How soon can babies eat food

When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods | Nutrition

For more information about how to know if your baby is ready to starting eating foods, what first foods to offer, and what to expect, watch these videos from 1,000 Days.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old.  Introducing foods before 4 months old is not recommended. Every child is different. How do you know if your child is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready.

Your child:

  • Sits up alone or with support.
  • Is able to control head and neck.
  • Opens the mouth when food is offered.
  • Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
  • Brings objects to the mouth.
  • Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
  • Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.

What Foods Should I Introduce to My Child First?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most children, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.

If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of fortifiedalert icon infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for children to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administrationexternal icon to learn more.

How Should I Introduce My Child to Foods?

Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.

Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.

Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.

Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.

Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.

Potentially allergenic foods include cow’s milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cow’s milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.

How Should I Prepare Food for My Child to Eat?

At first, it’s easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Your child might cough, gag, or spit up. As your baby’s oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.

Some foods are potential choking hazards, so it is important to feed your child foods that are the right texture for his or her development. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always watch your child while he or she is eating.

Here are some tips for preparing foods:

  • Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
  • Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
  • Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
  • Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
  • Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
  • Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit, and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
  • Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices.
  • Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage 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 and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.

Learn more about potential choking hazards and how to prevent your child from choking.

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When Can My Baby Start Eating Solid Foods? (for Parents)

A friend just started giving her 3-month-old applesauce and rice cereal. My son is just 2 weeks younger than hers, and I am wondering if I should be introducing solids soon too. When should I start?

Doctors recommend waiting until a baby is about 6 months old to start solid foods. Starting before 4 months is not recommended.

At about 6 months, babies need the added nutrition — such as iron and zinc — that solid foods provide. It’s also the right time to introduce your infant to new tastes and textures. 

Some babies may be ready for solids sooner than 6 months, but don't start until your baby is at least 4 months old.

How do you know it’s the right time to start solid foods? Here are some signs that babies are ready:

  • They have good head and neck control and sit up in a high chair.
  • They're interested in foods. For example, they may watch others eat, reach for food, and open their mouths when food approaches.
  • They don’t push food out of their mouths, which is a natural tongue reflex that disappears when they’re between 4–6 months old.
  • They weigh twice their birth weight, or close to it.

Talk to your doctor about the right time to start solid foods.

How Should I Start Solids?

When the time is right, you can start with a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal. Start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of cereal mixed with breast milk, formula, or water. Feed your baby with a small baby spoon. Don’t add cereal or other food to a baby's bottle because it can lead to too much weight gain. Let your baby practice eating from a spoon and learn to stop when full.

When your baby gets the hang of eating the first food, introduce others, such as puréed meat, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, or yogurt. Try one food at a time and wait a few days before trying something else new to make sure your baby doesn't have an allergic reaction.

Foods that are more likely to cause allergies can be among the foods you introduce to your baby. These include peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk, seafood, nuts, wheat, and soy. Waiting to start these foods does not prevent food allergies. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about food allergies, especially if any close family members have allergies, food allergies, or allergy-related conditions, like eczema or asthma.

Infants with severe eczema or egg allergies are more likely to have allergies to peanuts. Talk to your doctor about how and when to introduce these foods to your child.

When starting your baby on solids, avoid:

  • foods with added sugars and no-calorie sweeteners
  • high-sodium foods
  • honey, until after the first birthday. It can cause botulism in babies.
  • unpasteurized juice, milk, yogurt, or cheese 
  • regular cow's milk or soy drinks before 12 months instead of breast milk or formula. It’s OK to offer pasteurized yogurt and cheese.
  • foods that may cause choking, such as hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes, popcorn, and nuts

Also, do not give fruit juices to infants younger than 12 months old.

Over the next few months, introduce a variety of foods from all the food groups. If your baby doesn't seem to like something, don’t give up. It can take 8 to 10 tries or more before babies learn to like new foods.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Date reviewed: February 2021

Learning to eat on our own. Feeding children up to a year

Watching how our baby grows, we, on the one hand, want him to quickly become independent, not dependent on adults, and on the other hand, we really want the time of infancy to last longer - after all It is pleasant to take care of the baby, to feel his need and his dependence on his parents. In general, the issue of the independence of the child is one of the main ones that parents try to solve when raising their child. In one of the books on child care, I read an interesting phrase: "Properly raising a child means teaching him to do without parents." The first thing you need to teach him to do is to eat on his own. nine0003

When can a child be given a spoon? This is a long way, and it will require great patience from parents, and the age at which the child learns to eat on his own depends on adults, on whether they managed to discern impulses for independence in time and support their baby in this difficult matter.

