Starting Solids

Parent Q&A

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  • hi there! My daughter is about to start solids. I'm looking for a book on encouraging healthy eating habits in babies and toddlers. any recommendations?

    Hello! I recommend checking out Ellyn Satter. She has many books; the one I read when my children were starting solids is called Child of Mine. I found her approach to be very sensible -- in a nutshell, you decide when and what, the child decides how much. Good luck on your journey! And don't forget to have fun -- eating should be joyful!

    Super nutrition for babies. It's a great book with both information and simple recipes. I'd also recommend baby-led weaning which has a website too. It's not actually about weaning but about letting babies feed themselves. I've done this with both my kids and it's great for me and them as I haven't spent tons of time pureeing food or buying baby food from the store. 

    With the caveat that my son is also at the very beginning of his solid food journey, I’ve really liked Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett.

    For raising our 2 young children, we have only used 3 books extensively- one on sleep (Ferber), potty (Oh Crap...), and this one, on eating: Child of Mind: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

    It divides the responsibility of eating two ways: parents decide when and what; and our children decide how much, including none, or tons.  The result: our children have a varied palate- veggies, slightly spicy foods (S. Indian grandma still working on that), fruits, nuts, fish, sushi, meats. He even likes kombucha; and coffee, beer and wine (which of course we serve rarely and in small amounts). In fact, we're not certain of any food our older son categorically rejects (younger just started solids several months ago).  I think a big part of this is how these responsibilities have been divided up.  If we don't want him to eat ice cream, we just don't serve it.  And when we do, we can have as much as he wants.  The book goes further to suggest the we serve dessert with the rest of the meal. On the nights we've been courageous enough to do this, it's worked.  He's eaten a pretty balanced meal.  He'll self-regulate and even stop on the dessert as well.  Sure, he can eat 4 servings of ice cream in one sitting, but we don't offer it often.  And it's amazing to see him stop after awhile, considering how much he enjoys it.  Another result is that he's very good at sharing, and will even share his favorite desserts. I think that's because we don't limit them when we serve them.  The other thing that this book supports, implicitly, at least, is that beside food for infants (which needs to be soft and moist as they're just learning, and their teeth may not all be in), there's no such thing as children's food.  It's like music- we serve them what we like, and they adopt our tastes (so it seems to us). Obviously, there are billions of people who did not grow up on chicken tenders, fish sticks, or hamburgers and candy.  If one night your child doesn't eat it all, it's not the end of the world.  

    There are lots of other tips- how to introduce new foods, how not to crazy about eating, etc.  We highly recommend it.  Our sons (hopefully the 2nd one as well, and he seems to, so far- loves brie, cauliflower, chili, etc.) enjoy food, we never feel stressed about it, and we're not short order cooks. PM me if you'd like to chat more about it.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

5-month-old's face rash from the rice cereal

March 2004

A week ago I started my 5 month old breastfed baby on solids because I just went back to work and he does not consistently take the bottle. Some days he won't take it at all, other days he may take 2-3 oz. This is during an 8 hour period!

Anyway, he really loves the rice cereal (Earth's Best), but has a rash on his checks and chin that has gotten worse. The nurse at his doctor's office said he would get hives if he was allergic, and that the combination of food and salivia was irritating his face.

I hate to stop the solids because he is really into it and now makes smacking noises when he wants to eat solids. I tired oatmeal (same brand), but he does not seem to like it as much as the rice.

Any ideas/suggestions would be helpful. I did not want to start solids so early, but he is only in the 50% for weight and went down to the 45% at his last check-up. Lastly, I am concerned about my milk supply, although he always gets the breast before the food (the babysitter offers the bottle before the cereal, as well). Thanks in advance! Just a couple of thoughts: First, does your baby drool a lot? My son had a face rash for most of the last half of his first year, because he was a huge drooler (we had to keep a bib on him just to keep his clothing dry...) Second, there's no real need to be concerned because your child's weight is ''just'' in the 50th percentile -- That's an average, hence perfectly normal, weight. My son was in the 25th percentile weight-wise, and 75th percentile length-wise, for a long time and utterly healthy. Also, going down from the 50th to the 45th percentile is also no big deal -- that's such a small change that it could be due to what a child ate or drank before measurement, or whether or not he's filled his diaper recently. Finally, once your child starts solids, your milk supply may go down. Mine did. We finally ended up using formula to mix with cereal (assuming that since the breast was still his primary source of nutrition, what was mixed with the cereal was not so important); eventually we supplemented with formula, although I did keep nursing until he was about a year old. Again, my son is perfectly, completely, totally healthy. I know you get severely chastized around here for using formula for any reason, but in my case I just had to bow to reality and do what worked. Karen

