When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods | Nutrition
For more information about how to know if your baby is ready to starting eating foods, what first foods to offer, and what to expect, watch these videos from 1,000 Days.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old. Introducing foods before 4 months old is not recommended. Every child is different. How do you know if your child is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready.
Sits up alone or with support.
Is able to control head and neck.
Opens the mouth when food is offered.
Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
Brings objects to the mouth.
Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.
What Foods Should I Introduce to My Child First?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most children, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.
If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of fortifiedalert icon infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for children to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administrationexternal icon to learn more.
How Should I Introduce My Child to Foods?
Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.
Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.
Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.
Potentially allergenic foods include cow’s milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cow’s milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.
How Should I Prepare Food for My Child to Eat?
At first, it’s easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Your child might cough, gag, or spit up. As your baby’s oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.
Some foods are potential choking hazards, so it is important to feed your child foods that are the right texture for his or her development. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always watch your child while he or she is eating.
Here are some tips for preparing foods:
Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit, and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices.
Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway.
Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces.
Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.
Learn more about potential choking hazards and how to prevent your child from choking.
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Baby's first foods: How to introduce solids to your baby
Babies are typically ready to start solids between 4 and 6 months, as long as they're showing signs of readiness, such as being able to sit upright with good head control. Talk to your baby's doctor about which foods to introduce first, particularly if you're concerned about a risk for an allergy. In general, infant cereal and pureed, one-ingredient veggies, fruits, and meats are great first foods. Try spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning, and keep up the breast milk or formula until your baby's first birthday.
When do babies start eating baby food?
It depends. As long as your baby shows signs of readiness, your pediatrician will probably give you the go-ahead to start baby food (also called solid food or solids) any time between 4 and 6 months.
Until then, breast milk or formula provides all the calories and nourishment your baby needs. Infants don't yet have the physical skills to swallow solid foods safely, and their digestive system isn't ready for solids until they're at least 4 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby's life and introducing solids at 6 months old. The AAP advises breastfeeding until age 1 – and longer if you and your baby want to.
Signs your baby is ready for solids
Your baby will give you clear signs when they're ready. Look for:
Head control. Your baby needs to be able to keep their head in a steady, upright position.
Sitting well when supported. Your baby needs to be able to sit upright in a baby seat or highchair to swallow well.
Losing the "extrusion reflex." Your baby's mouth and tongue develop in sync with their digestive system. To start solids, they should be able to move food to the back of their mouth and swallow it, instead of using their tongue to push food out of their mouth.
Curiosity about food. Your baby may start showing interest in what you're eating, reaching for your food or even opening their mouth if you offer them a spoonful.
Starting solids by 6 months old is important for your baby's oral motor development (the use of their lips, tongue, jaw, teeth, and hard and soft palates). Also, solid foods can provide specific nutrients your baby needs, such as iron and zinc. (These are especially important if your baby has been exclusively breastfed.)
What are the best first baby foods?
Start your baby with any pureed, single-ingredient food. Although it used to be standard for parents to give rice cereal as a first food, that's not necessary. In fact, pediatricians often don't recommend baby rice cereal since it can contain inorganic arsenic, and it's not as nutritious as some other first foods.
Good first baby foods include
whole-grain, iron-enriched baby cereal such as oatmeal
If your baby is breastfed, the AAP suggests meat as a first food because the iron in beef, chicken, and turkey helps to replace iron stores, which start to diminish at about 6 months of age.
How to introduce solids to your baby
The traditional way to start solids is by spoon-feeding your baby cereal or purees, but some parents use a different method called baby-led weaning. Using this method, you put chunks of soft, developmentally appropriate food on the highchair tray or table and let your baby grab the food and feed themself.
Here's how to start spoon-feeding your baby:
For your first few feedings, start with just 1 or 2 teaspoons of pureed solid food or baby cereal about an hour after nursing or bottle-feeding (so your baby isn't too hungry or full).
