When I started solids with my firstborn I remember being so scared and overwhelmed. Should I make my own baby food or use jarred food? It seemed like such an ordeal to make my own baby food. But soon I realized it was just easier to use regular food.
With my second child, I focused more on having my boy eat what we were eating. And in doing so, it reminded me that the best first foods are actually the easiest to prepare.
So here is a list of easy first foods for baby, that will also help your child grow and thrive. Also, a note about the best time to start.
When to start solids
It’s safe to start solids anywhere from four to six months but what is most important is developmental readiness, not age. For instance, you might try to wait until six months but at five months your baby is very interested in food, has good head control, and can sit with support.
If you have a child at high risk for food allergies (those who have eczema, egg allergy, or a parent or sibling with food allergies), consider working with a pediatrician on the best time to introduce solids. The same goes for premature infants, who may have delays in development and special feeding needs. If you plan to follow Baby-Led Weaning (having baby feed himself from the get-go, it is recommended to wait until at least 6 months of age).
Many experts consider meat an ideal first food because it is a highly absorbable form of iron. Feel free to puree your own, get it jarred or allow for strips of soft meat if baby is 6 months or older and feeding herself (baby-led weaning).
2. Iron-fortified cereal
Today, skipping cereal is common. The problem is that iron-fortified cereals can help meet high iron need s (11mg) during this rapid growth phase. At about 6 months of age, iron stores deplete and babies need iron from complementary foods.
Rice cereal has been called into question in recent years. In 2018, Consumer Reports found about two-thirds of infant and toddler food to have concerning levels of at least one of these heavy metals: cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead. Rice-containing products and sweet potatoes had the highest levels of such heavy metals (organic too).
There are plenty of whole-grain infant cereal options likes oats and whole wheat. But in moderation rice is fine. The key is not to rely on just one source of iron. Provide meat, fortified cereals, and plant proteins.
You can serve cereals with other foods including vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies to increase its absorption. Also, you can use iron-fortified cereals when making muffins or pancakes.
3. Pureed Vegetables
Research shows that introducing many veggies early on can benefit baby. For example, in one study babies introduced to solids after 5.5 months accepted more vegetables when they were weaned to a variety-vegetable-blend versus a single veggie exposure.
In Fearless Feeding we put it this way:
Babies naturally prefer sweet tastes over bitter or sour, and salty tastes are learned quickly. But preferences for bitter tastes take time and repeated exposure. Because fruit is more easily accepted over vegetables, it can’t hurt to ramp up the variety of vegetables early on. We recommend vegetables be one of baby’s first foods and to rapidly increase their variety in the diet.
So go ahead and cook and puree a variety of vegetables to add to breast milk, formula, cereal or just serve them up straight.
Babies need a concentrated source of fat. Avocado is high in fat and soft making it a great first food. Avocados are also a source of vitamin E, contain fiber, and are rich in monounsaturated fats.
All you have to do is mash avocado, add some breast milk or formula and you’re ready to go. For a thicker consistency mix it with oat or rice cereal. For those baby-led weaning, strips of avocado can work.
Bananas are the easiest and most convenient fruit to prepare. Simply mash up to desired consistency and add breast milk or formula. Add it to cereal or serve it by itself. Bananas contain fiber, potassium, and even some vitamin C.
6. Soft mild fruit
It’s common for babies to become constipated when starting solids. And it may due to the lack of fresh fruits. At 6 months, babies can eat mild, skinless raw fruits like cantaloupe, pears, and mango. Cantaloupe is rich in vitamins A and C.
Soft mild fruit can be mashed with a fork or thrown in the blender to smooth it out. It can also be served with cereal. Remember chunks of food (that are also slippery) like cantaloupe are choking hazards.
Beyond First Food
Traditionally, first foods are pureed starting with a watery texture. Once baby masters that, it’s time to upgrade to a smooth puree followed by lumpy purees. Why is this important? One study showed the most robust gains in chewing ability occur between 6 and 10 months. And another study found babies introduced to lumpy solids after 9 months accepted fewer foods and had more feeding problems at seven years.
In other words, there are sensitive times of development for learning how to eat.
What first foods did (or are) you feeding your child?
Want detailed feeding charts, step-by-step guidance, and real-life feeding examples for feeding infants? Check out Maryann’s book Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School.
Post Updated 4/19