Starting your baby on solid foods

KEY POINTS

  • Your baby gives you cues (signs) that she’s ready to start solid foods.

  • Keep feeding your baby breast milk even when you start giving her solid foods.

  • Call your baby’s heath care provider if you think your baby is allergic to a solid food. Call 911 if your baby has a severe allergic reaction to food.

Breast milk is the best food for your baby during the first year of life. Feed your baby only breast milk for at least 6 months. At about this time, your baby may be ready to start eating solid foods. These are foods that your baby eats other than breast milk or formula. They’re usually soft, liquid or mashed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to keep feeding your baby breast milk even when he eats solid foods, at least until your baby’s first birthday. As he learns to eat solids, he may get more on his shirt than in his mouth! Feeding him breast milk helps make sure he gets all the nutrients he needs. Nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, help your baby grow and stay healthy. When you add solid foods to your baby's diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months. You can continue to breastfeed after 12 months if you and your baby desire.

How do you know when your baby’s ready for solid foods?

Your baby needs only breast milk for about 6 months. When she’s ready to start solid foods, she gives you cues (signs) to let you know. Here’s what to look for:

  • Your baby can hold her head up.  She is able to sit in a high chair, a feeding seat or an infant seat with good head control.  Your baby can sit up with little or no support.
  • She opens her mouth when food comes her way.  If your baby watches you eat, reaches for your food and seems eager to be fed, she may be ready for solid foods.
  • She can move food from a spoon to her throat.  If you offer a spoon of food and she pushes it out of her mouth or dribbles it down her chin, she may not have the ability to move it to the back of her mouth to swallow it.  Your baby may need time to get used to new textures that are thicker than breast milk.
  • Your baby is double their birth weight.  This is typically around 4 months of age.

Although your baby may be the right weight to start solid foods, AAP still recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for the first 6 months.

Starting too early like before the age of 4 months may cause problems like:

  • Getting food sucked into the airway or cause your baby to choke
  • Cause your baby to get too many or not enough calories and nutrients
  • Increase your baby’s risk of obesity 

What you can feed your baby:
For most babies, it doesn’t matter what the first solid foods are.  They’re usually soft, liquid or mashed. You can feed your baby foods like: 

  • Breast milk
  • Baby cereals fortified with iron.  You can add breast milk, formula or water to dry baby cereals.  Fortified means iron was added to it.  
  • Pureed meat, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils or yogurt.  
  • Around 9 months you can offer finger foods, like breakfast cereal, small pieces of bread and well-cooked (until soft) vegetables, pasta and meat
  • Small pieces of table food. This is food that you make for your family, but cut up small for your baby.
  • Fruits that are soft (like bananas) or cut up 

Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods, such as breast milk, formula or both.  It can also include meats, cereals, vegetables, fruits, eggs and fish.

How do you start your baby on solid foods?

Use these steps when your baby’s first starting on solid foods:

  1. Give your baby a little breast milk. 
  2. Switch to solid foods, like baby cereal mixed with breast milk. Use a spoon to feed your baby. Don’t put baby cereal in the bottle, unless your baby’s health care recommend it.
  3. Start with ½ a spoonful of cereal or less and talk your baby through the process.  
  4. Finish with more breast milk.

Breastfeeding before and after feeding your baby solid food can help keep him from getting really hungry at mealtime and getting fussy when trying to eat solids. It’s OK if most of his solid foods don’t make it into his mouth at first! He can still get the nutrients he needs from your breast milk.

Your baby may get frustrated as he’s learning how to eat from a spoon and swallow solids. If your baby cries or turns away from solid foods, don’t force it. Go back to breastfeeding for a week or 2 and try solid foods again later.

Don’t feed your baby solid foods through a bottle. This can cause your baby to gain too much weight or to choke. Other foods that may cause choking are:

  • Candy
  • Chunks of peanut butter, meat, cheese or hard fruit (like apples)
  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Raw vegetables
  • Whole grapes

Don’t give your baby cow’s milk or honey before 1 year of age. 

Fruit juices are not recommended for babies before 1 year of age because they can cause obesity, diarrhea or increase your baby’s risk of getting cavities.  Your baby can drink up to 4 ounces of 100 percent juice after he is 1 year old.

Don’t put your child to bed with a bottle, as this may cause cavities.

How do you know if your baby has a food allergy?

A food allergy is a reaction to a food you touch, eat or breathe in. If you have a close family member with a food allergy, tell your baby’s health care provider. Food allergies are common in children whose family members have them.

Common foods allergies include being allergic to:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Fish, like tuna, salmon and cod
  • Shellfish, like lobster, shrimp or crab 

Your baby may have a food allergy if he has:

  • Rash or hives (red, itchy bumps on the skin)
  • Coughing, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

To help you spot a possible food allergy, give your baby one new food at a time for a few days. Watch for any signs of a food allergy.  If there are no signs, then your baby can try another new food. Don’t mix new foods together until your baby has tried each one alone. 

If your baby has an allergic reaction, stop feeding her that food and tell your baby’s provider. If your baby has a severe allergic reaction call 911 right away. Signs of a severe reaction include:

  • Swollen tongue or throat
  • Turning blue
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Passing out

Last reviewed April 2020