When do you start giving baby solid 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

When to start adding solid foods to a child's diet?

From the very beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, the baby must be taught to eat from a spoon. It is better that the spoon is special with a flat bottom. So it will be easier for the baby to take food from her. In the future, with the advent of skills, it will be possible to feed the child with a teaspoon and a dessert spoon. In a spoon, you need to give not only cereals and mashed potatoes, but also juice and tea.

To start with, pour a few drops into a spoon and bring it to the baby's lower lip so that he can suck on the liquid. Mushy food is given to the child in a different way. With a spoon, you need to slightly press on the lower lip, insert the contents inside and remove the food by passing along the inner surface of the upper lip. After that, the spoon must be removed from the mouth and the procedure repeated.

To help your baby get used to spoon-feeding, it is best to hold your baby upright during meals. So the child will be easier to swallow food, and the spoon will be at eye level, so that the baby will get used to it faster.

Cup training should not be delayed either. For the first acquaintance, it is better to choose a cup with an outward-curved edge. From such a liquid it spills less and it is more convenient for the child.

It is more convenient to drink the baby in your arms, holding it upright, as when feeding. Pour into a cup should be no more than 2 sips. The cup is applied with the edge to the lower lip and gently tilted so that a little liquid gets into the baby's mouth. After some time, the child will get used to drinking from a cup and will hold it on his own.

As the child grows, his diet expands, his taste preferences appear. However, not always children who drank breast milk with pleasure immediately get used to new food. Do not worry if the child does not accept the treat immediately. Perhaps the reason for the reluctance to eat is tasteless cooked food. In this case, you can try to make mashed potatoes more mushy, cook porridge without lumps - try to make some changes to the usual recipe and watch the child's reaction.

Introduce your baby to the new product gradually. It is better to do this immediately before feeding, in the middle or at the end of feeding. This should not be done between feedings, otherwise the child may lose his appetite.

Children are not always enthusiastic about porridge and vegetable purees. Start giving them in small portions and, if the child likes the dish, increase the amount of food, gradually bringing it to full in accordance with age. Sometimes it takes months to get used to. However, if the child absolutely does not like the new product, you should not force him to eat. It is better to temporarily remove this product from the diet and offer the baby something else. And after 2 weeks, you can try again.

The persistent refusal of the baby from any new dishes should alert the mother. In this case, it is worth contacting a pediatrician to rule out possible diseases of the child.

Remember: do not introduce several types of new foods into your child's diet at once. So you will not be able to understand what exactly you like and what you don’t like the crumbs.

    • The importance of habituation in solid food cannot be underestimated. The need for chewing in a child appears by 6-7 months. It is most often associated with teething accompanied by itching in the gums. In the first couple, you can give your baby a cracker, a cookie or a crust of bread.
  • Give solid food 10 minutes before the main meal. This is useful both for the formation of chewing skills and for enhancing digestion. As soon as the child gets used to chewing bread, you can introduce him to fruits. You should start with pears, peaches and apples.
  • With the appearance of molars, the child begins to chew food better. At this time, you can start giving your baby pieces of boiled vegetables.
  • Transfer the child to coarser food gradually, mixing more and more pieces into the pureed dish over and over again. You can also allow the baby to take individual pieces from the plate with his hands.
  • Do not grind food to a consistency similar to liquid food. The child will not notice the difference and will not learn to chew. He will simply swallow puree, which is subsequently fraught with problems with digestion.

It is possible to accustom a child to solid food closer to two years, when all the milk teeth (20 in total) erupt in the crumbs. It is better to start acquaintance with solid food with raw green apples and carrots. A two-year-old child can be given small pieces of soft boiled meat, which he is already able to chew. If the child chews food well, you will not find undigested product in his feces. If, nevertheless, undigested meat in the feces takes place, it is necessary to patiently, but persistently teach the child to chew food thoroughly.

Source: Detsky Gorodok

When to add pieces to complementary foods?

The article was written with the help of nutritionist Victoria Vishnyakova.

You need to take the transition from puree to chunks seriously, as this step is very important.

Such food is called in English-speaking countries “finger foods” translated into Russian as “finger food”. Toddlers take pieces with their fingers, bring them to their mouths, knead them with their gums and swallow.

At the same time, several systems are included in the work at once:

  • The brain needs to coordinate the actions of the hands, mouth and jaw
  • Mouth, tongue, jaw muscles are being trained
  • Gastrointestinal tract adapts to digest food other than solids, not just purees and liquids.

You should know that, as in other stages of the development of the baby, the pieces also need to be introduced into the “window of opportunity” - this is the period during which skills are mastered easily and naturally. In cases where such a moment was missed, much more effort has to be applied.

Based on modern recommendations, lumpy food should be offered from about six months, that is, almost immediately with the start of complementary foods. The deadline is about 9-10 months. – later the “window” will be closed.

You can start complementary foods not with mashed potatoes, but knead boiled vegetables with a fork, after a while you will not need to do this too carefully. Thus, the consistent addition of lumpy food to the child's diet will begin.

When you start complementary foods with mashed potatoes, then after a while offer pieces first of all, and if suddenly the baby gets tired, give mashed potatoes.

You can not mix puree with pieces! Toddlers do not expect that a solid object may be caught in their usual food - they will begin to "suck" it and may choke. As a result, there is a possibility that there will be a fear of food and even a temporary refusal of complementary foods.

Lumpy food should be soft so that children can knead it with their fingers. If the piece is hard, then it can be dangerous, since the child will not be able to chew it, but it is easy to choke on it.

There is no need to be afraid to give food in the form of pieces with the start of complementary foods. Offer your food by simply kneading it with a fork - this is normal, but only if your diet does not contain foods that are undesirable or dangerous for the baby (we wrote about this in another article).

Children can keep a piece in their mouth for a long time, and then spit it out - it's okay. Thus, they acquire many different skills, not forgetting to satisfy their hunger. Do not worry, put a plate, take your time - the child can crush, smear, spit, and eat what is needed.

Most importantly, do not leave children alone during this process, because there is a risk of choking.

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