How should I introduce foods?
Order of introduction
The important thing is to start with iron-rich foods, then continue with a nutritious variety of foods.
The order in which foods are introduced varies from country to country, depending on customs and culture.
The important thing is to start with iron-rich foods, then continue with a nutritious variety of foods (see Start with iron-rich foods).
Note, however, that cow’s milk should not be introduced before 9 to 12 months.
A word about food allergies
The foods most likely to cause allergies are eggs (see Eggs), peanuts and other nuts (see Peanut and nut butters), fish and seafood (see Fish) and foods that contain cow's milk protein (see Milk and dairy products).
In the past, it was recommended that parents wait until their babies had reached a certain age before introducing foods more likely to cause allergies. We now know that delaying the introduction of these foods does not prevent allergies, even in children with a greater risk of developing food allergies.
A child is at greater risk of developing an allergy if:
- A member of his immediate family (mother, father, brother, or sister) has an allergic disorder.
- The child suffers from severe eczema (shows signs of eczema most of the time).
Talk to your doctor.
It is often suggested to introduce one new food at a time to your baby, and to wait 2 or 3 days before adding something new. That way, if your baby shows signs of discomfort or allergies, it will be easier to identify the food that is responsible.
After your baby has tried a new food, watch her. To learn more about the signs of an allergic reaction and the steps to take, see section How do I recognize allergies?
When introducing new foods, continue to give your baby the foods she already knows on a regular basis.
Don’t insist if your baby refuses a new food for a few days. Try introducing it again later. You may have to present a food a number of times (up to 10 and sometimes even more) before your baby accepts it. This is how she learns to like new flavours.
It’s best to avoid foods with added salt or sugar until your baby is at least 1 year old. This will help her develop a taste for foods in their natural state.
Quantity and frequency
When your baby starts eating foods, the number of breast or bottle feedings can stay the same. The amount of milk he drinks will probably not decrease very much.
Your baby has a small stomach, so he needs to eat small portions several times a day.
Your baby’s appetite is your best guide to knowing how much food he needs. The quantity will depend on how much milk he drinks and will vary with his growth rate.
When your baby starts eating foods, he will probably continue drinking about the same amount of milk. At around 8 or 9 months, he will gradually start drinking less.
At the start, your baby has to adapt; he will probably eat a few small spoonfuls of food once or more during the day. Little by little, the amount of food and the number of meals and snacks will increase.
You could, for example, give him two or three meals a day. Depending on how much he eats, you could add snacks between meals.
By around 1 year of age, your child will be able to adopt a more regular schedule for meals (breakfast, lunch, supper) and snacks (between meals and at night, as needed).
It’s possible that your child will eat less when she starts eating independently. Don’t insist. Mealtime will be more pleasant for the whole family and your child will get to know her appetite. Trust your child to know when she is full.
A baby’s appetite is like an adult’s: it can vary from one day to the next. It’s normal for babies to sometimes eat less, and it’s possible that they may not like certain foods or textures.
By watching your baby for specific signals, you’ll learn to know her appetite. If your baby shows interest in the food you give, it’s because she is still hungry, and you can continue feeding without hesitation. However, if she closes her mouth, refuses to eat, pushes her spoon away, turns her head, cries, or plays with her food, she is signalling that she has had enough to eat.
Your baby can gradually start eating soft foods mashed with a fork or cut into small pieces.
Photo: Pascale Turcotte
When first introducing foods, you can start by giving your baby smooth purées.
Some babies will be ready right away for thicker, lumpier purées blended for only a short time or mashed with a fork. Others will find it more difficult to adapt, in which case you can gradually alter the texture from one meal to the next.
Some babies will rapidly accept food that is finely chopped or cut into small pieces. There is no need to wait until your child has teeth, since he can already chew with his gums and enjoys doing so.
The goal is to progress so that by around 1 year of age, your baby is able to eat foods in a variety of textures. But be careful with foods that present a risk of choking (see Choking risk: Be extra careful until age 4).
When your baby starts eating, small amounts of food may lodge in the back of his throat without being swallowed. This can cause your baby to gag, as if he were about to vomit.
Your baby will cough and spit up the food he was given. Don’t worry, this is a normal reaction (gag reflex) that protects against choking.
However, if this happens at every meal for several days in a row, see a doctor.
By around 1 year of age, your child should be able to eat foods in a variety of textures.
Photo: Carolann Rioux-Beauchamp
Babies love bringing food and objects to their mouths. Let your child start eating with her fingers as soon as possible while at the same time keeping a close eye on her. It’s messier and takes more time, but it’s a lot more fun! Encourage her, because that’s how she learns to eat by herself—it’s an important step to becoming more independent!
While some babies have no trouble adapting to meals, others find it difficult. To make things easier, choose a time when your baby is in a good mood.
The movements involved in eating are very different from those your baby uses for nursing. It takes time to learn. Your baby will need several weeks of practice to develop his abilities and tastes.
Your baby can have his milk before or after foods. If you wish, you can give him some of his milk before and the rest after.
My baby refuses to eat
Your baby needs time to develop her sense of taste and adapt to change.
Photo: France Tremblay
If your baby refuses to eat, she may not be ready. If you’re not sure, see How do I know my baby is ready?
If you think your baby is ready, but she still refuses to eat, try again at the next meal and keep trying for one or two more days. You can also offer her a different food: maybe she didn’t like what you served.
If your baby is over 6 months and still refuses to eat after repeated attempts, consult a health professional.
Allergic disorder: An allergy-related problem such as a food allergy, asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis.