When do babies start eating 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.
- 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?)
What time do children start eating on their own?
Many mothers and fathers are often interested in: what time do children start eating on their own? There is no single answer to this question, everyone is individual. But it is important for parents to know: how to discern the first impulses for independence in time, at what age you can give your baby a spoon, how to teach him to eat without outside help, and what accessories will help the baby master this difficult science.
What time do children start eating by themselves with a spoon?
It depends on the character and development of the child, as well as on his parents. Some children already in the year flatly refuse to be fed with a spoon. But there are those who start eating on their own only at the age of 3, when they come to kindergarten (in a team, children involuntarily imitate others and the learning process goes faster). In large families, children learn self-service skills at an earlier age.
But overprotection hinders the development of the baby. If an overly caring mother tries to do everything for the child, then he will not strive to eat himself, even if he can do it. If parents are too much in favor of accuracy, and porridge smeared on the table causes them stress, then the learning process can slow down. After all, the baby feels the mood of adults, and prefers not to experiment at the table. The lack of independence can also be associated with an unwillingness to grow up. For example, another baby has appeared in the family, and the child, feeling that they are paying less attention to him, tries to “stay small”, wants his mother to take him in her arms more often, feed him from a spoon, etc.
From the age of 7 months a child usually learns to pick up and hold objects between thumb and forefinger, such as a dryer or a piece of bread. The child can be offered a spoon when he is already receiving complementary foods and sits well in the highchair. At first, the baby will only try to take the spoon in his hands and play with it, but later he will try to use it for its intended purpose. For drinking to a baby up to a year, a drinking mug is convenient.
At 12 months the child still does not hold the spoon correctly, but he knows how to bring it to his mouth, and part of the contents can reach the goal. Closer to two years, coordination improves significantly, the baby is capable of more precise movements and misses less and less. The kid can already hold a regular mug, but only with two hands.
From the age of 2 years a child can eat by himself with a spoon, although he does not always do it sloppy. He already holds a mug with one hand and knows how to use a fork.
From the age of 3 the baby becomes more dexterous and accurate, his fingers are getting stronger, and his movements are more confident. It is quite possible to give him a non-sharp children's knife, having previously shown how to use it.
Accessories to help children learn to eat on their own
Buy a baby plate with a suction cup so that the dishes do not “run away” from the child. It’s good if the child’s favorite character is drawn at the bottom of the plate. To see the picture, the baby will try quickly and eat all the food to the end.
The non-spill cup is the best option when switching to adult dishes. Choose a model with two handles, it is more convenient for your baby to hold. An additional advantage is the presence of a rubber stand, which gives the cup stability.
A special anatomically shaped spoon with a rounded non-slip handle and a curved fork with rounded teeth are best suited for babies up to a year old.
Paper napkins or towels should always be at hand. This teaches you to be careful, helps to avoid the temptation to wipe your hands on clothes.
It's good if a grown child eats at a common table. He will be able to watch adults, copy their actions. To do this, the baby will need a special chair that can be attached to a large table (for example, high chairs from IKEA, “growing” Stokke Tripp Trapp, Kotokota, KidFix, etc.)
Buy your baby a soft silicone bib, oilcloth or apron. This will help parents save their nerves and spend less time on laundry and cleaning.
How to teach a baby to eat without the help of adults?
If, during feeding, the baby tries to take away the mother's spoon and tries to eat by himself, then “the time has come”. Use this moment!
At first, it is difficult for the baby to eat liquid food on his own, such as soup. And he probably wants to take pieces of fruit or pasta with his hands. Therefore, the ideal food for the first workouts is porridge or vegetables, which must first be kneaded with a fork.
The game will be a good help in learning. You can train the skill in the sandbox. Help the baby to scoop up the sand with a spatula, carefully pour it into the mold, make a cake. Buy a set of toy dishes, let the child feed dolls and teddy bears with a small spoon. This improves coordination, develops fine motor skills and will help him handle real cutlery.
