The rules for babies change so quickly. When my oldest were babies there was no doubt about should I feed my baby cereal. I automatically bought the box of rice cereal when they were 4 months old with no question in my mind.
Now the rules have changed. The experts now say that we don’t need to automatically start with the iron fortified cereals. That, in fact, starting with real food is showing a lot of benefits in the long-term of our children’s diets and the foundation of their eating habits.
When to Start Solids
The quick answer is when your baby is between 4 and 6 months old and also shows signs of readiness.
The signs of readiness for solids are:
- Sitting with support – can your baby handle being seated in a high chair?
- Good head and neck control – can they hold their head up and lean their head forwards towards a spoon?
- Leaning forward and opening mouth when introducing foods on a spoon and leaning back or turning away when uninterested.
- Ability to move the food from the spoon to the back of their mouth to swallow.
If your baby is unable to do these movements then wait a couple of weeks and try again.
How to Introduce New Foods:
Start with non-allergy foods such as meat, sweet potatoes, applesauce and bananas. Wait 3 to 5 days before introducing each new food in order to determine if your child has any bad reactions to the new food.
I had my first real issue with my daughter when I started introducing baby food to her diet. We had known from the first week of her being born that there was something wrong with her eating habits. We even took her to a feeding therapist because she would not drink more than a half ounce of formula or milk at a time. Everyone had lots of opinions and I had even changed her to a formula that was free of all allergens in case her problems were due to an allergy (side note…it smelled so bad, I was sad she never had that great baby smell). When we introduced sweet potatoes she immediately had a rash. This was the start of us knowing that she had an allergy.
What Baby Foods Do I Introduce First:
The AAP recommends the following foods with the least amount of allergic reactions.
Meat, sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, bananas, peaches and pears are all on the list of first foods.
Now the evidence is showing that we should go ahead and introduce foods with a higher allergy risk before the 1 year age mark. Eggs, peanuts, dairy, soy and fish can all be introduced in a baby-safe (soft) method. Speak to your pediatrician if you have any allergy history in your family or a baby with eczema as they will have a higher likelihood of food allergies so please have your pediatrician supervise the introduction of foods.
Notice that none of the foods mentioned include cereals.
Why Do We Use Cereals?
There are 2 reasons.
- The idea was to introduce bland foods and babies were less likely to dislike the taste. Now research shows that babies that are breastfed have already been able to taste the different flavors that the mother has eaten.
- Past research showed that babies that were fed cows milk based formulas or were breastfed became low in iron at around 6 months old. The AAP started recommending iron supplements at 4-6 months old. Iron was added to cereals as a way to increase iron in a babies diet. Therefore pediatricians recommend cereals as a way to get the recommended amount of iron. Here is an article on KellyMom that discusses if iron supplementation is necessary. It is still a controversial topic and new research is being done.
Other Ways to Get Iron In Your Babies Diet
While it is becoming controversial on how much iron a baby should have in their diet there will always be a small amount needed.
Foods high in iron
winter squash, sweet potatoes, meat, prune juice, mushrooms, spinach, grains and dried beans.
Research is changing the way we introduce new foods to babies. There has recently been a change in introducing peanuts and eggs to babies (see AAP) and soon there may be a change with iron supplements. Overall my thoughts are that introducing real foods instead of cereals is a good choice because that is how humans have introduced babies to foods for thousands of years. Isn’t it funny how things always come around in full circle.
If you want to go even further with this subject a great article is by The Food Renegade.
As always, ask your pediatrician for any feeding advice.
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robin rue says
I did what my pediatrician told me to do. I trusted him much more than the mixed information I was getting on the internet 🙂
You are right to do so! But it is interesting how things change through the years.
I listen to my pediatrician when it comes to my children but also take the advice of other mothers as well and ask for their input. This is a great read as I just had my fourth little one who is now 10 weeks old.
If I could go back in time and do it all over again I would not feed her rice cereal to either of my kids until they were much older. Believe it or not 22 years ago with my first child I was told to start feeding rice cereal at two or three months old which seems insane nowadays to do .
Yes, it changes all the time doesn’t it. I do many things differently with my kids and they are just 4 years apart. Plus all the new cool swings, strollers and accessories.
