When and How to Introduce Your Baby to Solid Foods

Pregnancy & Postpartum

starting baby on solid food


Your baby's firsts—lift of her head, smile, laugh, roll—are wonderful milestones you'll remember. The introduction to solid foods definitely makes the list.

Before you start pureeing and mashing food, speak to your child's pediatrician to find out what's best for your little one. Depending on your baby's readiness and nutritional needs, solid foods can be introduced (gradually) when your baby is between ages 4 and 12 months. Keep in mind, however, that most of her calories should still come from breast milk or formula.

Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Foods? Ask Yourself:

  1. Is your baby interested in trying new foods? If she is eyeing or reaching for pieces of food from your plate, the interest is there.
  2. Is your baby's tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished? This reflex, which prevents her from choking on foreign objects, also causes her to push food out of her mouth.
  3. Can your baby support her own head? To eat solid food, she needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up entirely on her own.
  4. How old is she? Start gradually introducing solid foods when a baby is about 4 months old, if your pediatrician gives you the green light.

What Should You Feed Your Baby?

  1. When your baby is ready, start with one feeding a day and work up to three. Introduce foods gradually and follow this order when your baby is between 4 and 12 months of age:
  2. Pureed, strained or finely mashed foods (for example, rice cereal, vegetables, non-citrus fruits). When spoon-feeding, protect your baby's sensitive mouth by using a soft, rubber-tipped baby spoon.
  3. Finger foods (teething biscuits, small pieces of fruit or vegetable, crackers, ground meat, Cheerios [avoid varieties with added honey] or other dry cereal). Avoid all foods that might cause your baby to choke. If you're unsure if a food poses a choking hazard, ask your pediatrician before serving it.
  4. Chopped table food such as steamed or baked fruits and vegetables. Be sure to let the food cool before giving it to your baby.

Safety Tips:

  1. Introduce foods one at a time over several days, so you can tell if your baby has any allergies. Common signs of potential allergies include rash, bloating or an increase in gas, vomiting or diarrhea.
  2. Stay away from whole cow's milk, honey and solid, round foods that could cause choking (such as nuts, grapes, raw carrots and candies) until after your baby's first birthday. If you have concerns about allergies because of your family medical history, ask your pediatrician for advice.
  3.  Make sure to keep an eye on your baby while she is eating, even if she's been consuming solid foods for a while.

Feeding your baby not only provides nutrients for good health and development, it's also a special time to bond—even when it gets messy!

See all parenting content on HealthyWomen.org.

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