Infant eating first solid foods.

Starting your baby on solid foods might be one of the most daunting steps a parent faces. It's also an exciting sign of your baby’s development and growing independence. Relax and enjoy this big milestone. Don’t let these four myths get in the way of a smooth transition to table time.

Myth #1: Babies Are Ready for Solid Foods at 4 Months

There are several signs to look for (other than age) that indicate your baby is ready for solid foods:

  • Good head and neck control
  • Ability to sit in at least a semi-reclined position
  • Ability to work food from the front of the mouth to the back
  • The loss of the tongue thrust reflex (using the tongue to push a spoon out of the mouth

If your baby was premature, has delay in typical development, has food allergies or intolerances, or other health conditions, your doctor may recommend delaying the introduction of solid foods.

Myth #2: Introduce Pureed Foods and Cereals in a Bottle

One of the reasons to introduce solid foods from a spoon is to teach your baby how to accept a bite of food into his or her mouth and use the mouth muscles to work it backward to be swallowed. Putting baby foods into the bottle does not teach this skill. It also may cause your baby to eat too many calories or get an upset stomach. And finally, introducing foods in a bottle does not help babies sleep through the night any sooner.

Myth #3: Rice Cereal is the Perfect First Food for Infants

Until recently, rice cereal was almost universally recommended as the first food a baby should eat. Lately, however, because rice cereal is not whole grain, there is concern about its nutritional value. Rice cereal may contribute to overweight and obesity and promote a craving for simple carbohydrates. Recent studies also show there are high levels of arsenic contamination in rice and rice cereals (organic products are similarly affected). Many healthcare providers now recommend one of the other single-grain cereals such as oatmeal or barley instead of rice, as a first food.

Myth #4: Packaged Baby Foods Are More Nutritious Than Homemade…. OR Homemade Foods Are More Nutritious Than Store-Bought Products

Neither claim has been substantiated by research. Prepared baby food is certainly clean, convenient, and tested for contamination and nutritional content. Making your own baby food may be cheaper, and it allows you to control what your baby eats.

Most fruits, vegetables, and meats may be safely prepared at home. But avoid making beets, collard greens, carrots, turnips, and other high-nitrate vegetables for babies under six months of age. These could cause a serious blood condition called methemoglobinemia.

If you have any questions or concerns, your pediatrician or family medicine doctor can offer tips on how to introduce your baby to solid foods.