When do babies eat real 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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Solids, Finger Foods, and More

Written by Gina Shaw

In this Article

  • Baby Milestone 1: When They Can Start Solids
  • Baby Milestone 2: When They’re Ready to Move From Puree to Chunks
  • Baby Milestone 3: When They Can Sit in a High Chair
  • Baby Milestone 4: When They Can Manage Finger Foods
  • Baby Milestone 5: When They Start Using Spoons
  • Baby Milestone 6: When They Can Try Highly Allergenic Foods
  • Baby Milestone 7: When They Can Drink Water
  • Baby Milestone 8: When They Can Completely Feed Themselves

There are many milestones that need to be achieved when a baby is ready to start to eat solid foods. Here are some of the big ones.

Baby Milestone 1: When They Can Start Solids

Most pediatricians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend introducing solid foods to babies when they are between ages 4 and 6 months. That’s when they start to lose the “tongue-thrust reflex” or extrusion reflex, which is important for sucking the breast or bottle when they are younger, but interferes with feeding. Babies at this point can also lift their heads up independently and hold their necks high.

If your baby is around this age, can sit up well with support, and shows interest in the foods they see you eating, it’s probably a good time to venture into feeding your baby solid food. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, it is recommended that you wait until they are 6 months to start solids.

Baby Milestone 2: When They’re Ready to Move From Puree to Chunks

“Chunking up” babies’ food is a process -- obviously, they shouldn’t go straight from rice cereal to raisin bran. But after the first few weeks of adjusting to eating rather than just drinking their food, your baby should be ready to handle a little more texture in solid foods.

Introduce new textures slowly. Good starters are mashed bananas or mashed avocados. You can also use the “staged” store-bought baby foods -- going from the smooth puree of stage 1 to the slightly thicker stage 2 and then the chunkier stage 3 by around 9 months of age. (Babies don’t necessarily have to have a lot of teeth to handle more texture in their foods -- they can often gum soft foods very well!)

Baby Milestone 3: When They Can Sit in a High Chair

When babies are ready to eat solid foods, they can sit upright with support and hold up their head and neck. They're capable of sitting in a high chair! That's a serious milestone, but you'll need to follow these safety rules: Always buckle a baby into their chair for safety, even if they are unable to get out with the tray in place. As they get older and become more active, they may be able to squirm out. It is a good habit to buckle a child as soon as you place them in their chair -- even if you think there's no chance they could fall out or climb out. You may get distracted for a moment, which happens really easily when we are trying to do a million things at once!


Baby Milestone 4: When They Can Manage Finger Foods

Babies between ages 7 and 11 months usually tell you they’re ready to eat more grown-up foods by trying to grab them from you. Almost any food that is healthy and nutritious and has a soft texture makes a good finger food, if it’s cut small enough: diced pasta; small pieces of well-cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, or zucchini; and pea-sized bites of chicken or soft meat. Small, unsweetened round cereals and cereal puffs are also a good choice. Avoid feeding your baby grapes, hot dogs (even cut up), nuts, and hard candy, as they are choking hazards.

At first babies “rake” food into their hand, but soon they develop the “pincer grasp” that allows them to pick up small objects between thumb and forefinger. At that point, your baby can become a pro at self-feeding, so encourage finger foods and let your baby explore!

Baby Milestone 5: When They Start Using Spoons

Almost as soon as babies adjust to being fed with a spoon, they'll want to hold and grab the spoon themselves and put it in their mouths. That doesn't mean they're graceful, of course.

Most babies don’t learn to use a spoon effectively until after their first birthday, but let a younger baby who’s interested give it a whirl for practice. Try giving them a soft-tipped spoon to hold while you feed them with another. They can get used to holding the spoon themselves and will also be distracted from grabbing yours.

When you think they are ready to actually navigate the spoon into their mouth, try thicker, stickier foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, or cottage cheese. Another tip: Put some cream cheese on the spoon and then a few pieces of O-shaped cereal on top. The cream cheese won’t fly everywhere, and the baby can get the experience of actually getting the cereal into their mouth.

Expect a mess! Use a plastic or other waterproof bib, and put a mat under the high chair to make cleanup easier.


Baby Milestone 6: When They Can Try Highly Allergenic Foods

Some pediatricians still recommend waiting until children are at least age 1 before offering them certain foods that are considered highly allergenic, like eggs or fish. But current research doesn’t demonstrate any benefit to waiting past a certain age to introduce these foods, unless you have a significant family history of food allergies or other reasons to believe your baby may be predisposed to them.

There is no evidence that introducing highly allergenic foods to children under age 1 makes them any more likely to be allergic to them, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says it’s fine to give these foods before the baby's first birthday. Many pediatricians are still very cautious about shellfish and peanuts, however, because allergic reactions to these foods can be particularly dangerous.