Offering cereal to a 5-month-old who refuses the bottle is a pretty reasonable thing to do, but your post implies that *you* are also giving him cereal. Don't! Your breastmilk is still the most important thing for him and should make up nearly all of his diet for at least a few more months. He should get cereal (and/or other solid foods) *only* during the hours that you are at work (and, of course, only after the bottle is offered, as you said the sitter is already doing). I would also suggest that the cereal be mixed with pumped breastmilk, so that your baby is getting some milk by spoon, and that you should encourage your baby to nurse as often as possible during the hours you are home, including at night. While it can be exhausting for you (and frustrating if he has formerly been a ''good'' sleeper), he is likely to be much healthier if you can get him to ''reverse cycle'' a bit, eating less and sleeping more during the day, eating more and sleeping less during the night. You can also have the caregiver try offering breastmilk in a cup (experiment with various kinds of spouts and valves, or even a plain open cup rather than a sippy cup, if he doesn't like the first type you try) rather than a bottle. And, of course, there are various things you can try to get him to accept more from a bottle -- I know many suggestions are on the website archive.

As for the rash, if you're pretty sure it's not an allergic reaction (and allergies to rice cereal *are* very uncommon), the solution is probably to make the cereal a bit thicker, so that it's less likely to get onto his face, and to make sure his caregiver cleans his face thoroughly after each feeding. Do keep in mind, though, that a mild allergic ''skin contact'' reaction to dairy and/or soy *is* very common, and can easily turn into a more serious allergy later. If the cereal is being mixed with formula (or has formula in it -- check the ingredients label carefully), that could be the problem. Try mixing it with breastmilk (which is better nutritionally, too) or with plain water instead.

As for your milk supply, there is little reason to worry. Continue to pump as much as you can, and encourage your baby to nurse as often as possible during the mornings, evenings, nights and weekends. Limit the amount of evening and weekend time you spend away from your baby for a while. At worst, you will end up supplementing with some formula during the workday, or feeding him more solid foods than might otherwise be ideal for his age (in which case a multivitamin supplement is probably a good idea too), but you can definitely continue to breastfeed during the hours you are at home. Remember, it's a supply equals demand system! Holly

I agree w/ the nurse - if your son doesn't have an outbreak on the rest of his body, it's most likely irritation and not an allergy. The same sort of rash will appear w/ teething because they are drooling so much that the salivia irritates their skin. I did want to comment though that you cannot expect solids at this stage to replace milk and to fill them up. There's not much calories in the rice cereal. All you are really doing at this point is introducing the concept of solids, they are learning HOW to eat solids and to have something other than a nipple in their mouths. This issue of solids becoming the main source of nutrition comes later. More importantly, he is probably getting more breast milk than you think -- babies become better, more efficient, strong suckers so they can get the same amount of milk but in less time than it took before. Also, around this time is when your breasts will change and not fluctuate so much where they feel like they are about to burst -- the milk is still there but it can sometimes feel like there's nothing. If there's a doubt, pump and you can see that milk is still there. Also, a 5% drop in weight precentile, in my opinion, is nothing to worry about. He is still up in a good precentile range. Their weight will fluctuate, especially as they become more mobile. W/ my 15 month old we've already gone thru several bouts of not wanting to eat much for several days, then wanting to eat non-stop for the next couple of days. anon
I missed your original post so please forgive me if some of what I write doesn't apply to your situation. As an infant I had a horrible rash all over my face that was attributed to my mother starting me on rice cereal at 3 months. Knowing this, I planned to postpone solids with our son until he was at least 6 months. Guess what, at 3 months with nothing but the same breast milk in his diet he got a rash all over his face that lasted for months. The diagnosis was infant excema attributed to nothing in particular, and most likely the first indication of a lifetime of allergies (which I have). I don't have any advice on the long term health of your child, but I will tell you that the only thing (besides lathering his face with hydrocortisone) that worked to clear his rash up was the following at every diaper change:
* face wash with damp cloth
* liberal sprinking of corn stach
* top application of Bag Balm (later we just used Long's brand A ointment which doesn't have any odor) hope this helps.

Which foods to introduce first?

