Sometime between 4-6 months old, a baby is ready to be introduced to solids. There is much debate about whether or not a baby is ready before 6 months, but your pediatrician should know what’s best for your particular child. At around 6 months of age, a breastfed baby needs more than just breast milk. Fortified rice cereal will provide much needed zinc and iron for the baby and it will introduce new textures to him. Starting solids does not mean weaning off of breast milk- it is recommended that babies continue to receive breast milk for at least until he’s a year old.
The first food baby receives is usually rice cereal because it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. For the first feedings, blend one tablespoon of the cereal mix with four or five tablespoons of breast milk. The consistency should be runny, so don’t be alarmed. Remember, baby steps. It will be like very thin gravy. Heating is optional if the breast milk has just been pumped and is still body temperature. If you do heat it, mix it up thoroughly and be sure there are no hot sections that will scold baby’s tongue.
Feeding for the first time will be even messier than you imagined. Be sure to prepare for it- don’t feed in a nice outfit you are about to go to work in! Also, it may take a while, so choose a time when you are relaxed and not rushed. For the first taste, use your (clean) finger to dab a little on baby’s tongue. He is familiar with the texture of your finger, not the spoon. Most likely, he will be interested in more. Rice cereal is fairly bland but with breast milk in it, it is pleasantly sweet. Breastfed babies take to solids better than most formula fed babies because they are used to receiving slightly different flavors all the time.
Baby may not take but a few spoonfuls at a time in the beginning. Follow his cues: if he keeps his lips tightly shut or turns his head away, then he is done. Eventually, you will build up to 1 or 2 ounces per food. Only introduce one food at a time. That way, if there are any adverse reactions, it will be easier to figure out which food caused it. After about 5 days of one food, if baby handles it fine, then introduce a new one.
Generally, after rice cereal is established, then a yellow vegetable is introduced, such as squash or carrots. Yellow vegetables come second because they are easier to digest than the green and are sweeter, so it will encourage baby in his new culinary adventure. After a yellow vegetable, try a green. It is usually recommended to start fruit after the vegetables because they are so yummy, baby might reject anything else. (That’s not necessarily true with breastfed babies, however, because their palettes are already used to such a variety.)
Eventually, you will have tried everything and you will know what baby likes and dislikes. (Although you should give everything a few chances before you decide he absolutely hates it. Babies are fickle.) Once he has established a routine with the solids, be sure to provide a “rainbow of foods” each day- that will include yellow vegetable, green vegetable, fruit, and meat. But don’t think that baby is ready to be weaned just because he has taken to solids so well. He still needs breast milk until he’s at least one, maybe even longer. Introducing solids is just that- an introduction to food. The food is only a supplement to the breast milk.