust for advice, but don’t buy into the pressure that you have to do it one way or another. Do it on your and your baby’s clock, at a pace you’re comfortable with, and trust your mom gut.

I may not be able to take away all your worries around starting solids, but I can help you with some of the great things to have on hand for when you do. With my first and even my second, I had a million different gadgets for feeding my babies, and it was overwhelming! Here, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite products for starting solids for you to reference and add to your baby registry.

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About the Writer
Canadian blogger Savannah Walsh is the mom of five little ones and the face behind That Caffeinated Mom, where she talks pregnancy, birth, postpartum struggles, and everyday mom life in her own relatable and very candid storytelling style. Savannah has created a space for moms from all walks of life to connect over motherhood by telling the real-life story of a regular mom, including the tough parts of motherhood we sometimes shy away from. When Savannah had her first baby, she knew very little about the mom world and quickly felt overwhelmed by the number of options available to her, from baby brands to parenting advice. Over the years, she’s tried just about every baby and kid product there is, along with developing her own parenting style and devising ways to stay sane while balancing a busy household. Savannah joins us every month on MyRegistry to share her stories, mom tips, and favorite baby products.

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