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Feature Articles: Children


Baby’s First Food

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County
University of Missouri Extension


Starting your infant on something other than milk is a milestone in the life of your child. During this important time in your child’s life, it is important to know what to look for as a sign that your child is ready to eat solid foods. The order in which foods are introduced is also important.

Babies are born with a tongue thrust reflex. When their lips are touched, their tongue moves out of their mouth. This reflex helps them to be able to suck from a breast or bottle. They also have a gag reflex that pushes any objects from the back of the mouth back out. At about four to six months of age, both of these reflexes begin to diminish. This is a physical sign that your infant is ready to take food from a spoon. Other mouth patterns to watch for as a sign of readiness for solids include the infant opening his or her mouth when a spoon approaches and they can draw in their upper and lower lip when a spoon is removed from their mouth.

There are physical developmental signs to look for before you start your infant on solid foods. An infant should be able to sit up with support and they should have good head control. Tilt your head to one side and try to take a bite of food. It is difficult. Imagine how frustrating that might be for an infant if that is their first experience eating solid foods.

Rice cereal, mixed with mother’s milk or infant formula (one part cereal to four parts of liquid to begin with) is the recommended first food for an infant. It is easy to digest and it is rare for an infant to have an allergy to rice. Offer the baby one to two teaspoons of cereal twice a day. The food should be offered from a spoon and not added to the bottle. It is important for the baby to develop his or her eating skills and there is an increased chance of choking if the food is in a bottle. Oatmeal and barley are good cereals to follow rice.

When new foods are introduced, offer that one new food for several days before introducing another unfamiliar food. This is so you can watch for signs of a food intolerance or allergy. Some signs that your baby is allergic or sensitive include a rash, wheezing, diarrhea or vomiting.

Enjoy this time with your baby. When you are feeing your baby, you are helping your child develop positive eating habits for life.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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