Use a soft-tipped plastic spoon to feed your baby to avoid injuring their gums. Put a small amount of food on the tip of the spoon and offer it to them. If your baby doesn't seem very interested, just let them smell the food for now and try again another time.
If you're feeding your baby ready-to-eat jars or pouches of baby food, put some into a small dish and feed them from that. (If you dip the feeding spoon into the jar, it's not a good idea to save the leftovers because bacteria from your baby's mouth will now be in the jar.) Store leftovers in the fridge and throw away any opened baby food jars or pouches within a day or two of opening them.
If you decide to start with cereal, give your baby 1 to 2 teaspoons of diluted infant cereal. Add breast milk or formula to a tiny pinch of cereal. It will be very runny at first, but as your baby starts to eat more solid foods, you can gradually thicken the consistency by using less liquid.
Begin with one daily feeding in the morning whenever your baby isn't too tired, hungry, or cranky. Your baby may not eat much at first, but give them time to get used to the experience. Don't be surprised if your baby is confused or rejects solid food at first. Some babies need practice keeping food in their mouths and swallowing.
Eventually you can start giving your baby more solid food until they're having a few tablespoons a day, over two feedings. In general, your baby could start with pureed or semi-liquid food, then move on to strained or mashed food, and finally graduate to small pieces of finger foods.
Signs that your baby is full
Your baby's appetite will vary from one feeding to the next, so a strict accounting of how much they've eaten isn't a reliable way to tell when they've had enough. Look for these signs that your baby's probably done:
They lean back in their chair
They turn their head away from food
They start playing with the spoon
They refuse to open up for the next bite (Sometimes a baby will keep their mouth closed because they haven't finished the first mouthful, so give them time to swallow.)
Food allergies and introducing solids
Experts recommend that you introduce one food at a time to your baby, and wait 3 to 5 days before introducing another food, so you can watch for any allergic reactions. It's also a good idea to write down the foods your baby samples. If they have an adverse reaction, a food log will make it easier to pinpoint the cause.
You don't have to hold off on giving allergenic foods such as eggs, peanut butter, or soy. There's no evidence that waiting to introduce certain foods will help your baby avoid allergies. In fact, there's evidence that the opposite is true.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), incorporating commonly allergenic foods into your baby's diet starting at around 4 to 6 months (and continuing through childhood) may actually help prevent the development of food allergies.
Start with traditional first foods, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, pureed veggies, fruits, and meats. Once you've tried a few of these foods and your baby seems to be tolerating them well, you can introduce more commonly allergenic foods, such as soy, eggs, wheat, fish, and peanut products.
Food manufacturers have products on the market designed to help you incorporate commonly allergenic foods into your child's diet. These stir-in powders and finger foods may contain one commonly allergenic protein or a blend of several.
Special precautions need to be taken with certain babies. If your child falls into any of the following categories, consult with your baby's doctor or an allergist to create a customized feeding plan before adding solids to your baby's diet:
Your baby has a sibling with a peanut allergy.
Your baby has moderate to severe eczema despite following a doctor's treatment plan.
Your baby previously had an immediate allergic reaction to a new food or has been diagnosed with a food allergy.
If your baby is allergic to a new food, you'll see signs of a reaction within a few minutes or hours. Most children with food allergies have mild reactions. If you notice a few hives, a new rash, or diarrhea, call your baby's doctor for advice.
If you notice wheezing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling (including the tongue and lips), or more than two body systems affected (such as hives and vomiting), your baby may be having a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Baby food feeding tips
Offer fruits or vegetables in any order. Some parents may tell you to start with vegetables instead of fruits so your infant won't develop a taste for sweets. But babies are born with a preference for sweets, so you don't have to worry about introducing sweet or savory foods in any particular order.
Feed cereal with a spoon only. Unless your baby's doctor asks you to, don't add cereal to a bottle – your baby could choke or end up gaining too much weight.
Encourage adventurous eating. You don't have to stick with bland and boring. See how to make your own baby food and use spices and seasonings to create delicious baby food flavors.