At the beginning of training, one spoon should be in the hands of the mother, and the second - in the child. She feeds the baby, and the baby is only trying to collect food himself and send it to her mouth. Thus, the baby will not remain hungry and at the same time will gradually improve his skills.
Support the child at this stage of growing up, do not scold for mistakes and praise for successes. The main thing is patience and confidence that everything will work out.
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children and a spoon. When to teach a child to cutlery?
Approximately by the 9-10th month, children become interested in cutlery.
Approximately by the 9th-10th month, children develop an interest in the cutlery used by parents and with the help of which mother gives complementary foods.
While eating, the baby tries to grab a spoon, look at it, lick it, and is already trying to copy what mom does: scoop up porridge or puree and bring it to her mouth.
Of course, the first clumsy attempts end in splashing and spilling food in all directions. Some kids love this fun and instead of learning to wield a spoon, they willingly play with it (of course, if mom allows).
At the same time, taking a toy from a little bully becomes a real problem - after all, the baby does not want to part with it at all. At this moment, the mother needs to intervene in the situation and try to direct it in a peaceful direction, that is, to teach her child to use the cutlery for its intended purpose.
When should I start teaching my baby to eat with a spoon?
From the age of 10-11 months, a child can learn how to use a spoon correctly. During feeding, put a spoon in his handle. For the first test, be sure to prepare your baby's favorite dish - let him not have the desire to scatter it in vain.
Of course, in any case, the learning process will add extra trouble for you - cleaning and washing. The baby will climb into the plate with a spoon, try to scoop up food, as a result of which you will then collect it from clothes, tables, floors.
Patience is important here. And you reassure yourself that such independent actions increase the appetite and mood of the little one. Each time, the process will go cleaner and cleaner, and the tiny handle will hold the spoon more and more confidently.
Which spoon to start with?
It's best to give your baby a special silicone spoon first - they are completely safe and fit comfortably in a child's hand. Alternatively, you can try a dessert spoon, because it looks more like the one your parents eat. At the same time, buy a children's bowl with high edges and suction cups. And it’s better to have several of them - with different pictures on the bottom, so that it would be more interesting for the baby to get to the bottom as soon as possible.
First learn how to eat mashed potatoes and cereals, only then move on to liquid dishes. Do not forget that each baby has his own development schedule, and if he does not want to learn to eat with a spoon, it's okay, it will come to him a little later.
At first, the baby will hold the spoon the way it is comfortable for him - perhaps in the fist. If at this time you start to pull it up and teach it to hold it correctly, most likely, you will only achieve that your treasure does not want to eat on its own at all.
We eat at the common table
It is better to do things differently — to seat the baby at the common table more often. He will see how you eat and try to copy your behavior.
Eating at the same table with the whole family for a child will be a real pleasure - this is communication, new impressions, and gaining experience - in particular, behavior at the table. By the way, this method is very useful for increasing the appetite of little ones. Do not forget to set a positive example for your baby - do not talk at the table, do not fidget, etc.
If the child does not want to eat with a spoon at all and continues to take food with his hands, try the opposite method - sometimes it works. Everyone at the table eats with spoons, but do not give the crumbs a spoon. The same with food - everyone eats and praises, and let the baby sit for a while with an empty plate. He will reach out and ask!
Rules of etiquette
If a child under two years old has not yet learned how to hold a spoon, you can try to talk to him about this topic and point out mistakes, appealing that he is already big and should do everything right. The spoon is taken with three fingers - thumb, middle and index, slightly below its wide part. When the baby learns this, teach him to scoop food correctly, bring it to his mouth with the side, and not with the tapering part.
Teach your child to eat slowly, not to open their mouths wide, and not to make any sounds. After three years, you can buy a children's fork, because from this age the baby already clearly understands which objects are traumatic. Start with soft foods - banana slices, cutlets, and over time, learn to prick harder foods.
Should I force my baby to eat with a spoon?
Before you insist that your child eat with a spoon, figure out why you need it to happen earlier, because there is no strict time limit.