When do babies start with solid food?
When your baby starts sitting up on their own, brings hands to their mouth, and shows interest in your food, it might be time to start transitioning to solid food. In many babies, they start showing signs of readiness between 4-6 months. The key to this transition is to start slowly and slowly progress.
Breastmilk and/or formula should be the main source of nutrition until around 1 year of age, so the goal of starting solid foods (once ready) is to slowly start exposing your child to new flavors, textures and experiences with foods, while building feeding skills. It is important to allow your child time to explore and get messy while they are learning. Do not be discouraged if it doesn’t seem like your child is swallowing a lot as they get started, as this is about practice more than anything else.
There are different approaches to introducing solid food into your child’s diet. These methods vary from progressing through pureed foods before introducing solid foods to “Baby Led Weaning”, an approach that focuses on preparing the same meal for the whole family (with modifications for baby), and letting the baby decide what and how to eat. When making the decision on what first solid foods to offer your baby, consider what works best for you and your family. You can also combine any of the above techniques, such as starting with a single puree and slowly adding in a variety of tastes and textures. This can help prevent picky eating and work to progress oral motor skills. Note that there are a few foods that should be avoided during your baby’s first year, which you can read about here.
Whatever approach your choose, here are some helpful tips:
- Allow time for exploration & exposure. Provide a small portion of safely prepared food for your baby to touch and feel. This will eventually lead to them putting their hands in their mouth and tasting!
- Practice chewing. Babies don’t need teeth to chew, Their gums and jaws are hard enough to get the job done! Whether you are starting with purees or solid foods, it is important that your child learns to chew. Once your baby learns to sit up, they will naturally start bringing their hands to their mouth. This is a great time to introduce teething toys for practice! When they are ready to start solid foods, introduce thin, stick shaped foods to force them to bite and chew as they are eating.
- Familiarize yourself with the most common allergens and how to introduce them.
- Avoid Choking Hazards.
- Remove fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish
- Cut fruit into small pieces, removing seeds and hard pits
- Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices
- Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway
- Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces
- Cook rice, pasta and other grains until tender
- Step 1: Baby Cereal and Single Food Purees: Traditionally, the recommendation has been to start by spoon feeding baby cereal mixed with formula, breastmilk or water. Then, you can slowly progress through single-ingredient purees such as avocado, apple, peas or squash, one food at a time. Mash or puree the fruits and vegetables to make them smooth and easy for the baby to swallow. Harder fruits and vegetables (such as apples and carrots) usually need to be softened by cooking first. Consider giving your baby the same food for three days in a row to confirm that they aren’t having any adverse reactions to the food, like diarrhea, rash, or vomiting.
- Step 2: Multi-Ingredient Purees & Thicker Consistency: Once you and your baby are comfortable with single food purees, you can move on to multi-ingredient purees. Follow their lead as they begin to master thicker-consistency foods, noticing how they react as you introduce new tastes and textures. Even if your baby doesn’t have teeth, their jaws and gums will do an adequate amount of chewing.
- Step 3: Soft, Small Solid Foods: Once you notice that your baby is able to bring food to their mouth, you should start introducing small and soft pieces of solid food or shredded meat (about the size of a cheerio) and always avoid any choking hazards.
This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.