So, what should you pay attention to? Below I will describe the stages by age, but it should be said that you should not take it literally, since each child is an individual, one begins to sit earlier, the other to walk, the third to talk. Therefore, these boundaries are very arbitrary. nine0003

3-4 months. The baby already knows how to eat fruit puree from a spoon, if you feed from a bottle, he puts his hand on it, but so far he cannot hold it on his own.

5-6 months. You can teach your child to drink from a mug, it is only necessary that the child can sit at least with support. Take the baby in your arms, seat him; into a small mug (about 50 ml in volume) such that its diameter is 5-6 cm, pour 1-2 teaspoons of juice or compote (no more so that the baby does not choke) and, bringing it to the child’s lips, gently tilt it. Feeling the taste of the drink, the baby will make a swallowing movement. Believe that in this way you will teach your child to drink from a cup very quickly. (If anyone doubts, I can say that both of my children have been successfully drinking from a cup since 5 months). nine0003

6-7 months. The child can sit independently on a special high chair, "as an adult", can participate in meals together with all family members. He can suck a crust of bread, a cracker, a cookie, holding them with all five fingers.

9-10 months. The baby can already drink well from a cup, but if you still offer him milk in a bottle, then he holds it on his own, takes the nipple himself and removes it when he has finished drinking. If you give the child pureed food, he takes small pieces with his hands and puts them in his mouth on his own. I do not advise forbidding him to do this, since it is possible that in case of a ban he will learn to eat with a spoon later than others. nine0003

At this age, the child gets dirty himself and soils everything around, so I advise you to sew or buy a large oilcloth bib, and put a large oilcloth under the chair.

11-12 months. The baby is very interested in the spoon and literally snatches it from the mother's hands. This is not a whim - this is a need to learn how to manage this object on your own (I advise you to prepare two spoons for feeding at this age: you will offer the baby to take one in your hands, and the other you will still feed him, since it will take several weeks before he will learn to scoop up food with a spoon and bring it to his mouth). At this age, the child is already holding a cracker or cookie, like an adult, with the thumb and forefinger; able to take objects out of his mouth on his own. But at this age, the mother’s troubles are added, since the child distinguishes between individual dishes and categorically refuses some. nine0003

15 months. The child distinguishes between dishes and points with his finger at what he wants. Can hold a mug, however, only with two hands; tries to eat with a spoon, but still brings only an insignificant part of the food to the mouth, and holds the spoon incorrectly.

18 months. The baby is making first progress in mastering the spoon, it is especially good when he eats thick food. He already holds a glass well (which is much easier than holding a mug), but still often knocks him over. Often prefers to eat part of the food on his own, but quickly gets tired and wants to be helped. And here is another tip: if your baby has already learned to eat with a spoon even a little, do not feed him anymore. I understand that feeding will then be very long, but be patient: the sooner this happens, the easier it will be for you later. When the child is hungry, he will try his best to satisfy his hunger, if he eats the bulk of the food in 10 minutes, do not feed him more. nine0003

Believe that if at this age you do not satisfy this natural need to eat on your own, then at an older age the child is unlikely to want to do this, because he will already get used to being fed.

I want to warn you again that there is no one right age to eat on your own. Do not try to force the child if he is not yet mature for this and does not show interest, this will only create additional difficulties. It is important to “catch the moment” in time and direct the natural interest of the child in the right direction. nine0003

21 months. A child can eat almost everything on his own, but so far very sloppy.

2 years. The success of the baby is quite impressive: until now, a clean napkin was required for each meal, but now sometimes he manages to almost not stain it during the meal, but surprises in the form of an overturned glass of compote or a bowl of soup turned upside down on the floor still happen, so be ready for anything and do not scold the baby for "offense".

At this age, the child can already hold a mug with one hand.

If you carefully observe your child, you will notice that at this age the baby has certain habits that become a ritual: meals should always be the same (like all previous ones), the necessary items should be in their places (mug, napkin, plate). It is at this age that you can already instill hygiene skills in your child.

2.5 years. Your baby is already able to master a new object - a fork, he can use it to prick pieces of food (some children act very interestingly: they prick pasta or some other food on the fork with their hands and then send it to the torus). So far, puree can only be eaten with a spoon. nine0003

3 years. From about this age, the child begins to behave correctly at the table, you can already take him with you to dinner with friends or even to a restaurant, without fear that his awkwardness will make you blush. He becomes more dexterous and can already hold a cup by the handle.