Give new foods time. If your baby turns away from a particular food, don't push. Try again in a few days.
Check for added sugars and too much salt. Check the Nutrition Facts label on canned, frozen, or packaged foods for "Added Sugars." If there's 1 gram or more listed, give your baby something else. Also look at sodium amounts. Babies shouldn't have no more than 1,200 mg of sodium per day.
Avoid unsafe foods. Don't give your baby foods that could cause choking, such as whole grapes or popcorn. Babies under 1 can't have honey, cow's milk, or soy milk. Also, unpasteurized juices and undercooked fish, meat, eggs, or poultry could be a source of bacteria.
Watch for constipation. Your baby's poop sometimes changes when their diet does. Although it's usually temporary, your baby may have constipation after you introduce solids. If you notice that your baby is having less frequent bowel movements, or that their stools have become hard or dry and seem difficult to pass, let their doctor know. Some doctors recommend adding high-fiber fruits such as pears, prunes, and peaches to a baby's diet, or giving a few ounces of prune, apple, or pear juice every day until bowel movements are back to normal.
Also, don't be surprised if your baby's poop changes color and odor when you add solids to their diet. If your baby has been exclusively breastfed up to this point, you'll probably notice a strong odor to their formerly mild-smelling stools as soon as they start eating even tiny amounts of solids. This is normal.
If your baby shies away from new foods, here are a few things you can try:
Test a range of textures. If your baby doesn't like pear puree, try giving them pieces of very ripe pear instead.
In a similar vein, try different cooking methods. If your baby doesn't like steamed veggies, try giving them roasted vegetables.
Serve food at different temperatures. Some babies prefer broccoli cold rather than warm, for example.
Combine the new food with a familiar favorite. If your baby rejects a new food on its own, mix it in with something you know they like.
Add a dipping sauce! Try shredded chicken with applesauce, yogurt with baked apple slices, or hummus with well-cooked pieces of carrot.
Above all, be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for a baby to get used to new flavors and textures, so keep trying and eventually they'll accept the new food.
How many times a day should my baby eat solids?
At first your baby will eat solid food just once a day. By around 6 to 7 months, two meals a day is the norm. Starting around 8 to 9 months, they may be eating solid food three times a day plus a snack. A typical day's diet at 8 months might include a combination of:
Breast milk or iron-fortified formula
Small amounts of protein, such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, poultry, lentils, tofu, and meat
High-allergy foods, if appropriate
See our age-by-age baby feeding guide for more detail on how much to feed your baby and when.
How much breast milk or formula does my baby need after we introduce solids?
Even after your baby starts solids, breast milk or formula will provide the majority of their calories and nutrition until they're 9 months to 1 year old. Breast milk and formula contain important vitamins, iron, and protein in a form that's easy to digest.
You may notice that as your baby starts to eat more solid foods (around 9 months old), they'll gradually decrease their intake of formula or breast milk. This is normal. Over time, your baby will take fewer bottles with more ounces in each.
Here's how much breast milk or formula babies need after starting solids:
4 to 6 months old: 4 to 6 feedings a day (breastfeeding, or bottles with 4 to 6 ounces)
6 to 8 months old: 3 to 5 feedings a day (breastfeeding, or bottles with 6 to 8 ounces)
8 to 12 months old: 3 to 4 feedings a day (breastfeeding, or bottles with 7 to 8 ounces)
What equipment do I need to introduce solids?
It's helpful to have:
Baby bowls and plates
A splat mat on the floor
You may also want to introduce your baby to a sippy cup soon after you start solids.
If you're making your own baby food, you'll need:
A tool to puree the food, like a blender, food processor, or baby food maker
Storage containers for refrigerating and freezing extra portions (Some parents use ice cube trays – or similar devices made just for baby food – to store and freeze individual portions. )
how and when to introduce solid food to a child
Solid food: how and when to introduce solid food to a child
Expecting new skills from the baby, do not rush things. It is necessary to acquaint the child with solid food no earlier than 6-7 months. At this time, the desire to scratch the gums, ready for the appearance of the first teeth, will coincide with the interest in adult food.
