You are about to go on an exciting journey of introducing the world of food to your baby. But before you do, here’s everything you should know about when to start introducing solids, how to safely introduce solid foods, and some things to avoid doing during the process.
By the time your baby hits 4 to 6 months old, you might think you have finally gotten your breastfeeding or bottle feeding routine down solid. But, don’t get too comfortable yet! Because now is the time you will want to start introducing solids to your baby to help prep them for “real” food.
Introducing your baby to solid foods is one of the most exciting milestones you and your baby will experience during their first year. There’s a whole world of new, interesting flavors and textures that you will get to introduce your baby to. Here’s everything you should know about transitioning your baby from breastmilk or formula to solid food.
When to Start Solids
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can start introducing solid foods to your baby at around 4 to 6 months old. But how do you know if your little one is really ready? Here are the signs you should be looking out for to figure out if it is the right time to start.
- Your baby is sitting upright and able to hold their head with no additional support
- They are curious. Looking around while eating or reaching for your food
- Baby has lost the tongue thrust reflex that automatically pushes food out of their mouth
- Still seems hungry after getting a full day’s amount of milk (on average this will be 32 oz. of formula or 8-10 breastfeedings)
Most babies will typically be ready to start exploring solid foods around 5 to 6 months. You should wait until your baby is at least 4 months old to start introducing any solid foods.
How to Introduce Baby to Solids
Breastmilk or formula will still be your baby’s primary source of nutrition. It is recommended to continue breastfeeding or bottle feeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life to make sure they are getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients needed for a healthy growth and development. That being said, you can still start to slowly introduce your baby to solid foods starting at 4 months. Just be sure you are still relying on breastmilk or formula for their main source of food.
At first, introducing solids to your baby will be a guessing game. You will have to figure out what works best for your baby. Try introducing new foods at different times of the day to see when your baby seems the most interested, curious, or engaged. For example, if you know that your baby usually drinks an entire bottle in the morning, try to introduce a solid food before feeding the bottle so that they are hungrier and more likely to eat the new food.
While at first, introducing solids will be on a random schedule, at around 6-9 months, you should begin introducing the routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Having a set schedule will make them more excited for mealtimes and trying new foods. If your baby seems uninterested in solid foods, do not force them to try and eat it. Your baby will eventually begin to feel more comfortable with these new foods so just give them time to adjust.
Learn more about introducing solids from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
Depending on the day, your baby might show more or less interest in trying new, solid foods. Remember that every baby is different so there is no “right” versus “wrong” in how often you are introducing new foods to your baby. In addition to their regular breastfeeding or formula feeding schedule, here’s how often you should try to incorporate solid foods into their diet.
- 4-6 months: two meals per day, 2-4 tablespoons of food
- 7-12 months: three meals per day, amount about the size of their fist
Let your baby guide this process and do not feel pressured to get your baby to eat solid foods if they do not seem interested. Soon enough, your baby will learn to love these new foods and they will never look back!
The Do’s and Don’ts of Introducing Solids
DO: Introduce Allergenic Foods
As your baby begins to explore the many new and exciting foods the world has to offer, you should be aware of the potential for an allergic reaction to happen. When you are starting to introduce foods like peanuts, milk, or eggs, be sure to monitor your baby for a few hours after to see if they have an allergic reaction. Typical symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, vomiting, or diarrhea. You should first talk to your doctor about figuring out what the best way to introduce your baby to allergy-causing foods would be.
The safest way to introduce a new food is one-at-a-time. After introducing a new food, allow for several days to go by before introducing the next new food. This way, you will easily be able to determine what food might have caused an allergic reaction. The 2020 USDA-HHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report recommends “Introducing peanut and egg…after age 4 months may reduce the risk of food allergy to these foods.”
DON’T: Feed Rice Cereal from the Bottle
Feeding solids directly from a bottle might seem like a quick “life hack” if your baby has not been very interested in trying solid food. However, this is a choking hazard for your baby. A popular misconception is that having your baby drink cereal from a bottle before bed will help them stay asleep throughout the night. Unfortunately, this is not true and is not safe for your baby.