Baby Milestone 7: When They Can Drink Water

Babies don't need water during their first 6 months of life. They get all the water they need from breast milk or baby formula. Babies under age 6 months should not be given any water at all, because it’s easy to fill up their tiny stomachs -- and they should be filling up on the nutrients they receive from the milk to grow. Once they start eating mostly solid foods, around age 9 months, they can start water with meals using a sippy cup.

If your older baby shows an interest in water that you’re drinking, there’s no harm in letting them have a few sips. Just don’t let it replace the nutritious breast milk or formula they should be getting.


Baby Milestone 8: When They Can Completely Feed Themselves

Mastering eating with utensils is a long process. Most babies do not become really skilled at it until they are well past their first birthday. Encourage your child to practice safely, and again, be prepared for a little mess. (How else will you get the “oatmeal in the hair” pictures that will embarrass them years later?)


Persuading a child to eat is a real torture for me. A friend from France told me that their children eat everything (7 simple chips of local moms)

08/06/2020 20:48

Probably one of the most important skills of every parent is the ability to feed a child. I know many stories from my girlfriends who go to great lengths to put one or two extra spoons of food in a child's mouth. One day my attention was drawn to the idea of ​​how French mothers instill a culture of food in their children. I found this information very interesting. So what is the French paradox? Here are seven interesting tips from my friend who has lived in France since her student days, got married there and started a family. Her name is Karina, and in the French manner she became Karen.

Choose food

Karen has two daughters. They go to a school that has its own canteen. All dishes from the menu are very tasty and, I would say, mature. It is impossible to meet children's cookies and dishes consisting entirely of greens or pastries there. The point is to feed your kids real food, not imitation food. Personally, I once witnessed how a baby at the age of about 9 months, with joy and great taste, gnawed on a stick of cheese instead of a special cookie that many mothers simply love to give.

The diet for children is the same as for adults - three times a day with a small snack at 16.00. Parents should choose quality food and avoid substitutes, this is the main task.

Common meal

You may have noticed that the French never eat on a table without a tablecloth. Once Karen offered her children a kind of lunch "party", which all members of the family accepted with a bang. Serving, beautiful dishes, starched napkins, candles and cutlery - this is a great ritual for sharing a meal with the family. The sophistication of the French in everyday life is transferred to the field of food. This atmosphere makes children interested in food.

Food is not a reward, a punishment or a bribe

I have noticed many times that many parents make a bargaining place out of the kitchen. Most often, this looks like a seduction: parents promise their children something they want in exchange for a full lunch or dinner. There are also reverse situations, when children are punished with food, forbidding them, for example, dessert.

If you teach your child to accept food as a reward, do not be surprised that in adulthood, when he encounters this food, he will emotionally return to the situation associated with it. Karen encourages parents to instill respect for food in their children, rather than consuming it just because they are bored and have nothing to do.

Vegetables and fruits

One of the best eating habits of the French is to eat vegetables before the main meals, when the children are most hungry. Moreover, vegetables can be made by any. They are mixed with various spices, for example, cucumbers are moistened with vinegar, and beets are mixed with orange. No wonder, but such a useful habit will preserve the health of the gastrointestinal tract and protect against excess weight.

Not to love, but to try

There should not be a fight between parents and children over food. French parents take it very simply. If the child does not want to eat it, the food is simply removed. Most often, the baby himself chooses what he wants to see on his plate.

I observe a special approach among the French when introducing a child to a new food. They are convinced that before you fall in love with any food, you need to try it at least fifteen times. Only after that it can be offered to the child as a full meal.

If a child does not like a product, it does not mean that he will never love it. It's all about habit, and the task of parents is to form these very habits correctly, then the children will not be picky. When a child is not forced to eat, he himself sits at the table and eats whatever he wants, to the delight of parents and especially grandmothers. Do you understand what I'm talking about.

No snacking

Parents are always worried about their children not being hungry and wrap up food or give pocket money for snacks. However, if the child is a little hungry, it will only benefit. Hunger is normal and is the best incentive to eat. When a child is hungry, he leans on normal food - with proteins, healthy carbohydrates and greens, and does not spoil his appetite with chips and chocolates, which over time can atrophy some of the taste buds.

In addition, the feeling of hunger perfectly forms the habit of fighting this very hunger. In adulthood, this will help them wait out the time from one meal to another without intercepting something on the run.

Eat slowly

French law dictates that children's meals should last at least half an hour. After all, food is not only fuel for the body, but also communication with friends in the school cafeteria. It is very important to properly teach your child how to manage lunch time: do not run around the house, but sit and enjoy not only food, but also conversations.

In this case, another useful social skill is formed - communication. The same is recommended to do at home. After all, there is a tradition of family dinners for a reason. This is a great opportunity to spend time together and share interesting events of the day, rather than put a plate in front of you and bury your face in the TV.

Child won't eat anything: psychologist's advice on how to cope with eating disorders in children0006 Eating disorders in the era of food abundance has become a real epidemic. Children eat either too little or too much, they eat the wrong way. Elena Fisun, a family psychotherapist and clinical psychologist, told Doctor Peter how to help a child and his parents, for whom every meal turns into a real battle for a meatball.

systemic family psychotherapist, clinical psychologist, lecturer at the Institute of Practical Psychology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, medical psychologist at the Center for Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology named after. Dmitry Rogachev

When dinner becomes stressful

- What are the signs that a child has serious eating problems?

- The child eats too much or too little, and this continues for quite a long time, at least a month. Even infant anorexia is distinguished when a child refuses a nipple or breast, but this is a separate issue.

- How do you know if a child is really not eating enough? Many parents of even well-fed children feel that they are not eating enough anyway.

- If we see a weight loss in a child, he is somehow lethargic, a blood test shows a lack of vitamins and microelements, and this coincides with our suspicions that the child does not eat well enough or is rather monotonous, this is already a serious sign that that there are problems. Another criterion is the behavior of the child during meals. He didn't just eat some food and say there won't be any more. He is either selective in food - he eats something specific, rejects the rest, or he indulges in food a lot, or he runs away, scatters food, some food is completely disgusting, up to vomiting. An important indicator when a parent understands that feeding a child is stressful every time.

- It seems that now every second child is "selective in food". I used to think that kids eating nothing but pasta was a myth until I came across it firsthand. The main diet of my 6-year-old daughter is pasta. How to change her eating habits, is it worth it at all or wait until she ripens herself?

- Children should understand that food is not to be played with, fun fights with meatballs are not needed here. You also need to exclude all gadgets, TVs and watching cartoons while eating. Food in this case ceases to be food as such. It becomes not a means of satiety and pleasure, but an element of blackmail, or part of some other ritual, something like a cheerful accompaniment.

Not a victim of porridge, but its judge

Very many children start eating what they have prepared themselves. Some dishes can frighten a child - smell, texture. And when he cooks himself, he has confidence in specific products.

- Often I offer my child to play restaurant critic, - says Elena Fisun. - Each dish that is given to him, he puts a rating. The child no longer feels like a victim of porridge, but a judge, an appraiser.

For children who are afraid of a new taste, the psychologist advises the game "Guess the Taste". Blindfolded, the child tries to guess what kind of vegetable or fruit it is. Gradually, during the game, you can add other products unfamiliar to the child. Important - it is useful to play this game not in the main meals, but separately. And during the main meal, remind the child how he deftly guessed the tastes.

- Children are basically retrogrades, and thanks to such a game they are no longer afraid of new sensations, the expert explains. - When you tell them “guess, cook, evaluate”, they seem to switch their focus of attention a little to something else, but at the same time they remain with food.

The snacking war

- Is eating disorders a problem for today's children, or has it always been, just not given so much attention?

- If we remember Dragunsky's story "The secret becomes clear" or the fairy tale "Geese-swans", it is clear that the problem of children not eating well is not new at all. If there is enough food, then children are always naughty because of it. But in hungry countries, where there is a shortage of food, the problem of eating behavior is basically absent.

In general, if there is no physiological reason, it is a psychological problem. Food is presented as something urgently needed by parents, but children do not share their enthusiasm for this.

What mistakes do parents make?

  • They arrange snacks, there are always free products in the house that you can snack on - as a rule, this is something high-calorie. As a result, the child is full, appetite disappears.

  • Excessively worried about the child being fed. This anxiety is transmitted to children, who begin to think that eating is something that causes anxiety.

  • They obey the will of the child (as a rule, this is the only child in the family), the family hierarchy is broken, the child begins to command and impose his will - including through food.

- Some parents believe that with age the child will “outgrow” the problem and will eat like “all normal people”. Can the problem really resolve itself? Or do you need to do something?

- If there is an opportunity to get rid of some unnecessary hassle, then why not do it. Moreover, if the parents are resolute, then the children quickly accept the new rules of the game.

- Decisively taking pasta away from a child?

- No, gradually reduce the portion of pasta, offering something else instead. But then it should be in everyone's plate. You can give this as a bonus. It is still good for children to explain why certain products are needed. In principle, they know that food is needed in order to grow, but in reality they do not see this effect, therefore they treat these words as a saying.

- What does the situation say when a child, on the contrary, eats everything, chews something all the time and says that he is hungry?

- He is certainly not hungry. A child thus can seize boredom, for example. Food for him is an opportunity to get quick and vivid impressions. If a child who eats little does not feel the taste of food, and is rather hostile to it, then a child who eats a lot is used to getting quick impressions precisely from tastes. He needs something to chew to calm down, to have fun. If the child is small, his eating habits are directly related to whether there is a tradition in the family to praise the child with treats, whether the diet is broken, and whether there is access to snacks.

Hiding candy? Give him a mountain of candy!

The child buys forbidden foods for himself and secretly eats them. Parents' attempts to catch and forbid, as a rule, lead to even greater resourcefulness of the child. In this case, it is best to put a vase of sweets (or any other treat that the child aspires to) on the table - and say: everything is yours, eat as much as you want!

- Such a paradoxical solution can give a result, - Elena Fisun believes. - After all, in this case, the child loses the game - to find, hide, steal food. The taste itself is already lost, as if forced to eat it.

- Children's overeating is corrected by the diet, the rejection of the "prohibition" (which is usually eaten by the whole family), young children do not have the willpower to voluntarily and consciously refuse junk food. A separate question is how the child copes with strong feelings, where and how he receives impressions that are as strong as when eating food. Parents should show him that food is not the only joy in life.

- And what about those parents for whom food is the only joy? Even in Soviet times, when buckwheat and squash caviar were in short supply, in many families there was a real cult of food - they got it out of court, tablecloths were covered for guests, all the shelves were filled in the refrigerator.

- It's in our blood that we need to create a reserve. Hence - “you won’t leave the table until you finish your meal”, “you can’t leave a piece of bread on the table” and “want some more?” Therefore, before adjusting children's eating behavior, you should ask yourself a question - for me there is food, what feelings does it cause me. As a mother once told me, “It’s dinnertime and I get scared. It is extremely important for me to feed my daughter, but I know that she will not eat. This is a real fear that if she does not feed the child, then he may die of starvation in 15 minutes after dinner. It turns out that the woman had dramatic stories in the family, when people literally died of hunger. And this fear sits in all generations of this family.

Vomiting as an end in itself

- Anorexia. How relevant is this topic now?

- This disease has become much younger. If earlier they were girls of 13-14 years old, now there are a lot of 11-year-old patients. Among them there are many who are engaged in dancing, rhythmic and artistic gymnastics. It seems that not all coaches are aware of such risks, and insist on losing weight, threatening expulsion. Girls get scared and start to lose weight. And this is all addictive to such an extent that later, even after reaching the desired number on the scales, it is impossible to stop.

Getty Images

- It is believed that one of the clear, visible, signs that a child has anorexia is frequent vomiting. Indeed, girls often cause artificial vomiting in themselves?

- For them, this is an effective way not to gain weight, while not limiting themselves in food. You can eat as much as you like, not control yourself, enjoy the taste of food, but all this will not lead to weight gain, because you can artificially get rid of food. It is addictive, causing a lot of health problems. On the other hand, some people develop another eating disorder, when the resulting vomiting paradoxically becomes pleasurable. Over time, artificial vomiting ceases to be a way to get rid of food, but becomes an end in itself. The child begins to eat in order to experience this vomiting process.

- Is it difficult to treat?

- Yes, vomiting as a distinct disorder is difficult to treat. Precisely because the child does not see this as a big problem. For him, this is pleasure, and who willingly wants to get rid of pleasure.

To cope with such a serious problem (disease!) as anorexia, the full participation of parents is very important. I noticed such a thing - teenage girls who had eating disorders, including the anorexic type, according to their parents, were always very independent, you could always rely on them, they were like a little more mature than in fact, perfectionists in everything. And at some point, taking on too many obligations, especially for adolescence, they cannot withstand this burden and seem to “fall” to a lower level - they begin to actively lose weight, refuse to eat. But such children are easily restored if parents begin to treat them with more care - they watch what they eat, how they eat. Children seem to be gaining this parental care, which they had little at an earlier stage.

Children need parents who protect them, who help them survive. There is an opinion that all the problems of children are due to the fact that parents pay little attention to them. Parents blame themselves. Many mothers quit their jobs to look after their children. But it is useful to know that children always get little attention; for a preschooler, this is generally a bottomless barrel that can never be saturated. Therefore, parents should think not about the fact that they are to blame for something, but about what to do to correct the situation. The simplest rule is that the parent must love and protect the child. And always be in charge. You can't let your child lead you. If a child feels in charge, he will not be able to get protection from his parents. The idea is simple - I want the best for my child, so I decide how to organize a diet and move there systematically, without succumbing to provocations.

How to help a child?


A system of free psychological assistance to the population operates in the capital, and there are centers for helping families in every district.

Learn more