Food is so much more than nutrition. Eating and sharing meals include a whole range of physical, social, and emotional connections. It’s never too early to expose your child to good eating habits. 

In the earliest months of life, your child’s diet will consist principally of breast milk and formula, with a few other varieties of liquids in some cases. But once your baby starts on solid foods, the fun begins.

Doctors suggest introducing your baby to solid foods around 6 months of age, although some babies may show signs of being ready from the fourth month. If your little one shows a precocious interest in food, it’s advisable to consult her pediatrician or healthcare professional, before introducing solids.

Once your baby reaches the long-awaited jump to the vast and delicious world of solid foods, you’ll likely start to notice certain things, such as:

  • Your baby stands upright on her own and is able to sit in a high chair, a baby feeding seat, or a baby safety seat. This reveals that her back and neck are strong enough to keep her head up and remain seated. 
  • Your baby is able to bring food to the back of her mouth to swallow.
  • Signs of hunger after a feeding of breast milk or formula. If your baby has an appetite even after breastfeeding or bottle feeding, this may indicate that her body is eager for new sources of nutrients.
  • You notice that your little one starts to show interest in your food. Some babies will even open their mouths or smack their lips when they see you or others eating regular meals or snacks.
  • If your baby has doubled her birth weight, she is probably ready to start with solid foods.

Despite being prepared to try new foods, specialists recommend that you continue to feed your baby with breast milk or formula during the first few months after introducing solid foods.

How to start out?

A good way to start out nice and easy is with soft cereals and purees in small portions. These soft and silky concoctions will not only make it easier for your daughter to move from liquids to solids, but she will also find it safer to swallow. Eating solid foods is a new experience, so a lot of the food you spoon in her mouth may end up on her face or bib. Once your baby is skilled in ingesting and swallowing these kinds of food, it might be time to try firmer ingredients, such as cooked vegetables, rice, couscous, pasta, gelatin, and tiny pieces of squashy or cooked fruits.

There are no firm rules when it comes to introducing solids, so follow the advice of your baby’s pediatrician or your health care provider, since they know her physical condition best. The order in which food is introduced is indistinct. If you have fed your baby exclusively with breast milk or formula, baby foods prepared with meat may be beneficial as they contain minerals like zinc and iron, which are easy to absorb.

Most experts recommend starting out with home-cooked foods. However, you will surely find a selection of prepared and fortified baby foods in the supermarket and health food stores. Regardless, it is advisable that you consult your baby’s pediatrician about your choices. 

As your baby grows, you can vary food choices and introduce new foods every couple of weeks. Most families find that by the age of 12 months, their baby is ready to enjoy virtually everything in the family’s meal repertoire. Keep in mind that it will be best to feed her with fresh, nutritious, and preservative-free products.  

Tips to make eating a shared pleasure

Eating is such a fun and inclusive family ritual, that everyone will be eager to have your baby join in family mealtimes. Here are some tips to make the transition go smoothly:

  • Make mealtimes special. Try to ensure a happy and relaxed atmosphere around the table.
  • If possible, invite all family members to participate in your mealtimes. This way your little one will begin to associate meals with pleasant, social experiences. 
  • Become your child’s best example. Your baby will be more encouraged to eat different foods if she watches you eat a variety of healthy foods in an orderly manner.
    • By all means, try offering solids after she’s taken some milk or formula. Eating solid foods is slow and difficult at first. If your little one is too hungry, she’ll struggle with the solid food and may get discouraged and fussy. 
    • Trust your baby’s appetite. Forcing her to eat beyond her needs can lead to unhealthy nutritional behaviors. She will let you know when she’s satisfied by refusing to try a bite, returning some food, or being distracted.
    • If your baby refuses to eat certain foods, don’t despair. It can take several attempts for her to accept certain flavors and textures. As in everything, the recommendation is to be patient and observe what your child’s behavior says about her preferences and needs.

Recipes to start out

Here are some ideas for making the transition to solid foods more tasty, healthy, and varied. 

Purees recipes for babies 4 to 6 months old (recipes by Homemade-baby food-recipes).

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Tender Carrots Puree

Choose large, older carrots –these are actually richer in nutrients than baby carrots. Just trim the ends and slice. Then steam, boil, or microwave and puree.

Butternut Squash                                                                                                            Preheat the oven to 400 °F or 200 °C.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.
Place the squash in a baking tin, face down in about one inch of water.
Bake for about 40 mins. Keep an eye on the water in the pan –add a little more if necessary.
The squash is cooked when it feels soft.
Remove the flesh from the skin and either puree it or mash it lightly with a fork.

Tasty Zucchini    

Simply wash the zucchini, remove both ends, then slice. You can boil in a very little water, steam, or microwave them until tender. Then, puree them as usual.

Luxurious Asparagus

After washing the tips, tie them in a bundle to steam them (there are special asparagus steamers designed for the purpose!). Alternatively, boil them in a little water for 5-7 minutes. Finally, puree or mash the asparagus tips as desired.

TIP: Don’t cook asparagus in iron pots. The tannins in asparagus react with the iron and discolor the stems.

Sample menu for babies 8 to 12 months old (created by healthychildren.org)

Breakfast

  • 1/2 cup of cereal or scrambled egg
  • 1/2 cup of chopped or crushed fruit, depending on whether your baby is already feeding alone
  • 120 to 180 ml of breast milk or formula

Snack

  • 120 to 180 ml of breast milk, formula or water
  • 1/2 cup of cheese cubes or cooked vegetables

Lunch

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of yogurt or cottage cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of orange or yellow vegetables (such as carrots or pumpkin)
  • 120 to 180 ml of breast milk or formula

Collation

  • 1 soft cookie
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt or chopped fruit

Dinner

  • 1/4 cup of chopped meat, chicken, or tofu
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of green vegetables
  • 1/4 cup of pasta, rice, or potato
  • 1/4 cup of fruit
  • 120 to 180 ml of breast milk or formula

Now that you have some baby food recipes and menus, we encourage you to continue exploring new options and enjoy this stage with your little one!