When is my baby ready for 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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Introducing solids: why, when, what & how

Solid foods: why babies need them

As babies get older, they need solid food to get enough nutrients for growth and development. These essential nutrients include iron, zinc and others.

For the first 6 months of life, babies use iron stored in their bodies from when they were in the womb. They also get some iron from breastmilk and/or infant formula. But babies’ iron stores go down as they grow. By around 6 months, babies need to start having solid food.

Introducing solids is also important for helping babies learn to eat, giving them experience of new tastes and textures from a range of foods. It develops their teeth and jaws, and it builds other skills that they’ll need later for language development.

Signs that it’s time to introduce solids

Signs your baby is ready for solids include when your baby:

  • has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported
  • shows an interest in food – for example, they look at what’s on your plate
  • reaches out for your food
  • opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.

Most babies start to show these signs by around 6 months, although this can vary.

It’s recommended not to introduce solids before 4 months.

If your baby is nearing 7 months of age and hasn’t started solids, you might like to get some advice from your child and family health nurse or GP.

The best times of day to introduce solids

When you’re first introducing solids, it’s good to offer solids when you and your baby are both happy and relaxed.

This is often after a feed of breastmilk or formula. Babies will still have room in their tummies for a taste of new foods after a feed of breastmilk or formula. But if they’re really hungry before a feed, they just want the breastmilk or formula that they know satisfies their hunger.

As time passes, you’ll learn when your baby is hungry or full, not interested or tired.

Signs of hunger include your baby:

  • getting excited when they see you getting their food ready
  • leaning towards you while they’re sitting in the highchair
  • opening their mouth as you’re about to feed them.

Signs your baby is no longer interested include:

  • turning their head away
  • losing interest or getting distracted
  • pushing the spoon away
  • clamping their mouth shut.

Your baby’s appetite can vary from day to day.

How much food to offer when introducing solids

When you’re first introducing solids, try offering 1-2 teaspoons of food once a day. At first, your baby might have only a small taste and probably won’t swallow much.

As your baby grows, you can increase the amount according to your baby’s appetite and signs.

By 12 months, your baby should be eating around 3 small meals a day, plus breastmilk or infant formula.

The right textures for first foods

When your baby is ready for solids, first foods might be smooth or finely mashed, depending on what baby likes. Over the next weeks and months, your baby can move on to roughly mashed or minced foods and then chopped foods. All foods should be very soft.

Your baby needs a variety of food textures. This helps your baby learn how to chew, and chewing helps with speech development and self-feeding. It also helps to prevent feeding difficulties as your baby develops. Babies can chew even before they get their first teeth.

By the time your baby is 12 months old, they should be eating the same foods that the rest of the family is eating. But you might still need to chop some foods into smaller pieces and cook vegetables until they’re soft.

To prevent choking, always supervise babies and young children while they’re eating solid food. Avoid nuts, take special care with pieces of meat and check fish for small bones, because these are choking hazards. And if your baby can move around, make sure baby is sitting down while they’re eating. If you sit with your baby while they’re eating, baby is less likely to move around.

Types of food to offer when introducing solids

All new foods are exciting for your baby.

The key is to include iron-rich foods of the right texture in your baby’s first foods. Iron-rich foods include:

  • iron-fortified infant cereal
  • minced meat, poultry and fish
  • cooked tofu and legumes
  • mashed, cooked egg (avoid raw or runny egg).

To these iron-rich foods, you can add other healthy foods of the right texture like:

  • vegetables – for example, cooked potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli or spinach
  • fruit – for example, banana, apple, pear, melon or avocado
  • grains – for example, oats, bread, rice and pasta
  • dairy foods – for example, yoghurt and full-fat cheese.

You can introduce any number of new foods at a time and in any order. When you offer your baby a variety of foods, they can try plenty of new tastes and get a range of nutrients.

Read our tips for introducing solid foods to learn how to get your baby interested in new foods and manage mealtime mess and play.

Breastmilk and infant formula while introducing solids

You should keep breastfeeding or using infant formula until at least 12 months.

When you start introducing solids, breastmilk or infant formula should still be the main source of your baby’s nutrition. Over the next few months, your baby will start having more solids and less milk or formula. The rate that this happens will vary.

By around 9 months, babies have generally developed enough chewing and swallowing skills to move from having milk before solids to having milk after solids.

Here are some signs that your baby is getting enough nutrition from both solids and breastmilk or formula during this time. Your baby:

  • has plenty of wet nappies – at least 6-8 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours
  • is alert and mostly happy after and between feeds
  • is gaining weight at about the right rate – your child and family health nurse will weigh your baby at your regular check-ups.

