A baby’s first solid foods aren’t really solid; they’re mushy. The main thing is, they arrive on a spoon rather than squirting from a nipple and they require different mouth actions to get down. A hundred years ago, solid food was introduced when a baby was a year old. In other eras, doctors advised giving it as early as one or two months. Nowadays, the standard advice is to offer the first spoon food sometime between four and six months.
Why start then? Breast milk or formula supplies all the nutrients most babies need for the first six months. There is no advantage to starting solids much earlier; and some risk of making a baby overweight. Around six months, babies need extra iron, which solid foods supply. They take to the idea of spoon food easily at 4 to 6 months; but they may be more resistant a few months later.
If you have a family history of food allergies, the usual advise is to delay introducing certain solids foods that are likely to trigger allergies, such as egg whites and fish Many doctors believe that the older a baby is when he receives a new food, the less apt he is to develop an allergy to it. However, some doctors are rethinking this advice. So, ask your child’s doctor for specific recommendations.
There’s no rush. One factor in giving solids earlier has been the eagerness of parents who don’t want their baby to be one day later than the baby up the street. But with eating, like many aspects of development, earlier does not mean better. If you pay attention to your baby’s signs, you can pick up cues to tell you when starting spoon foods is developmentally right. Can your baby hold his head up well? Is he interested in table foods, especially the food on your plate?
Young infants have a reflex that causes them to thrust out their tongues in response to solid (mushy) foods. It’s frustrating to try to feed a baby who still has an active tongue thrust reflex. If your baby sticks out his tongue as soon as any little bit of food touches it, don’t force the issue. Instead, wait a few days, and try again.
Give your baby time to learn to like each new food. Start with a teaspoonful or less and work up gradually to two or three tablespoonfuls if your baby wants it. Give just a taste for several days, until your baby shows signs of enjoying it.