Starting your baby on solid foods

Breast milk is the best food for your baby during the first year of life.

Feed your baby only breastmilk 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.

Here are the top things you need to know about starting your baby on solid foods:

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

The American Academy of Pediatrics 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.

How do you know 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:

At about 6 months

  • She can hold her head up.
  • She stops pushing things out of her mouth with her tongue.
  • She doubles her birthweight or weighs more than 13 pounds.
  • She opens her mouth, drools or leans forward when she sees food.

What you can feed your baby:

  • Breast milk
  • Baby cereal (like rice or oatmeal) mixed with breast milk

At 6 to 8 months

  • She can sit up without support.
  • She starts to feed herself and brings food to her mouth.

What you can feed your baby:

  • Breast milk
  • Cooked, softened fruits and vegetables that are mashed or pureed (blended into a paste or thick liquid)
  • Pureed meats
  • Baby food from a jar

8 to 12 months

  • She can sit up without support.
  • She can hold food between her fingers and thumb (also called a pincer grasp). 
  • She can hold objects (like a spoon) in her hand.
  • She starts to chew food.

What you can feed your baby:

  • Breast milk
  • Finger foods, like breakfast cereal, small pieces of bread and well-cooked (until soft) vegetables, pasta and meat
  • Fruits that are soft (like bananas) or cut up
  • Small pieces of table food. This is food that you make for your family, but cut up small for your baby.

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.
  3. 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

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 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. Then 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 health care 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: June, 2015