From 12 months onwards, solids should be the main source of your baby’s nutrition. Your baby doesn’t need infant formula after 12 months, but you can keep breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby like.

If solid food replaces breastmilk and/or infant formula too quickly, babies can miss out on important nutrition. If you have any concerns about your baby’s feeds or weight, talk to your midwife, child and family health nurse, lactation consultant or GP.

Introducing water

Once your baby has reached 6 months, you can start to offer baby cooled, boiled water in a cup at mealtimes and at other times during the day. This is so your baby can practise drinking from a cup, but baby still doesn’t really need fluids other than breastmilk or formula at this age.

Once your baby has reached 12 months, you can offer fresh tap water without boiling it.

Foods and drinks to avoid while introducing solids

There are some foods to avoid until your baby is a certain age:

  • Honey until 12 months – this is to avoid the risk of infant botulism.
  • Raw or runny eggs and foods containing raw eggs like home-made mayonnaise until 12 months – bacteria in raw eggs can be harmful to babies.
  • Reduced-fat dairy until 2 years – babies need full-fat dairy for growth.
  • Whole nuts and similar hard foods until 3 years – these are choking hazards.

There are some drinks to avoid until your baby is a certain age:

  • pasteurised full-fat cow’s milk as a main drink until 12 months
  • dairy alternatives like soy, goat’s, sheep’s, rice, oat, almond and coconut milk until 2 years, unless your GP or child and family health nurse has recommended these for a particular reason
  • unpasteurised milks at all ages
  • tea, coffee or sugar-sweetened drinks at all ages
  • fruit juice – this should be limited at all ages (whole fruits are better because they have fibre and help babies develop chewing and feeding skills).

Your baby doesn’t need added salt or sugar. Processed or packaged foods with high levels of fat, sugar and/or salt aren’t good for babies and children. These foods include cakes, biscuits, chips and fried foods.

Food allergy and introducing solids

Introducing allergenic foods early can reduce the risk of your child developing food allergy. Allergenic foods are foods that might cause allergies.

All babies, including babies with a high allergy risk, should try solid foods that might cause allergies from around 6 months of age. These foods include well-cooked egg, peanut butter and other nut butters, wheat (from wheat-based breads, cereals and pasta) and cow’s milk (but not as a main drink).

Once you’ve introduced an allergenic food, it’s a good idea to regularly include it in your baby’s diet.

It’s a good idea to get advice from your GP, child and family health nurse, dietitian, paediatrician or allergy and immunology specialist for the following reasons:

  • Your baby already has a food allergy.
  • Your baby has severe eczema.
  • Your family has a history of food allergy and you’re concerned about starting solids.
  • You’re worried about reactions to foods.

How to introduce complementary foods to a baby?

The introduction of complementary foods is an important and integral part of the process of feeding a child. New parents inevitably have a lot of questions about complementary foods: when to introduce, what to introduce, how to introduce, etc. In this article, we will try to answer the most common questions related to this topic. You can also contact your pediatrician to help you understand the intricacies of introducing complementary foods.

At what age should we start introducing complementary foods?

The World Health Organization recommends introducing complementary foods to children at 6 months of age.

Can complementary foods be started earlier than 6 months?

Since all children develop at different rates, there are children who are ready to be introduced to complementary foods at an earlier age. If there are signs of readiness to introduce complementary foods, it can be introduced to children older than 4 months. The child is ready to feed if:

  • shows interest in food (looks at parents with interest when they eat, reaches for food and cutlery)
  • confidently holds his head, sits with support
  • opens his mouth when a spoonful of food is brought to him, does not push food out with his tongue

What if the child is bottle-fed?

The recommended time for introducing complementary foods is the same for both breastfed and formula-fed babies.

Should I continue to breastfeed after introducing complementary foods?

The World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding be continued until 2 years of age or beyond. American Academy of Pediatrics - up to 1 year or more.

How to start weaning?

Start with half a teaspoon or even less. At the same time, talk to the child during feeding (“try it, see how delicious it is”, etc. ). At first, the child does not understand what he needs to do. He may wrinkle or even refuse to participate in this process. In this case, you can offer the child a breast or milk formula, and then try again to give half a spoonful of complementary foods, then breast or formula again. At the first feeding, most of the food will most likely be on the face and arms of the baby. You need to be prepared for this and not be nervous if this happens.

Note that when introducing complementary foods, it is not recommended to force the child to eat if he turns away from food or cries. The process of introducing complementary foods is gradual, and if it didn’t work out today, it can work out tomorrow.

What is the best way to eat?

Children eat much better together with the whole family than when they are fed separately. Regular joint family meals have a positive effect on the development of children. Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. As for the amount of food - let the baby decide for himself how much food he will eat at a time.

What kind of food should be given?

