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Starting Solids

I often joke that if you asked ten pediatricians, read ten books and asked 10 grandmothers you would get thirty different opinions on how to start solid foods. There is very little research on starting solids. Who would like to enroll their infant in a research study where you feed them only carrots for 5 years?

When starting out, it is a good idea to introduce one new food every five to seven days. Most experts will tell you that starting this way will help detect food allergies. Practically speaking, this rarely occurs. Few babies are allergic to grains, fruits and veggies.

I support the idea of introducing food varieties slowly as even babies prefer familiar foods. Our babies often dislike new food, but learn to like them over a few days. It is this reaction that has led us to feed a new food with a familiar favorite. When starting new solid foods, the new food should be fed each day during the five day period. Any foods previously tolerated can be included in a meal. While most people recommend either veggies or fruits, we alternate (roughly), adding fruits then vegetables. We quickly end up with fruits in the morning and veggies in the evening.

Let me explain…

Our first 5-day period, we’ll choose squash. We feed squash once or
twice a day (and take lots of pictures)

During the second 5-day period, we add a fruit (say, apple sauce). During these five days, apple sauce is fed once or twice a day. We may feed apple sauce for breakfast and squash for dinner. Sometimes we will include squash along with the apple sauce. The two foods are kept on separate sides of a bowl. Our new eaters often pucker their lips and make faces when fed a new unfamiliar taste. When upset about the apple sauce, we will offer a few spoonfuls of the squash (the familiar food). Introducing new food is easier by introducing a new taste with a familiar “comfort” food.

During the third 5-day period, we would introduce either another veggie or grain (say rice cereal). During this third period, rice cereal would be fed every day. We might feed meals of apple sauce with rice in the morning, and squash with rice is fed at night. We could have a big meal, including squash, rice cereal and apple sauce if we wanted.

During the fourth 5-day period, we will start green beans (never a favorite of our babies). Of course, every day we will feed green beans. During these five days, breakfast would remain apple sauce with or without ricecereal. Green beans would be fed at dinner with or without squash or rice cereal. This is not a rigid list of the exact foods we feed, because it varies with each child. The principles stay the same. New fruits get cycled in at breakfast, while new veggies get cycled in at dinner. We feed grains anytime of day.

Parents often ask for the precise written instructions of what to feed their babies. When we were new parents, I know we wanted the “right foods list,” too. Unfortunately, there is not a single correct way to feed children.

Typically a child’s milk intake stays the same from when they start solids until 9 months. Formula fed infants typically take 25 to 35 ounces a day from 4 to 9 months old. When you are starting solids feed the child milk and then offer the solid foods. If you offer rice cereal (prior to formula or breast milk) to a 5 month old that just slept 8 hours you are bound to have lots of crying.

Many grandmothers believe that you must feed an infant solid foods to sleep through the night. I do not believe this. All nine of our children slept through the night consistently prior to beginning solid feedings.

Arsenic and Rice

Our fourth baby is curious about table foods and I'm ready to start her on solids. I've come across a number of articles about arsenic in rice cereal and am considering skipping rice altogether. (... more on arsenic and rice)


Written January 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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