4 years. The child learns another new object - a knife. The kid can spread butter on bread or cut off a piece of soft cheese, but he is not yet strong enough and dexterous enough to cut meat and hard fruits (he will not learn this until he is 7 years old). nine0003

The kid is happy to help set the table, shows interest in cooking. Take advantage of this natural desire of his, and you will have an excellent assistant.

Good luck and bon appetit.

Based on personal experience and literature:

  1. B. Spock "Child and care for him", Vladikavkaz, "Alania", 1991
  2. Handbook "Child: care, nutrition, vaccination", Chisinau "Shtiintsa", 1988 nine0082
  3. K.Ladodo, L.Druzhinina "Products and dishes in baby food", M., "Rosagropromizdat", 1991.

Thank you, wonderful detailed story. My baby is 11.5 months old. As you describe the last month and a half, we eat with only two spoons. I feed him with one, and the second Egor either feeds me (since this is exactly what he sees, now I even specially put him at the table when my husband and I eat so that he can see how adults eat), or tries to eat himself , well, either smears food on the table - it's so interesting! :))) Let's hope that soon he will eat like a real gentleman :)). nine0003

2000-10-11, Julie

Oops! And I thought that one such smart son stopped eating normally, and I suggested that he craves independence. As a result, she gave the child a second spoon, with which he began to feed me with pleasure and the accompanying swine. The problems with food ended immediately.
Thank you, very informative - now I will know how to further develop success. But who would clean my kitchen after that, huh? :))))

2000-10-11, Ginger nine0003

Thank you very much for the detailed description of the steps. There was only one question. I read that children who grow well and gain weight on breast milk up to six months can not introduce complementary foods at all and not be allowed to drink water. How then to be? How to teach a child to drink from a cup? Maybe pour breast milk into it?

2002-04-18, MaMasha

I really liked satya! By the way, I did not know that if a child is forbidden to take small pieces with his hands, he will later take a spoon. Us 95 months, but we have been interested in a spoon for a long time! But we did not like the oilcloth bib at all. A large rag is better - it absorbs water, and does not drain it down.

2007-04-13, Nadynke

I really liked the satya! By the way, I did not know that if a child is forbidden to take small pieces with his hands, he will later take a spoon. We are 9.5 months old, but we have been interested in a spoon for a long time! But we did not like the oilcloth bib at all. A large rag is better - it absorbs water, and does not drain it down. nine0003

2007-04-13, Nadynke

Thank you for the advice to our child 1 year and 19 days old. Very naughty as a result of asking for a spoon to eat on his own. But naturally, all in porridge, etc. It did not occur to me to use a second spoon. I want to try today. Thanks again.

2004-05-21, Athanasius

My son is 2 years old, he doesn’t eat on his own at all, he doesn’t want to be naughty, how will he be taught to eat on his own?

2017-10-11, Elzana nine0003

Total 8 reviews Read all reviews.

Introducing solid food: why, when, what and how

Introducing solid food: why babies need it

growth and development.

During the first six months, the baby's body uses iron stored in the womb. Some iron also comes from breast milk and/or formula. But as the baby grows, the reserves of this substance in the body decrease. And the iron that a child receives from breast milk or formula is already not enough at the age of about six months. nine0003

Through the introduction of solid foods, the child also learns to eat, gets to know new tastes and textures of different foods. At the same time, he develops teeth and jaws, and he also acquires skills that will later be needed for language development.

Signs it's time to introduce solid foods

You will know when it's time to introduce solid foods by how your baby develops and behaves.

Your child is ready for solid food if:

  • holds head and neck well and can sit upright with support
  • shows interest in food - for example, looking at the contents of your plate
  • reaching for your food
  • opens his mouth when you offer him food from a spoon.

Most children show these signs by about six months, but in general everyone is individual.

It is not recommended to introduce solid foods before four months of age.

If your baby is about seven months old and hasn't started solid foods yet, you can talk to a nurse or pediatrician. nine0003

The best time to offer solid food to your baby is when you and he are in a good mood for the first time.

He is also more likely to try new foods after breast milk or formula. The fact is that when a child is really hungry, he only wants milk or formula, because he knows that he will be satisfied. At the same time, there will still be room for other food in his tummy.

Over time, you will learn to tell if your baby is hungry or full, wants to try something or is tired. nine0003

Your child is hungry, if:

  • becomes animated when he sees you cooking for him
  • leans towards you while sitting in a highchair
  • opens its mouth when you are about to feed it.

Your child no longer wants to eat if:

  • turns away
  • loses interest or gets distracted
  • repels spoon
  • purses his lips.

In what portions should the new food be introduced to the child? Start with 1-2 teaspoons and increase according to your baby's appetite. By 12 months, he should be eating about three small meals a day, plus breast milk or formula. nine0003

Consistency of solid food

The first solid food can be smooth, pureed or in soft pieces , depending on your baby's preference. Then the child can quickly move on to finely chopped, and then just to finely chopped foods.

The child needs food of various consistencies. This will help him learn to chew, and chewing, in turn, contributes to the development of speech. It also encourages the child to learn to eat on his own and will prevent eating problems as he develops. nine0003

By 12 months, the baby should already be eating the same as the rest of the family. You may have to cut some foods into smaller pieces, and boil the vegetables well.

Do not leave the child unattended while eating, make sure that he does not choke. Be especially careful with foods such as nuts and small-boned meats, as they are easy to choke on. If the child can already move around, try to seat him while eating. If you sit next to each other while the baby is eating, he will most likely sit more quietly. nine0003

Types of food when introducing solid foods

The child will be happy to try any new food, so there is no need to prepare something “special” for him.

Solids can be introduced in any order, as long as you include iron-rich foods and cook foods of the right consistency.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • iron-fortified baby cereals
  • minced meat, poultry and fish
  • tofu and legumes, cooked
  • mashed or boiled eggs (do not give raw or soft eggs).

Iron-rich foods can be supplemented with other healthy foods:

  • vegetables such as boiled potatoes, carrots or green vegetables such as broccoli
  • fruit - e. g. banana, apple, melon or avocado
  • cereals - e.g. oats, bread, rice and pasta
  • Dairy products such as yogurt and full fat cheese.

These products can be combined as there is no need to administer only one product at a time. By offering your child a variety of foods, you will allow him to try a variety of new tastes and get a lot of nutrients. nine0003

With our solid food introduction tips, you can get your child interested in new foods and make the eating process smoother and playful.

Breast milk and formula when introducing solid foods

Continue breastfeeding or formula until at least 12 months while introducing solid foods.

If you are unsure if your baby is getting the right amount of milk once solids are introduced, pay attention to his behavior. nine0003

For example, if a child has eaten a lot of solid food and is not getting enough milk or is refusing milk, the daily milk feeds may need to be made less frequent but longer. If the baby does not want to eat solid food, he may have had too much milk. This may be a signal that portions of milk should be reduced.

By about nine months of age, babies usually develop enough chewing and swallowing skills to eat solid foods before milk, not after. nine0003

Solid food does not replace breast milk or formula. If the transition to solid foods instead of milk and/or formula occurs too quickly, a child may miss an important milestone in their diet.

Water administration

At the age of six months, the child may be offered chilled boiled water in a cup during meals or at other times. This is to help your baby learn to drink from a cup, but at this age, he still doesn't need liquids other than breast milk or formula. When the child is one year old, he can be offered fresh tap water without boiling. nine0003

Foods and drinks to avoid

Certain foods should not be given to children under a certain age:

  • honey under 12 months to avoid the risk of infant botulism
  • raw eggs, soft-boiled eggs, and products containing raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, up to 12 months - bacteria found in raw eggs may be harmful to infants
  • low-fat dairy products up to two years
  • Whole nuts and similar hard foods up to three years - due to risk of choking. nine0082

Also, up to a certain age, children should not be given certain drinks :

  • pasteurized whole cow's milk as the main drink up to 12 months
  • soy, goat and sheep milk up to two years (fortified soy products can be given up to two years)
  • rice, oatmeal, almond or coconut milk up to two years of age, unless advised otherwise by a pediatrician or nurse
  • Unpasteurized milk of all kinds, tea, coffee or sugar-sweetened beverages for all ages
  • fruit juice - should be limited at any age (fruits contain the nutrients a child needs).

Salt and sugar should not be added to baby food. Infants and young children are not suitable for highly processed foods and packaged foods that are high in fat, sugar and/or salt. These include cakes, cookies, chips and fried foods.

Food allergy and introduction of solid foods

Early introduction of allergenic foods may reduce risk development of food allergy in a child.

Learn more