For children under 8 months of age, complementary foods are usually given in the form of mashed potatoes. From 8 to 10 months it is enough to knead food with a fork. And children older than 10 months can cut food into thin strips.

What type of complementary foods is better to choose for the first time?

In fact, it doesn’t matter what exactly complementary foods are started with. Traditionally, porridge is introduced first, then vegetables, fruits, and lastly meat. In practice, you can follow this scheme, or you can choose any other sequence.

If you start complementary foods with fruits, what if the child will not eat vegetables later?

Pediatricians often recommend introducing vegetables before introducing fruit, because after the child has tasted fruit, he will not want to eat vegetables. In fact, such assumptions are unfounded. Almost all children love sweets, and the order of introduction of complementary foods cannot change this.

Is it possible to start complementary foods with meat?

Yes, you can. Meat is especially useful for children who feed exclusively on breast milk. Meat contains a large number of important elements for the child - iron and zinc.

What is the best porridge to start with?

With almost any - buckwheat, rice, corn, oatmeal, etc. It is better to opt for cereals enriched with iron.

Is it possible to give semolina?

Semolina porridge contains a huge amount of carbohydrates with a low content of fiber and vitamins. You can give it, but there is no need to use it.

When can I introduce the next type of complementary foods?

Gradually increase the volume of complementary foods and if it is well tolerated, start introducing the next type of complementary foods in 3-4 days. New food can be given along with the already introduced. Introduce one food at a time.

When to introduce fish, eggs, nuts, berries, citrus and legumes?

These types of food are somewhat more likely (compared to others) to cause allergic reactions in children. However, there is no need to delay the introduction of these products to a later date. Research results show that early introduction of these foods may reduce the risk of developing allergies in children.

How do you know if a child has a food allergy?

Food allergies can be suspected by the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, rash after the introduction of complementary foods. If these symptoms occur, it is necessary to show the child to the doctor.

How to give nuts?

Nuts can be given as a powder or paste. You can add them, for example, to porridge.

Isn't there too much to feed?

About a couple of months after the start of the introduction of complementary foods, it is desirable that the child's diet includes food with a variety of tastes, smells and textures: cereals, vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, etc.

Can children have honey?

It is not recommended to give honey to children under one year old, as it may contain spores of bacteria dangerous for babies that can cause botulism.

What changes will occur after the introduction of complementary foods?

After the introduction of complementary foods, the baby's stools usually become more dense, may change their color and acquire a more pronounced smell. Green vegetables and peas can turn stools greenish, while beets can turn red. If pieces of undigested food appear in the stool, this is normal and is not a cause for concern.

Should children be given juice?

In the first year of life, juice consumption is not recommended. Older children can be given 100% juice in a volume not exceeding 120 ml per day. However, there is no need for this.

Complementary foods answers to many questions - 13 answers

Booklet about the correct feeding post


Found an interesting booklet on the website of the UK Department of Health, published with the support of UNICEF. It's about how and when to introduce solid foods into your child's diet. A lot of it is consonant with the ideas of pedagogical complementary foods. The main thing is that the signs are clearly articulated by which it can be said whether the child is ready for the start of solid complementary foods:

Next, the authors dispel the myths, explain more exactly what signs people mistake for a baby to be ready to feed:

And helpful tips:

• Allow your child to enjoy the opportunity to touch and hold food
• Always be there in case the child will choke
• Don't force the child - wait until another time if the child is not interested in food now
• If the child wants to, let him eat with his hands on his own… He may want to try eating with a spoon himself
• Start offering a few bites or teaspoons of food once a day

This is dirty! It may be messy, but it's an important stage in a child's development. Place a newspaper or rug on the floor to make cleaning easier.
Time. Give your child plenty of time, especially at first. Haste and coercion can cause problems. Stick to your child's pace and stop when he shows he's had enough.
Eat together. Children enjoy watching you eat. During joint family meals, they learn. Help them by talking to them during this time and letting them taste the food you or other family members eat. Approximately the same meal times each day will make it easier for your child to get familiar with food.
How much? Don't worry if your child has eaten less than the recommended amount per meal or per day. How much he eats per week is a much more important indicator.

(If suddenly someone in the picture is not visible - decoding:

Your child is ready if they can:
Be in a seated position and hold their head confidently
Focus their eyes, control their hand and mouth so they can see food, pick it up and direct it to their mouth
Chew food. Babies who can't chew spit out food so they have more on their face than in their mouth
All of these signs rarely appear before 6 months

Some of the signs that are mistaken for a baby's readiness to feed

  • Chewing fists
  • Waking at night at hours when the child used to sleep
  • Additional milk requirement

These are all normal baby behaviors and are not necessarily a sign of head or readiness to introduce complementary foods.

Learn more