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A Solid Start: Tips for Introducing Solids & Preventing a Picky Eater

Toddler in a high chair holding a spoon and smiling

When your baby is about 6 months-old, the CDC gives the green light for you to introduce solid foods. It’s an exciting new stage in your child’s development!

There can also be a little pressure to start them off with success.

If you’ve ever talked to someone who says their child only eats a select few foods, which might include a very specific brand of macaroni and cheese and only dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, you might have vowed that you would never let your child become a picky eater.

Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to introduce solids in a safe and positive way that can also encourage your child to remain open to trying new foods!

When to Start

Babies are typically ready to start trying solid foods between 4 to 6 months-old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months-old.

Here are some signs the AAP states could indicate your baby is ready for solids:
  • He or she holds their head up.
  • Sitting up mostly independently.
  • Your baby weighs double their birth weight (or weighs at least 13 lbs).
  • Interest in food (ex: Opening their mouth when food comes near).
  • Lip and tongue coordination can be used to move food from a spoon to their throats (the “tongue thrust” reflex has resolved)
  • Uses their hand to grasp objects
It’s important to consider all of the above factors when determining whether your baby is ready to start eating solids.

Starting too early can result in difficulties chewing and swallowing. It can also make it more difficult for your baby to remain at a healthy weight.

Tips for Introducing Your Baby to Solids

Here are some recommendations to keep in mind when it’s time to start solids.

#1: Start with easier textures.

Pureed or mashed textures are good to start with, because they’re easy for your baby to manage in their mouth and swallow as their oral musculature and coordination develops.

When your baby is closer to 7-8 months-old, you can also introduce “dissolvable solids”. These are foods like baby cereal or puffs that do not require chewing and can be dissolved in your baby’s mouth with their saliva.

#2: Make safe feeding a priority.

Try starting with small portions when first introducing solid foods. The CDC states you can introduce food types (fruits, vegetables, yogurt/cheese, grains) in any order.

Introducing a single-ingredient food and waiting about 3-5 days before introducing a new food can help you identify any potential allergens. Be sure to discuss those with your child’s pediatrician

Of course, it’s important to always watch your baby when he or she is eating. Look out for potential signs of feeding difficulties, such as:

  • Coughing, choking, or gagging during or after eating.
  • Wet or hoarse vocal quality after meals.
  • Difficulty breathing while eating or drinking.
  • Spitting up or vomiting.
  • Refusals during mealtime.
If you notice any of these signs and have concerns with your child’s feeding skills, talk to your child’s pediatrician. He or she may refer your child for a Feeding Evaluation with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). The SLP can provide recommendations that might include modifying food or liquid consistencies or ongoing/weekly feeding therapy.
Keep in mind that some children may gag slightly when new textures or tastes are presented. If you notice your child frequently gagging with solids, this can be a cause for concern.

#3: Practice patience.

Introducing solids can come with a learning curve for both you and your baby! Remember to try and stay patient through any bumps along the way.
Expect some messes, and try to embrace them! Learning to eat solid foods is a new skill that your baby will need to practice.

The saying, “don’t play with your food” doesn’t exactly apply here. Interacting with food in ways that involve the senses, like touching, tasting, smelling, and seeing, can actually help a baby become more comfortable with a variety of foods.

If your baby turns his or her head, or keeps their mouth closed when you approach with a spoonful of food, recognize those actions as cues that your baby may be finished eating.

#4: Introduce a variety of foods, consistently.

Did you know that a child may need to try a food 10 to 15 times over a period of several months before he or she gets used to the flavor?

If your baby doesn’t seem to love a certain food the first time he or she tries it, stick with it! Even small tastes of the food here and there over time can help your child become used to it.

#5: For fruits & veggies - start early!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a baby’s taste preference can be established by the time he or she is just 9 months old!

That means once your baby is ready to start solids, you’ll want to introduce him or her to a variety of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables right away.
Help your baby build a positive association with healthy foods by doing things like modeling how you eat them, taking your baby shopping, and having them watch as you cook.

Pairing new foods with a food your baby has already tried and liked is a great way to encourage him or her to increase their palate!

Additional Resources

Starting solids can be both exciting and a little stressful! By introducing solid foods at the right time, and following some expert tips, you can help your baby establish positive, healthy eating habits from the beginning.

If you have concerns about your child’s feeding skills, specialized services from a Speech-Language Pathologist can help. An initial evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy both in person (in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio) and through teletherapy (nationwide). If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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