This is the age when most babies are introduced to solid foods.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends
gradually introducing solid foods when a baby is about 6 months
old. Your doctor, however, may recommend starting as early as 4
months depending on your baby's readiness and nutritional
needs. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any solid
Is My Baby Ready to Eat Solids?
How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Here are a
- Is your baby's tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished?
This reflex, which prevents infants from choking on foreign
objects, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.
- Can your baby support his or her own head? To eat solid food,
an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to
- Is your baby interested in food? A 6-month-old baby who
stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for
some variety in the food department.
If your doctor gives the go-ahead but your baby seems frustrated
or uninterested as you're introducing solid foods, try waiting
a few days or even weeks before trying again. Since solids are only
a supplement at this point, breast milk and formula will still fill
your baby's basic nutritional needs.
How to Start Feeding Solids
When your baby is ready and the doctor has given you the OK to
try solid foods, pick a time of day when your baby is not tired or
cranky. You want your baby to be a little hungry, but not all-out
starving; you might want to let your baby breastfeed a while, or
provide part of the usual bottle.
Have your baby sit supported in your lap or in an upright infant
seat. Infants who sit well, usually around 6 months, can be placed
in a high chair with a safety strap.
Most babies' first food is a little iron-fortified infant
rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. The first feeding
may be nothing more than a little cereal mixed in a whole lot of
liquid. Place the spoon near your baby's lips, and let the baby
smell and taste. Don't be surprised if this first spoonful is
rejected. Wait a minute and try again. Most food offered to your
baby at this age will end up on the baby's chin, bib, or
high-chair tray. Again, this is just an introduction.
Do not add cereal to your baby's bottle unless your doctor
instructs you to do so, as this can cause babies to become
overweight and doesn't help the baby learn how to eat solid
Once your little one gets the hang of eating cereal off a
spoon, it may be time to introduce a fruit or vegetable. When
introducing new foods, go slow. Introduce one food at a time and
wait several days before trying something else new. This will allow
you to identify foods that your baby may be
Your baby may take a little while to "learn" how to
eat solids. During these months you'll still be providing the
usual feedings of breast milk or formula, so don't be concerned
if your baby refuses certain foods at first or doesn't seem
interested. It may just take some time.
Foods to Avoid for Now
Some foods are generally withheld until later. Do not give eggs,
cow's milk, citrus fruits and juices, and honey until after a
baby's first birthday.
Eggs (especially the whites) may cause an allergic reaction,
especially if given too early. Citrus is highly acidic and can
cause painful diaper rashes for a baby. Honey may contain certain
spores that, while harmless to adults, can cause botulism in
babies. Regular cow's milk does not have the nutrition that
Fish and seafood, peanuts and peanut butter, and tree nuts are
also considered allergenic for infants, and shouldn't be given
until after the child is 2 or 3 years old, depending on whether the
child is at higher risk for developing food allergies. A child is
at higher risk for food allergies if one or more close family
members have allergies or allergy-related conditions, like food
allergies, eczema, or asthma.
Some possible signs of food allergy or allergic reactions
- bloating or an increase in intestinal gas
- fussiness after eating
For more severe allergic reactions, like hives or breathing
difficulty, get medical attention right away. If your child has any
type of reaction to a food, don't offer that food until you
talk with your doctor.
Tips for Introducing Solids
With the hectic pace of family life, most parents opt for
commercially prepared baby foods at first. They come in small,
convenient containers, and manufacturers must meet strict safety
and nutrition guidelines. Avoid brands with added fillers and
If you do plan to prepare your own baby foods at home, pureeing
them with a food processor or blender, here are some things to keep
- Protect your baby and the rest of your family from foodborne
illness by following the rules for
- Try to preserve the nutrients in your baby's food by
using cooking methods that retain the most vitamins and minerals.
Try steaming or baking fruits and vegetables instead of boiling,
which washes away the nutrients.
- Freeze portions that you aren't going to use right away
rather than canning them.
- Avoid home-prepared beets, collard greens, spinach, and
turnips. They can contain high levels of nitrates, which can
in infants. Serve jarred varieties of those vegetables.
Whether you buy the baby food or make it yourself, remember that
texture and consistency are important. At first, babies should have
finely pureed single foods. (Just applesauce, for example, not
apples and pears mixed together.) After you've successfully
tried individual foods, it's OK to offer a pureed mix of two
foods. When your child is about 9 months old, coarser, chunkier
textures are going to be tolerated as he or she begins
transitioning to a diet that includes more table foods.
If you are using commercially prepared baby food in jars, spoon
some of the food into a bowl to feed your baby. Do not feed your
baby directly from the jar, because bacteria from the baby's
mouth can contaminate the remaining food. It's also smart to
throw away opened jars of baby food within a day or two.
Juice can be given after 6 months of age, which is also a good
age to introduce your baby to a cup. Buy one with large handles and
a lid (a "sippy cup"), and teach your baby how to
maneuver and drink from it. You might need to try a few different
cups to find one that works for your child. Use water at first to
avoid messy clean-ups.
Serve only 100% fruit juice, not juice drinks or powdered drink
mixes. Do not give juice in a bottle and remember to limit the
amount of juice your baby drinks to less than 4 total ounces (120
ml) a day. Too much juice adds extra calories without the nutrition
of breast milk or formula. Drinking too much juice can contribute
and can cause
Infants usually like fruits and sweeter vegetables, such as
carrots and sweet potatoes, but don't neglect other vegetables.
Your goal over the next few months is to introduce a wide variety
of foods. If your baby doesn't seem to like a particular food,
reintroduce it at later meals. It can take quite a few tries before
kids warm up to certain foods.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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