Dry initial milk formula adapted by Valio Baby 1 NutriValio for feeding children from birth to 6 months Read more
Follow-up dry milk formula adapted by Valio Baby 2 NutriValio for feeding children from 6 to 12 months More
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Children are born with a vital, unconditioned reflex - sucking. They are ready to suck on their mother's breasts, but all solid objects that have fallen into their mouths are automatically pushed out so as not to choke (a protective reflex is triggered). Therefore, parents are not recommended to accustom the baby to solid foods too early. This will cause not only rejection, but sometimes vomiting. The ideal time is considered to be the start of complementary foods. When the first teeth begin to grow in the child, you can replace the homogenized puree with food with the addition of soft fibers. They will be to the taste of the baby, as they will massage itchy gums. An important clue for parents is also the child's interest in adult food. If the baby looks into your plate, tries not to suck on mashed potatoes in a spoon, but to remove it with his upper lip and chew - it's time to introduce more solid food into the children's menu. First, at the tip of the spoon, offer the baby vegetable and cereal side dishes, closer to 9months you can give pieces of well-boiled meat. The kid does not immediately learn to chew them, and the food will come out with a stool almost in its original form. It's not scary, over time the child will learn everything. It is important not to ignore his desire, you will have to pay for the pedagogical miscalculation and literally teach the child to chew.
Of course, not everything can go according to plan. The most common reasons why a child refuses solid food:
The pieces of food are too big.
You are using the wrong feeding technique.
The spoon is big for a child.
The child has unpleasant associations - perhaps you gave him medicine from this spoon. Do not use everyday baby utensils for unpleasant procedures.
The child is in a bad mood or does not feel well.
In no case do not force the baby to eat if he refuses. Gently try again and again. Set an example - eat the first spoon yourself, showing the crumbs how tasty his food is. If the child still cannot cope with solid food, it is worth contacting a pediatric osteopath. The baby may have a non-standard structure of the maxillofacial system, subluxation of the jaw associated with birth trauma, problems with muscle tone. The timely introduction of solid food is very important not only for the full nutrition of the child, it affects his future speech activity. Breastfeeding is a good prevention of speech therapy problems. In order to suck milk from the breast, the child needs to make more efforts than when feeding from a bottle - this is a good (and what is valuable - natural) training of the jaws and muscles of the tongue, and it must be continued by introducing the crumbs to solid food in time. Of course, a baby with a piece of an apple in his hands (and in his mouth) must be looked after so that he does not choke. By the way, for the development of the chewing and speech apparatus, it is useful to grimace with the baby during the game - this strengthens the facial muscles well.
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Introducing Solid Food: Why, When, What and How
Introducing Solid Food: Why Babies Need It
As babies grow older, the need for solid food arises, from which the body will receive enough iron and other nutrients necessary for growth and development.
During the first six months, the baby's body uses iron stored in the womb. Some iron also comes from breast milk and/or formula. But as the baby grows, the reserves of this substance in the body decrease. And the iron that a child receives from breast milk or formula is already not enough at the age of about six months.
Through the introduction of solid foods, the child also learns to eat, gets to know new tastes and textures of different foods. At the same time, he develops teeth and jaws, and he also acquires skills that will later be needed for language development.
Signs it's time to introduce solid foods
You will know when it's time to introduce solid foods by how your baby develops and behaves.
Your child is ready for solid food if:
holds head and neck well and can sit upright with support
shows interest in food - for example, looking at the contents of your plate
reaching for your food
opens his mouth when you offer him food from a spoon.
Most children show these signs by about six months, but in general everyone is individual.
It is not recommended to introduce solid foods before four months of age.
If your baby is about seven months old and hasn't started solid foods yet, you can talk to a nurse or pediatrician.
The best time to offer solid food to your baby is when you and he are in a good mood for the first time.
