Is Your Baby Ready for Solid Foods?

Janis Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

Baby eating solid foodThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding only breast milk or a prepared iron-fortified formula until babies are at least four to six months of age. After that age, solid foods can gradually be added to complement the nutrition from breast milk or formula. Since all babies are not ready to eat solid foods at the same time, your baby’s doctor can tell you the best time to start adding solid foods to the breast milk or formula that your baby drinks.

Here are some signs that your baby is ready for solid foods:

  • holds head up without wobbling
  • able to sit well with little support
  • weighs at least 13 pounds and has doubled their birth weight
  • is still hungry after eight to 10 breast feedings or after drinking 32 ounces of formula a day
  • shows interest in foods that others are eating
  • leans toward food or spoon and may open mouth in anticipation of food
  • can move foods from the front to the back of the mouth
  • can pick up and hold a small object in their hand
  • can feed themselves with their fingers
  • drinks from a cup with your help
  • turns away from food to signal “enough”

Your baby’s stomach is small and fills up quickly. Offer food in small amounts, which have been mixed with a little breast milk, formula or water to a thin, smooth consistency like cream. Start with 1or 2 teaspoons of food. As the baby wants more, gradually increase the amount to 1or 2 tablespoons served two to three times a day.

Always start with single-ingredient baby foods, such as rice cereal, green peas or pears. Try only one new food at a time, and let your baby adjust to it for about a week before offering the next new food. During that time, watch for signs of an allergic reaction such as: a rash; hives; coughing; wheezing; diarrhea or vomiting. Do not serve mixed-ingredient foods (e.g. rice cereal and bananas, peas and carrots, or applesauce and pears) until each food has been given separately, in case your baby is allergic to one of them.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it does not matter what solid foods are offered first. However, many doctors recommend cereals first, starting with iron-fortified infant rice cereal, because babies are least likely to be allergic to it. Offer other single-grain cereals before feeding them mixed grains. Be aware that some infants under a year of age are sensitive to wheat.

Follow your doctor’s recommendations on when to introduce certain foods to your child. Do not give egg whites, citrus fruits, nuts, fish, shellfish or chocolate to a baby less than one year of age, because these foods may cause allergic reactions. Regular cow’s milk is hard for a child this age to digest, and it may cause an allergic reaction and low blood iron. Cooked egg yolks may be tolerated around eight months of age.

A baby is ready for mashed and finely-chopped foods when their teeth begin to appear and they can make chewing motions. When your baby is between six and 11 months old, you can gradually add a variety of table foods to their diet. Do not give your baby any foods that they can put into their mouths whole. Some appropriate finger foods for older babies and toddlers include: pieces of ripe banana; graham crackers; well-cooked pasta and strips of cheese or bagels.

To reduce your baby’s risk of choking, avoid foods that are slippery, sticky, round and firm, or cut in large chunks. Some foods to avoid are:

  • raw peeled apple slices
  • whole beans
  • whole grapes
  • adult dry cereal
  • large chunks of cheese or meat
  • peanuts
  • popcorn
  • pieces of gooey, sticky or hard candy
  • cough drops
  • chewing gum

Do not force your baby to eat solid foods if they are not interested. When your baby is hungry, they will move their head forward to reach the spoon and hold their mouth open as the spoon approaches. They also may swipe food toward their mouth, point, nod or grab the spoon. If your baby rejects a new food the first time it is offered, simply wait a few days and try again. Research shows that a baby must be exposed to a new food up to 10 times before they decide they like it. If your baby makes a strange face when offered a new food, they are simply saying, “I don’t recognize that food.”

Babies know when they have had enough to eat and want to stop eating. They will usually make up any missed calories at the next meal or the next day. Continue to offer a wide variety of nutritious, age-appropriate foods in a friendly, loving way to help your baby build good eating habits.

Mealtime can be messy, so put a bib on your baby and a plastic cloth under the highchair. Wear washable clothes and be patient! Healthy eating is a learning adventure that starts with a positive partnership between parent and child.

For more feeding tips, refer to HGIC 4102, Introducing Solid Foods to Infants and HGIC 4100, Feeding Your Infant, which provides a general timeline for offering specific foods to your baby. To learn how to prepare homemade baby food safely, refer to HGIC 4259, Making Your Own Baby Food.

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