DO: Supervise Your Baby While Eating
Since your baby is still learning how to properly eat and working on developing their chewing muscles, you should stay close to your baby to monitor them while they eat. Make sure someone is always around to supervise your baby while eating to prevent any choking hazards. Your baby should always be sitting upright and facing forward while eating.
DON’T: Feed Directly from the Jar
The safest way to protect your baby’s food is by spooning some of it into a separate dish and feeding from there. If you feed directly out of the jar, you might introduce some bacteria from your baby’s mouth directly back into the jar. This can create a health and safety hazard for your baby.
DO: Create a Routine
Babies will require a lot of focus when eating since this is a huge new skill they are learning. Start a routine to help signal to your baby that it is mealtime. Wash their hands, soothe them, and then sit down together for your meal. When possible, make sure that all noises like the TV or music are turned off to help create a quiet, focused environment for your baby. You will want to remove external distractions to help your baby focus on their food.
DON’T: Give Honey to a Baby Under 12 Months Old
On occasion, honey has been known to contain a bacteria that can produce harmful toxins in your baby’s intestines. You should only give honey to children over the age of 1 years old.
What Foods to Start With
4-6 months: single-grain cereals and allergenic foods
Babies are born with iron stored in their body. But as they continue to grow rapidly, infants need an increased amount of iron to avoid having an iron deficiency. Starting to transition to solids with a cereal fortified with iron will help to increase the levels of iron in your baby. Begin by mixing 1 teaspoon of single-grain cereal with about 4-5 teaspoons of breastmilk or formula. While this mixture is likely to end up on their face, rather than in their stomach, it will introduce them to a new type of eating. As they get more used to it, you can thicken the mixture by adding less breast milk or formula or by adding more cereal.
New guidance from leading medical organizations, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI); the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI); and the CSACI (Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology), recommends that in order “to prevent peanut and/or egg allergy, peanut and egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.” Introducing allergenic foods such as peanut and egg can help reduce your baby’s chances of developing an allergy. In addition, your baby’s first year is the safest time to introduce allergens with a new study indicating“severe (food allergic) reactions and mortality…are particularly low in infants.” The risk of a potential risk increases as your baby gets older so introducing allergens early (starting at 4 months of age), is the safest possible time to feed allergens and in turn, prevent food allergies.
4-8 months: pureed veggies/fruit/meat
The safest and best place to start with solid foods is anything that is soft and smushy. Pureed meats, poultry, veggies, fruit, beans, or iron-fortified cereal are all safe options that you can start with. When giving your baby food to try, be sure that you are able to smash whatever food is easily between your fingers. As they begin to develop their chewing and motor skills, you can start to give them more soft pieces of fruit or finger foods that require some chewing.
6-9 months: single-ingredient finger foods
Around this time, your baby will be ready to start experimenting with self-feeding. Since they are now the ones picking up the food and feeding themselves, the shape of the food really matters. Cut foods into large chunks to make it easier for them to pick up. Mounds of mashed potatoes or a wedge of avocado will be much easier to feed themselves than small, hard-to-grab foods like peas or blueberries.
9-12 months: chopped/ground/mashed foods
As your baby has started to master the skill of self-feeding, you can start to introduce their first utensil – the spoon. When teaching your baby how to use a spoon, start with thicker foods like yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal as it will stay on their spoon easier. Around this age, you can also begin to transition from smooth purees with finger foods like bananas or sweet potatoes.
Not recommended for those under 4 years of age due to the risk of choking:
- Popcorn and whole kernel corn
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter or other nut butters
- Large chunks of meat, poultry and cheese
- Candy, gum drops and jelly beans
- Hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, celery and carrots
- Whole grapes and cherry tomatoes, unless cut into quarters
- Hot dogs, unless cut into strips and age appropriate, bite-size pieces
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.