Most young babies begin eating solid foods when they are still very young. According to the Mayo Clinic, solids should usually be introduced from 4 to 6 months, depending on the child.
Some babies do fine with breast milk or formula only until they are 6 months old, while others take an early interest in what adults and other children in the family are eating. This is a sign that your baby may be ready to try new foods.
Introducing Solid Foods
If someone in your family has a food allergy, you will need to introduce solid foods very carefully. Even in families without food allergies, most pediatricians recommend introducing new foods gradually. There should be 3 to 5 days between trying new tastes, and a young child should always be observed for any reaction after eating something new.
Developing a Feeding Plan
When you follow a feeding plan that your doctor gives you, you will first introduce rice-based baby cereal to your infant. This is almost always safe and causes few allergic reactions. Next, most babies eat barley or oatmeal, and then fruits and vegetables are introduced one at a time. You will notice that your infant likes some foods better than others. Most babies prefer the sweet taste of fruits instead of the bland taste of vegetables. Baby food does not have added salt, pepper or spices that will be completely new tastes when your baby is old enough to taste table food.
As a baby heads for his or her first birthday, he or she has probably eaten many different foods. Once an infant has eaten single-item foods without an allergic reaction like vomiting, diarrhea or developing a rash, it is safe to begin to combine foods at a meal. For instance, a baby may eat pureed meat, a vegetable and a fruit at dinnertime. By his or her first birthday, a baby can usually eat what the rest of the family is eating, according to the Mayo Clinic. The food will need to be mashed or chopped into small pieces for easy chewing and to avoid choking.
Be Aware of Food Allergies
If a baby has a food allergy, the allergic reaction can be much worse than vomiting or diarrhea. Severe allergic reactions can even cause death, although this is rare. Some children are allergic to certain foods more than others, such as eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts. It was once believed that avoiding these common foods until the child was older would prevent food allergies. This is no longer the case since research indicates that there is no evidence of delaying the introduction of these foods prevents allergies.
Snacks to Avoid
Certain foods should not be fed to an infant under 1 year of age, including cow's milk and honey. There is a possibility that honey can cause infant botulism, a serious sickness. Hot dogs, grapes, raw vegetables and fruit chunks can be a choking hazard and should be avoided unless they are cut into very small pieces. Other foods to avoid are nuts, popcorn, hard candy, seeds, peanut butter and marshmallows. When in doubt, do not let a baby try the food for a snack, even if he or she grabs for it and shows an interest in trying it.