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The Best First Foods for Baby

Is baby ready to move beyond exclusive breast milk or formula and try solid foods? Here's what to serve first.
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By Preeti Parikh, MD, Pediatrician
Updated January 22, 2020
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Image: Johner Images

Babies are generally ready to start trying solid foods around 6 months, but it’s okay to start as early as 4 months. If baby is showing interest in other foods (think: grabbing for your chicken wings and staring at your cereal) and is able to sit up in their high chair, it’s probably a good time to start. It’s best to run it past your pediatrician before starting the taste tests—the four-month checkup is a great time to ask.

While many parents think of the standard first food as single-grain baby cereal (often rice cereal or oatmeal) mixed with breast milk or formula, New York City pediatrician Preeti Parikh, MD, says there’s no scientific data that says you have to start with that. Whole grains; strained, mashed and finely pureed fruits and veggies (like bananas and sweet potatoes) and yogurt (for babies 6 months and up) are all great first foods. Pay close attention to size and texture, to avoid choking hazards. Food bites should be small and easily gnashed by baby’s gums; avoid foods that are chunky (like nuts), sticky (like undiluted peanut butter) and round (like uncut grapes).

Pediatricians used to advise staying clear of common allergen foods like fish, eggs and nuts until baby was older—but based on recent research, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says there’s no need to wait. In fact, it’s actually thought to be good to introduce these foods early and often, to lower baby’s chances of developing an allergy.

Start giving baby one food item a day, and allow at least two to three days between each new food introduction to monitor for allergic reactions. Tip: Try to introduce new foods early in the day, to give yourself more time to be on the lookout for possible reactions.

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At 9 months, it’s time to start introducing new textures. Baby’s diet should be similar to yours, but with much smaller pieces, since they’re still getting the hang of this whole chewing thing. Three meals and two snacks per day are ideal.

Check out The Bump’s Finger Foods chart:

Image: The Bump

Stay away from honey until baby is at least a year old, to avoid risk of infant botulism. You can also introduce cow’s milk at 12 months. If your little one doesn’t like that, try cheese or yogurt instead.

By now, most calories should be coming from solid foods. Don’t ever force foods—if baby repeatedly refuses to try something new, they’re simply not ready yet. And remember, baby still needs breast milk or formula until at least a year.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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