Thank you for the updates. This is interesting. I often said my baby knew when I ate pizza or Mexican!
Heather Garcia says
It is so crazy how things change so drastically over the years! It is a wonder we survived since everything we grew up with has changed! haha!
I agree. I tell my kids all the time that when they have kids they will probably have laws that babies have to wear helmets in cars. 🙂
Ali Gilbert says
This is super helpful. I was so unsure of when to start on the solids and neither of my kids would do rice cereal so then I would stress about what to start with. I will share this with all my new mom friends so they don’t go through what I did 🙂
This is so interesting – when I was a kid all we had in the communist Czechoslovakia was really plain cornflakes – and they only came in the 1990’s anyways! I can still remember the cardboard smell of them haha. There’s just so much more to think about these days!x
Cindy Ingalls says
It’s so interesting to see how feeding is evolving, especially with the idea of introducing allergy prone foods sooner. I makes sense to find out as early as possible what your kids can and can’t eat.
Yes, it was a long year until we did allergy testing with my daughter. It would have been nice to find out earlier.
I never did the cereal. All the information out there shows food before one is just for fun, and most of the time these cereals are full of stuff that really doesn’t need to be given. I say it’s up to the parents. I never bothered with cereals and i avoid pureed stuff too. We are all for BLW.
It seems like the rules change every year. I started my son on cereal early because his doctor recommended it. His advice was pretty on par with what you said above. He must have been ahead of his time.
Amber Nelson says
All of my kids were fed baby cereal starting at 4 months and they turned out fine. I can see where things are constantly changing though. Interesting post!
I am a nanny so these tips were so helpful!I think the baby I nanny for started eating solids around four months!
I usually listen to my pedi. Other moms have such strong opinions that I often don’t like to ask them for advice.
You are right. It is hard for other moms to not think their way is the best way. I even have that problem myself but hopefully have gotten better the more kids and older I get. 🙂
Amanda Love says
This is very good information. I think it’s so much better to make our own baby food at home if we have the time to do it. It’s nice to be able to introduce our babies to different flavors so they can get used to it.
Cecilia Cannon says
I remember these days! boy do I wish I could still force feed my kids these cereals with mixed in peas, at least then I would know they were eating right!
We started with cereal for our first son, but skipped it and went right to veggies with the younger one. I didn’t realize there was a list of recommended first foods. We always started with greens because it was recommended by the doctor – he said that they are less flavorful so if you give something fruity first, they may not like the more bland veggies.
Nadine Cathleen says
So interesting. I’m not a Mom yet so for me all this information is new and I enjoy reading it so I can prepare little by little for later 🙂
We started both our babies on cereal in the beginning. It is just so simple as a first food to try them on, and then we move onto the single baby foods for a few days at a time to be sure there weren’t any allergies. I am definitely pro-baby cereal, and I think it is great for starting out.
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S. M. Abrar Hossain Asif says
Actually, you can not avoid it when you are busy working parents. So try for best baby cereals brands. Consider nutritional facts while purchasing.
Enrique Pasion says
Thank you for this very informative article on cereals and its benefits and properties that are good for our babies. I appreciate your sharing this post.
Fitoru keto says
This is a really great thing to read.
Keats Marley says
Truly it is so important to keep our toddler’s nutritional value in check, along with letting them eat what they wish to. luckily now is the time, when we all have such products available in the market which are delicious, healthy, and are less processed. I wish I could go back in time to enjoy all the food kids have now to eat.
thanks for share this blog very impormative
very good tips for babys very helpful thanks for this post
John Gatesby says
Awesome post, it’s crazy how much the guidelines for feeding babies have evolved since I had mine. I remember just grabbing a box of rice cereal without a second thought when my sons were 4 months old. But now, with the new research pointing towards real food as a better foundation for their long-term diet and eating habits, it’s clear that the rules have changed. I appreciate the recommendations from the AAP on starting with non-allergy foods like meat, sweet potatoes, applesauce, and bananas, and waiting a few days before introducing each new food. The information on food allergies is also very important, especially since I had a similar experience with my daughter. I’ll keep in mind to introduce foods with a higher allergy risk before her 1st birthday, but under the supervision of a pediatrician. The explanation on why cereals were used in the past and the new research on iron supplementation is also enlightening.