He is also more likely to try new foods after breast milk or formula. The fact is that when a child is really hungry, he only wants milk or formula, because he knows that he will be satisfied. At the same time, there will still be room for other food in his tummy.
Over time, you will learn to tell if your baby is hungry or full, wants to try something or is tired.
Your child is hungry, if:
gets excited when he sees you cooking for him
leans towards you while sitting in a highchair
opens its mouth when you are about to feed it.
Your child no longer wants to eat if:
loses interest or gets distracted
purses his lips.
In what portions should the new food be introduced to the child? Start with 1-2 teaspoons and increase according to your baby's appetite. By 12 months, he should be eating about three small meals a day, plus breast milk or formula.
Consistency of solid food
The first solid food can be smooth, pureed or in soft pieces , depending on your baby's preference. Then the child can quickly move on to finely chopped, and then just to finely chopped foods.
The child needs food of various consistencies. This will help him learn to chew, and chewing, in turn, contributes to the development of speech. It also encourages the child to learn to eat on his own and will prevent eating problems as he develops.
By 12 months, the baby should already be eating the same as the rest of the family. You may have to cut some foods into smaller pieces, and boil the vegetables well.
Do not leave the child unattended while eating, make sure that he does not choke. Be especially careful with foods such as nuts and small-boned meats, as they are easy to choke on. If the child can already move around, try to seat him while eating. If you sit next to each other while the baby is eating, he will most likely sit more quietly.
Types of food when solid foods are introduced
The child will be happy to try any new food, so there is no need to prepare something “special” for him.
You can introduce solid foods in any order, as long as you include iron-rich foods and cook foods of the right consistency.
Foods rich in iron include:
iron-fortified baby cereals
minced meat, poultry and fish
tofu and legumes, cooked
mashed or boiled eggs (do not give raw or soft-boiled eggs).
Iron-rich foods can be supplemented with other healthy foods:
vegetables such as boiled potatoes, carrots or green vegetables such as broccoli
fruit - e.g. banana, apple, melon or avocado
cereals - e.g. oats, bread, rice and pasta
Dairy products such as yogurt and full fat cheese.
These products can be combined as there is no need to administer only one product at a time. By offering your child a variety of foods, you will allow him to try a variety of new tastes and get a lot of nutrients.
With our solid food introduction tips, you can get your child interested in new foods and make the eating process smoother and playful.
Breast milk and formula when introducing solid foods
Continue breastfeeding or formula until at least 12 months while introducing solid foods.
If you are unsure if your baby is getting the right amount of milk once solids are introduced, pay attention to his behavior.
For example, if a child has eaten a lot of solid food and is not getting enough milk or is refusing milk, the daily milk feeds may need to be made less frequent but longer. If the baby does not want to eat solid food, he may have had too much milk. This may be a signal that portions of milk should be reduced.
By about nine months of age, babies usually develop enough chewing and swallowing skills to eat solid foods before milk, not after.
Solid food does not replace breast milk or formula. If the transition to solid foods instead of milk and/or formula occurs too quickly, a child may miss an important milestone in their diet.
At the age of six months, the child may be offered chilled boiled water in a cup during meals or at other times. This is to help your baby learn to drink from a cup, but at this age, he still doesn't need liquids other than breast milk or formula. When the child is one year old, he can be offered fresh tap water without boiling.
Foods and drinks to avoid
Some foods should not be given to children under a certain age:
honey up to 12 months - to avoid the risk of infant botulism
raw eggs, soft-boiled eggs, and products containing raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, up to 12 months - bacteria in raw eggs may be harmful to infants
skim milk products up to two years
Whole nuts and similar hard foods up to three years - due to risk of choking.
Also, children should not be given certain drinks until a certain age
soy, goat and sheep milk up to two years (fortified soy products may be given up to two years)
rice, oatmeal, almond or coconut milk up to two years of age, unless advised otherwise by a pediatrician or nurse
Unpasteurized milk of all kinds, tea, coffee or sugar-sweetened beverages for all ages
fruit juice - should be limited at any age (fruits contain the nutrients a child needs).