December 2002

I just assumed that I would begin feeding my almost 6 month old rice cereal when he begins eating solids (soon). According to friends and my doctor this is what one does. My son is presently breastfed. But recently I was given a chart by an osteopath about the order of foods to feed infants when they begin solids. It suggests beginning with vegetables and fruits because they are more easily digested (the enzymes). I believe the sheet I received was written by Haushka (the skin care man?) Rice cereal and other grains are recommended later after the teeth have come in. I know from my own experience that veggies and fruits are less mucous producing and easy to digest. This is a new theory to me (re: infants & solids)--but I kind of like it. Regarding allergies and immunity --it makes some sense. Does anyone have any more information about this theory? terri

The reason to start with rice cereal are (1) it's convenient and cheap, (2) it's iron-fortified, and some older breastfed babies need more iron in their diet, and most importantly (3) it's a very low allergy risk. That said, there's no real reason not to start with vegetables or fruits if you prefer, and it's true that some babies digest produce more easily than grains. (Rice cereal often seems to be constipating. Barley cereal is often better.) Just pay attention to which are more or less likely to be allergenic. You can even start with meat; some people do that because it's a far superior source of iron and other nutrients as compared with either grains or fruit. (It does, however, tend to result in veeeerrry stinky diapers!) Holly
Our ped also told us to introduce vegetable and fruits, esp veggies first . I know from taking nutrition classes in chiropractic school that the proteins in grains are harder to digest. Forcing them to try to digest these proteins too early can set the stage for leaky gut syndrome and alleriges and immune issues. I think the whole idea of rice cereal is because of the iron issue. But the iron in breastmilk is more absorbed than anything that is fortified artificially, so it's not really an issue . I know we always hear that babies only have iron stores for 6 months but i've read a lot of research that says that is just not so. They can have enough for over a year. The levels may go down in breastmilk but they get more of it. You can always do a hemoglobin test if you are worried about iron. Throughout most of history babies were fed exclusively breastmilk for up to 2 yrs. It's only here that we have this insistence that they start solids so early. anyway, i was told that once we start solids , probably not till around a year, that veggies and fruit first then grains a few months down the road, good luck JN

7-month-old's meltdowns when I try to feed solids

Feb 2004

My 7 month old boy always seems to have a melt down every time I give him solids. He gets excited for them, eats a few bites, and then starts to fuss and cry in between bites. He also tends to suck on his hands in between bites. I am wondering if it is teething or if he is confused about the difference between nursing and eating solids. Any suggestions would be welcome.

It sounds to me as if your child simply isn't ready for solids. If you're still nursing/formula-feeding, I wouldn't worry about it. Some kids primarily breastfeed for the 1st year without much interest in solids. There's really no hurry. The only other thing I can think of is to try different foods -- maybe he doesn't like what you've offered?

7 month old won't open mouth to eat

December 2002

We started our daughter on solids two months ago and she has been meeting her meals with more and more resistance. She clamps her mouth shut and won't part her lips for a spoon or finger with food on it. We've tried giving her something else to chew on (spoon, toy) and putting the spoon with food on it in her mouth when she wasn't paying attention, but she's catching on to this tactic. We've tried letting her feed herself, explore with her food, finger food such as cheerios, feeding when hungry, after feeding, before feeding, sweet foods such as yogurt, bananas, bland foods like cereal, potatoes, singing songs/silly faces to make her laugh, ingonring her and leaving her with the food, you name it, but her mouth just stays clamped shut. We're afraid she's just hooked on her bottle and won't open her mouth for anything else - any advice? food-lovin' mama

A lot of people will probably tell you this... but just relax. She'll eat when she's ready, it just might be later than other babies. When she's a little older she might start to be more curious about the food you are eating and then start opening her mouth. Eventually she'll figure out that there are satisfying sources of food apart from the bottle and breast. My baby ate very little until about 7 mo. and then his eating just took off! I think he finally realized the point of eating. Maria
Your baby may have a perfectly good reason not to eat -- allergies, for example. I know a couple of kids who basically didn't touch solid foods until they were well past their first birthday, and they're now perfectly normal children with normal diets.

Seven months is way too early to worry about it. She doesn't need solid foods at all for quite a while -- even babies who *do* eat them eagerly should still be getting the vast majority of their nutrition from the breast (or bottle) until at least 9- 12 months. Children in families with a history of serious allergies shouldn't usually be started on solids at all until then!

If you keep trying to force or trick her into eating, you're going to wind up with a kid with serious food issues. Don't do it! Continue to offer her a variety of foods at your normal mealtimes, and let her eat it or not. As she approaches her first birthday, consider having her iron tested (she may or may not need a vitamin supplement) and perhaps work a little harder on getting her to use a cup rather than a bottle (it's best to get rid of the bottles by age 2 to avoid dental problems) if her diet is still almost all liquid. And consider the bright side -- feeding solids is a lot of hassle and mess that you don't have to deal with yet! Holly

I never understand why parents are so fired up to get their infants on solid foods. It's a known fact that breast milk (and surely formula) is the complete nutrition babies need TO ONE YEAR OLD. So what's the hurry? If she's not interested, let it go and try again next month, you've got five whole months to go! A go-with-the-flow mom
Hi there - I wanted to recommend an excellent book ''Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense''

I have followed the philosophy in this book with a lot of success. The author suggests that parents, in their effort to ensure that their child gets the nutrition it needs often cross a line, into coaxing and encouraging a child to eat. This creates power struggles over food, suddenly eating is your thing, not their domain to explore, so they resist. She recommends that if the child purses her lips and turns her head, to respect this and to wait a few minutes, then try again. If the child is definitely not interested, then end the feeding. Also, schedule in regular snack times. If the child isn't interested in eating at a certain meal, that's OK, since a snack is only a couple of hours away.

