Introducing Solid Foods Into Your Baby's Diet


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What your baby eats helps with his or her growth and development, and plays a role in future health. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your baby is getting the right nutrients.

When can my baby begin to eat solid foods?

Every baby is different, but most babies are ready to have new foods (other than formula or breast milk) added to their diets by 4 to 6 months of age. To start solids, your baby should be able to:

  • Sit up with support.
  • Have control of his or her head and neck.
  • No longer have an extrusion reflex (or tongue thrusting when an object touches the mouth).

What should I know about giving my baby solid foods?

  • There are no proven benefits to starting solids earlier. Babies do not sleep better and are not better nourished.
  • There are potential risks to introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet if he or she is not ready, such as accidentally inhaling food into the lungs, and development of allergies, eczema, and asthma.

What should I feed my baby when he or she is ready?

There is not one right way to introduce solids, but most experts agree on a few key points.

  • For your baby's first foods, use only single-ingredient foods (such as plain rice cereal). Avoid foods with additives such as salt or sugar.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time, and allow 3 to 5 days to pass before introducing another food. This will allow you to see if your baby has any food intolerance (diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes).Contact your doctor if any of these occur.
  • Listen to your baby: infants have a built-in ability to regulate how much they need to eat. Do not force them to eat when they are full or restrict their food when they are hungry.
  • Do NOT stop breastfeeding or giving formula; 90% of your baby’s important nutrients come from these sources. The solid foods, for now, are just to help them learn to eat.

Feeding at 4 to 6 months of age

  • Iron-fortified rice cereal is often used as baby’s first food, since it is easy to digest.
  • Cereal (and other foods) should be mixed to the consistency of milk (a slightly thickened liquid) and be spoon fed.
  • After trying a variety of cereals, you can introduce pureed vegetables and fruits such as mashed squash, bananas, portatoes and applesauce.
  • Lastly, add pureed meats and proteins.
  • Juice should NOT be given to a baby before 6 months of age. After 6 months of age, only give 100% fruit juice and limit to 4 ounces a day

Feeding at 8 to 10 months of age

At this time, babies are developing new skills such as sitting without help and grasping at and releasing objects. They can begin having finger foods when they can pick up a teething biscuit or dry cereal, put it in their mouths, and not choke. Foods such as soft cooked vegetables and fruits, cheese, and well-cooked meat should be chopped. Foods such as baby crackers and dry cereal should be easily dissolvable.

Feeding at 10 to 12 months of age

As babies get older, they develop fine motor skills that enable them to feed themselves.

  • Be sure to cut food into very small pieces.
  • Variety is key! Be sure your baby’s diet includes new flavors and textures from all food groups.

 

What foods should I avoid in the first year?

  • Do NOT give foods such as nuts, grapes, raw carrots, raisins, popcorn, and hot dogs because they put your baby at risk of choking.
  • Avoid honey, which can cause infant botulism, a serious illness that can cause muscle weakness and breathing problems. 

Where can I get more information?

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

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