Advice Regarding Your Baby’s First Bites of Food

June 12, 2020
From the time babies reach the age of 6 months, they can begin to enjoy their first bites of food. Today, we'll tell you all about this important milestone.

When children start to eat solid foods, it marks a significant change in their world. Going from drinking only breastmilk and/or formula to eating foods with different textures and flavors can be difficult for some children. Therefore, we want to share a few recommendations regarding your child’s first bites.

Babies and their first bites of food

From the time babies are 6 months old, pediatricians recommend gradually adding semisolid and pureed foods to their diets. At this age, infants are considered to be prepared to acquire the psychomotor skills that allow them to swallow and handle foods safely. Like any other developmental milestone, not all children mature at the same rate. However, we can say that, in general, these changes occur during the sixth month of life.

How can I know if my child is ready to try his or her first bites?

To determine if children are ready for their first bites, parents should make sure that:

  • Children display an active interest in food.
  • The extrusion reflex has disappeared (the expulsion of non-liquid elements with the tongue).
  • Little ones are capable of grasping food with their hands and putting it in their mouths.
  • Babies are able to sit up on their own without assistance.

A baby eating baby food.

How much should parents give their babies?

At this point, breastmilk will continue being a child’s main source of nourishment. Therefore, mothers should continue to breastfeed their babies frequently and on-demand. As for babies that drink from a bottle, the same is true in regard to formula.

Introducing complementary feeding is a gradual process. At first, parents should make sure portions are small. Then, as their children grow, they should gradually increase portion size while still maintaining breastfeeding. It’s important to remember that the amount may be different according to the energetic density of each food.

Just as with breastfeeding, during a baby’s first bites, parents need to pay attention to the signs of hunger and fullness. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends following the principles of responsive feeding, without forcing or distracting babies in order to get them to eat.

The appetite of infants is different in each individual child and circumstance. Expecting little ones to ingest a specific amount can lead to frustration and turn mealtime into a battle, rather than something pleasant. Therefore, rather than focusing on a specific quantity, you should focus on variety, availability, and establishing future habits.

How to offer babies their first bites?

Consistency

Experts recommend progressively increasing the consistency of foods and introducing lumpy and semisolid textures as soon as possible. This should always occur before the age of 8 or 9 months. By the time babies reach their first year, they can already eat the same kinds of foods as the rest of the family. Of course, it’s important to avoid solid foods that pose a choking risk, such as seeds and nuts.

A study published in Maternal & Child Nutrition points out the consequences of waiting until after 9 months to introduce lumpy textures. According to the article, it can lead to eating problems as well as a scarce intake of fruits and vegetables.

A warm environment

The physical-emotional context is very important in developing habits related to eating and encouraging self-regulation regarding hunger and fullness.

According to a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, forcing, pressuring, and rewarding children in order to get them to eat is counterproductive. These methods can cause problems with satiety and increase a child’s risk of gaining excess weight. What’s more, it can damage a child’s relationship with food and lead him or her to consume a very limited variety.

A baby eating mashed peas.

What spoon to use

When giving children their first bites, it’s a good idea to leave the spoon within their reach. That way, little ones can familiarize themselves with this tool, as well as with their plate or bowl. The way food is ingested will vary from one baby to another. However, it’s common for babies to make a rolling movement with their tongue that makes it difficult to introduce the spoon. It’s also common for them to sip, open and close their mouths, push the spoon with their tongues, spit, etc…

You can try a number of different spoons, varying their size, shape, and material, to see which works the best. However, the best option is a silicone spoon. Since babies have little to no teeth at this age, a silicone spoon is gentler on their gums if they bite down. At the same time, it won’t hurt babies if they turn their head during feeding.

  • Birch LL, Doub AE. (2014). Learning to eat: birth to age 2 y. Am J Clin Nutr. Mar;99(3):723S-8S.
  • Coulthard H, Harris G, Emmett P. (2009). Delayed introduction of lumpy foods to children during the complementary feeding period affects child’s food acceptance and feeding at 7 years of age. Matern Child Nutr. 2009 Jan;5(1):75-85
  • Fernández-Vegue, Marta Gómez. (2018). “Alimentación Complementaria.” Asociación Española de pediatría.