She also talks about a child's physical readiness. Children develop the ability to move food from the front to the back of their mouths at a certain time. You started your child on solid food on the young side, so I wouldn't worry. She will take a greater and greater interest in food as she is ready. Pushing it may set her back a little. good luck!

7-month-old's Low interest in solids

November 2002

Am seeking tips & tricks for feeding solids to an almost 7- month-old. Began with rice cereal, then oatmeal cereal, and no interest. So, moved on to sweet potatoes and yams (fresh and organic and pureed with some water to create a thick, soupy consistency) and saw small improvement, but still minimal interest. She takes a few small spoonfuls maximum, and takes minutes (literally) to swallow. She'll take a few sips of water between mouthfuls. Seems content with an open mouth full of food (smiling, doesn't turn her head, etc.), but just doesn't swallow immediately. Same reaction with broccoli, applesauce, etc. So, the reaction doesn't appear to be tied to a specific food, but, rather, related to the act of eating itself. She certainly shows interest when we eat, so her own lack of interest seems odd. Pediatrician said to just keep trying, which, of course, I am doing. Am not worried (yet!), but thought the ''been there done that'' parents might help me move this process along. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

Sounds slightly familiar. We started our little boy (now 11 mo.) on solids at 4.5 months. He did swallow, but ate very little at a time and took at least 5-6 tries before accepting a new food. All of a sudden (literally) at 7 months he just started chowing down. I think it was a timing thing. If we had started him at 3 months or 6 months on solids he probably still would have really started eating at 7 months. Keep trying and be patient. She'll figure it out eventually. Maria
Try Cheerios. My son also showed no interest in any solid food or baby food, despite relentless efforts by his nanny and myself. At nine months old he was still refusing solids, so our pediatrican suggested Cheerios. We put him on the living room floor, spread dry Cheerios in front of him and sat back and watched as he picked one up, gummed it til it was super soft and ate it. (We were so elated that my husband actually grabbed the videocamera and recorded the moment.) His interest in Cheerios then led the way to all kinds of good stuff. Good luck. Danielle
Don't worry about your seven month old's lack of interest in food. Our daughter didn't touch any solids until she was 10 months old. Now she eats like a hound! She had zero interest in baby food. In fact her first food was at a Japanese restaurant. She had salmon terriyaki, vegetable tempura and miso soup! Unbelievable - but the kid loves good tasting food. I suggest trying scrambled eggs. But the main thing is not to worry. Kids know when they are ready for solid food. Madeleine
from what i recall from my experience with intoducing solid food, is that during these next few months, you are just allowing your child to explore food, flavors, textures and how to manipulate it in their mouths, swallow, digest etc. it is not until they are about a year, that there is a true need for nutrition from solids. they should still be gaining all nutrition from nursing or formula. all children do things at their own pace, and your pediatrician is giving you the best advice in that you just keep presenting it and they will decide when and how much to injest. i know my now very balanced eater who is 2.5, was a slow to warm to food, but eventually loved certain foods for a while, went through drought periods and came around again. it was agonizing at times. i just tried to consistently present an array of foods and varied the options with the seasons. sorry for rambling, but i've seen the pitfalls my siblings have fallen into with my nieces and nephews. the worst thing you can probably do is to just stick with the only thing your child ends up liking. they are getting used to flavors and textures, and if you get off at the first stop, you may likely encourage a picky eater. linee
Remember at this age solid foods are about learning and socialization, not nutrition. Plenty of perfectly healthy kids eat little or no solids until around their first birthday or even later, and babies and toddlers are actually very good at regulating their own diets. Continue to make food available to your baby, especially at family mealtimes, but don't push it. Try offering finger foods rather than pureed or soupy things; most 7 month olds can cope with firmer things like diced soft fruits, chunky mashed potatoes, and Cheerios or puffed rice, and many will eat only if they can feed themselves.

If your baby is still not eating solids by 9-12 months, have the doctor do an iron test to see if a supplement is needed. Otherwise, don't worry, this is perfectly normal and you don't need to do anything special. Holly