When To Introduce Solid Food To Your Baby

Parents frequently have questions regarding what foods they can introduce at what age to their baby. This area of feeding solids might be one that you wish your baby had come with a coveted instruction manual. Thankfully, you don't have to figure out what and when to feed your baby on your own. There are lots of resources available to you, from your pediatrician to baby food cookbooks to books such as "Your Baby's First Year" from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

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Feeding Solids by Age, A Month by Month Guide

Close up of a baby being spoon fed
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All of those can point you in the right direction. The thing to realize is that there have been recent revisions in baby food feeding guidelines. Make sure the sources that you are relying upon are current and up-to-date. Use suggested benchmarks as guidelines, knowing that your baby's development is unique. Always take into consideration your baby's own health history and your family history (such as any known food allergies) when feeding solids.

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Starting Baby on Solids

Starting Baby on Solids
Starting Baby on Solids Begins About 6 Months. Eugénie...

For the healthy baby without digestive or developmental problems, you'll more than likely keep the first 6 months or so simple. Breast milk and/or infant formula is the only recommended source of nutrition during this time. While the exact time of starting baby on solids is commonly debated, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting solid foods around 6 months of age. Starting solids is a unique developmental milestone, and there really is no magic age that suits all babies, but you should not start solids before four months. The AAP notes that delaying solid food intake until after your infant is four months of age may reduce his or her risk of developing atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Is Your Baby Ready For Solids? 

Watch your baby for signs of readiness for solids, and base your decision of when to begin on those observations paired with a conversation with your pediatrician. The AAP recommends watching for the following signs your baby is ready:

  • Can sit up without support
  • Shows interest in food, such as reaching for food, opening ​the mouth, or leaning forward

Change in AAP Suggested on Baby Solids and Feeding

It used to be that medical professionals advocated delaying the start of certain foods for fear of allergic reaction. However, in 2008 studies brought to light that babies can have nearly all the foods that would be typically introduced during the first year as early as 6 months without issue.

Regardless be sure you know the symptoms of food allergies. A conversation with your doctor should help guide you on what you should do.

All that being said, many parents still prefer to have some guidelines for solid introduction. The following information details some suggestions on solid introduction but take into account the AAP's new policy that opens up some feeding choices to babies as young as 6 months.

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For the Sixth Month Old Feeding Your Baby Solids an Adventure

Baby Solids
Feeding Baby Solids Can Be Messy. mgstyer

Is My Baby Ready For Food?

How will you know if your baby is ready for solid food? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends looking for the following developmental milestones:

  • Good head control
  • Baby can sit up with support
  • Shows interest in food by leaning forward, opening mouth, and reaching for food

For the six-month-old (or thereabouts) baby, solids are a new experience. For a vast majority of families in the United States, parents will crack open that box of infant cereal to christen the milestone. However, though a popular choice, don't think that beginning with infant cereal must be your starting point. In addition to (or instead of) infant cereal, you might consider over 20 first baby foods to start out on.

The American Academy of Allergies, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI) recommends waiting three to four days between offering new foods to check for allergic reaction. However, some pediatric nutrition experts believe this doesn’t allow enough food variety to be introduced to babies and that it might prevent them from being exposed to more flavors and textures. More flavor exposure might mean more acceptance of those flavors in the toddler years. Speak with a registered dietitian or your pediatrician about offering more foods, more often, as long as your baby isn’t at high risk for developing a food allergy.

Here's an abbreviated list of first food options that little ones commonly love—but remember that almost any food that your family is eating can be a good first food, as long as it is prepared safely (soft enough, does not contain honey, not a choking hazard, and so on).

  • Apples
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Green beans
  • Meat
  • Pasta (cooked until soft)
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Squash: acorn, butternut, pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
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Baby Nutrition Between 6 to 8 Months Old

Baby Nutrition
Baby Nutrition Needs Grow During the First Year. megnut

As your baby accepts new foods, you'll find that approaching the eight-month mark they have quite the menu of foods on their list. Nutrition needs are being met by a variety of quality foods while you now find yourself more experienced and well-equipped with tips for starting solids.

In addition to the first foods, additional foods may include (but are certainly not limited to) some of the following. You can continue to feed baby-safe versions of whatever the family is eating, such as:

  • Cereal and grain group: kasha (buckwheat), brown rice, bread
  • Fruit and vegetable groups: asparagus, carrots, summer squash, white potatoes
  • Meat group: chicken, turkey (You might consider puréeing your own meats.)
  • Dairy group: whole plain yogurt
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Baby Food Guide at 8 - 10 Months

Baby Food Guide
Baby Food Guide for 8 to 10 Months. agastecheg

By the end of this age range, you might be surprised at all the foods your baby is eating. As previously mentioned, the AAP's baby food guide confirms that they can have the foods listed below as early as six months. However, if you're looking for ideas for some foods you may not have tried, consider some of the options below. Don't forget finger foods as well. Offer baby bite-sized pieces of soft foods, while being mindful to watch for choking or gagging.

  • Cereal and grain group: oat cereal circles, teething biscuits, pasta
  • Fruit and vegetable groups: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, citrus fruits (be mindful that acidic fruits can cause diaper rashes), peeled and quartered grapes, kale, kiwi, melons, okra, onion (cooked), pineapple, rhubarb, rutabaga, spinach, turnips
  • Meat group: lamb, lean beef, liver
  • Dairy group: Mild cheeses like cheddar, Monterey jack, mozzarella, muenster, Swiss, and cottage cheese
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Feeding Baby Solid Food, 10 - 12 Months

Feeding Baby Solid
Feeding Baby Solid Food Can Be Messy. kahanaboy

By age one, many babies have a diverse palate and are able to occasionally feed themselves independently. If you haven't already, you can add light seasonings to your baby's meals, but keep both added salt and sugar to a bare minimum.

If you haven't tried any of these foods yet, perhaps offer them during this time.

  • Cereal and grain group: whole grain pastas, bulgur cereal
  • Fruit and vegetable groups: artichoke (pureed heart), blueberries, cucumber, eggplant
  • Meat group: eggs, fish (white-fleshed) dried peas and beans, lentils, lima beans, pork, soybeans, veal
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Foods to Avoid

Most of the foods listed can ideally be introduced as early as 6 months if that is what you are comfortable with. So is there a list of foods to avoid for the first year? Yes, indeed. Here are some foods to avoid during the first year. Be mindful that the following foods shouldn't be given until sometime after the first birthday:

  • Nutrition and digestion concerns: Cow's milk (not the right nutritional balance compared to breast milk and formula)
  • Foodborne illness/food safety: Undercooked eggs, honey, raw meats
  • Choking hazards: These include whole blueberries/strawberries/grapes, dried fruits/raisins, popcorn, nut butters, whole nuts, uncut cherry or grape tomatoes, large chunks of cheese (string cheese), and hot dogs
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