Between the ages of 4 and 6 months, your baby may be ready to be spoon fed her first solids. Before this age, the American Academy of Pediatricians indicates that her natural tongue-thrust pattern precludes you from feeding her solids, which is why she’ll “push” things out of her mouth with her tongue. Spoon feeding your baby will be messy–you can plan on that. She may even show keen interest in food but eschew the spoon. However, resistance isn’t necessarily futile. Use solid foods pediatricians recommend that are prepared to a texture that your baby can readily masticate and swallow. Safe, successful spoon-feeding is possible.
Look for signs of developmental readiness. According to MayoClinic.com, she may show signs of interest in solid food and open her mouth when a spoon is presented. She should be able to sit up with nominal assistance and hold her head up. If your child meets these criteria and her pediatrician gives you the go-ahead, you’re ready to embark upon spoon feeding.
Start with single-grain, iron-fortified cereal. The AAP and MayoClinic.Com recommend rice cereal, and possibly oatmeal and barley, to add variety. Offer your baby wheat and mixed-grain cereals last, as some infants are allergic to these food types.
Make sure the texture of the cereal is thin. MayoClinic.com advises using 1 tbsp. of dried cereal to 4 or 5 tbsp. of breast milk or formula. Make serving amounts small at first–no more than 1 tbsp. at a time–placed on a separate dish. Don’t feed your baby directly from a jar or container; her saliva introduces bacteria into the food.
Cover the feeding area with old towels or a drop cloth. MayoClinic.com forewarns you that baby’s first spoon-feedings are a time of exploration for your child as she discovers new textures and tastes. Expect cereal to end up on your baby’s hands, face, clothes, and even you.
Keep your baby seated upright. You can place her on your lap or in a highchair with secured buckles. If you use a highchair, make sure it’s stable, advises MayoClinic.com. Don’t permit older children to climb on the chair while you’re spoon-feeding your baby, because this is a safety hazard.
Offer tiny portions of cereal in the spoon. Take a break between bites. Feed your baby until she turns her head away, leans away from you or keeps her mouth closed when the spoon is offered. Don’t try to force your child to finish every bit of cereal. Simply try again a little later in the day. Mayo Clinic nutritionists, Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., suggest feeding your infant every 2 to 4 hours.
Tips and Warnings
- After your baby successfully adjusts to cereal feedings, you can integrate pureed single foods into her diet, says MayoClinic.com. Introduce new foods one at a time, waiting 3 to 5 days before you introduce another. This allows you to single out potential problem foods that cause diarrhea, vomiting and other unpleasant reactions. Your baby won’t be ready to transition to chopped finger foods until she’s between 8 and 10 months of age. Start with cooked pasta, cheese, ground meat, very soft fruit and graham crackers, MayoClinic.com suggests.
- Don’t mix cereal with fruit juice; according to the AAP, your baby should not be given juice before 6 months of age. All fruit juice should be pasteurized, says MayoClinic.Com. Don’t give your baby whole cow’s milk, citrus, honey or corn syrup before her first birthday.
Things You’ll Need
Rice cereal, breast milk or formula, baby spoon, old towels or dropcloth, highchair.