Welcoming Your Baby to the World of Solid Foods

Last Updated: 
July 18, 2024
 | 
10
 minutes read
Written by
Amanda Kule
Parent Contributor
Medically reviewed by
Arik Alper, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Aerodigestive Specialist

After months of drinking only formula or breast milk, introducing solid foods to your baby can be both an exciting and overwhelming milestone for you both. There are lots of silly faces (and big messes) to look forward to as they start to get introduced to new flavors and textures!

If you’re wondering what a good age is to begin introducing solid foods to infants, how to best introduce solid foods to infants, the best solid food schedule to follow, and what foods may be best to start with, read on – we’ll review it all in this article.

Keep in mind as your start to think about introducing solid foods to your baby: just like walking, it may take some time and practice for your baby to adjust to eating solid foods. Up until this point, they’ve spent all their life drinking from the breast or bottle! Some babies take to eating solid foods easily, while others need a little time to ease into eating real foods.

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What is a Good Age to Start Solid Foods with Your Baby

Around 6 months old, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods.  While 6 months is a common time for babies to start eating solids, some babies are ready as early as 4 months.

6 months is a good age to start solids because developmentally this is when they develop the skills to be able to chew and swallow food. The American Academy of Pediatrics says your baby should be able to hold their head up, sit up tall, be at least 13 pounds, and show an interest in food when they see it before you start offering solids.

Eating solids can feel different than drinking milk, which is why gagging is very common at the beginning of starting solid foods – oftentimes eating is a skill that needs to be practiced! This is also why pureed fruits and vegetables, and iron-fortified infant cereal, are common first foods.

If you introduce solids too early or your baby is not ready, you may notice them refusing solids. You can try to mix whatever you’re serving with breast milk or formula to see if that is more intriguing to them. If the answer is no, don’t worry – wait a little then try again.

How to Start Solid Foods – Tips and Recommendations

There are many tips and recommendations for how to start solid foods with your baby. Practically speaking, you should make sure they’re ready, choose an approach that’s best for you, gradually introduce different flavors and textures, and practice responsive feeding. It’s also important to remain patient and remember that, like riding a bike, learning to eat takes time and practice.

Make sure they’re ready

Our first recommendation for starting solid foods with your baby is to make sure they’re ready. Every baby develops at their own pace, but signs your baby may be ready to start solid foods include:

  • Big enough: Most babies are ready to start solids when they are around 6 months. Typically, your baby should be 13 pounds or larger. Some babies may show signs of readiness as early as 4 months – check with your pediatrician to see if your baby is ready to start solids.
  • Sits with support: Your baby should be able to sit up with support and hold their head steady. This helps prevent choking and allows them to swallow food safely.
  • Interested in food: Your baby may show interest in watching others eat, reach for food, or try to grab food from your plate. They may also start opening their mouth when food is offered.
  • Loss of tongue thrust reflex: Babies are born with a reflex that pushes food out of their mouths with their tongue. As they mature, this reflex diminishes, allowing them to move food to the back of their mouth and swallow it.
  • Ability to chew: While babies don't need teeth to start solids, they should have the ability to move food around in their mouth and mash it with their gums.

If your baby is 6 months old and refusing solids, learn more about what could be causing it.

Make sure you’re ready

Before you start offering solids to your baby, having all the necessary equipment at home helps make feeding as safe (and clean) as possible.  

Choose the approach that’s best for you

There are many approaches to starting solid foods. The best approach for your baby may vary depending on their individual needs and readiness.  

Here are some common approaches:

  • Traditional Spoon-Feeding: Spoon feeding is one of the most common approaches to introducing solids to your baby. It involves introducing pureed or mashed foods to your baby using a spoon. Start with one new food at a time, a single-ingredient purees such as iron-fortified infant cereal, pureed fruits (like apples or bananas), or vegetables (like sweet potatoes or peas). It should be almost liquid consistency at the beginning, you can mix in breast milk or formula into a puree or cereal to thin it out, which is considered stage 1 baby food – the next stage is a thicker puree. If you start with a green vegetable, introduce a new food after three days. As your baby becomes more comfortable with solids, you can introduce new flavor combinations and consistencies. As your baby gets older and shows readiness, the food you offer will gradually start looking more like what your family eats, and they’ll naturally start showing signs they’re ready to move on to finger foods!
  • Baby-Led Weaning (BLW): Baby-Led Weaning, also known as BLW or auto-weaning, is an approach to introducing solid foods to babies that allows them to self-feed from the beginning, rather than being spoon-fed purees. Instead, they are offered appropriately sized and textured foods that they can grasp and bring to their mouths independently. The idea of Baby-Led Weaning is that your baby explores and experiments with different foods at their own pace and controls the process of how much and how quickly they eat.
  • Combination Feeding: Some parents choose to combine spoon-feeding with elements of Baby-Led Weaning. This approach allows for flexibility, as you offer both purees and finger foods to your baby, letting them explore different textures and methods of eating.

Start slow

When you start introducing foods to your baby, whether you’re starting with infant cereals or purees or doing Baby-Led Weaning, experts recommend you introduce one new food at a time, waiting a few days before introducing another new food, to help you identify any potential food allergies or sensitivities.

If you’re spoon feeding, experts recommend you start with almost liquid consistency and then move on to pureers and then soft table foods. If you’re doing Baby-Led Weaning, it’s recommended you start with soft foods. If you’re spoon feeding, you can try mixing a puree with breast milk or formula to create a silky mixture and to help your baby become more accustomed to it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says you don't need to wait to introduce common allergens such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, or fish. However, if your baby has an allergy or other medical concerns including severe eczema, you should check with your pediatrician before introducing allergens such as peanuts.

Keep in mind some babies have a sensitive gag reflex or struggle with different textures – this is normal and improves with age and familiarity with food. Also remember that introducing solids to a 6 month old may be a different experience than when you serve meals to your 9 months old – remain patient, practice makes perfect!

Recommendations for first foods:

  • Single-grain infant cereals that are iron fortified
  • Pureed or mashed mild fruits such as bananas, avocados, or apples
  • Pureed or mashed vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, or squash
  • Single-ingredient well-cooked meats finely minced, shredded, or pureed such as chicken, turkey, beef or even fish
  • Well-cooked scrambled eggs or mashed hard-boiled eggs
  • Plain yogurt or cottage cheese
Myth or Fact?  
Some think that offering fruit before vegetables will cause your baby to not like vegetables. There’s no evidence supporting this!

Prepare food correctly and safely

Food preparation may change as your baby gets older and more accustomed to solids. Here are some tips from the Center for Disease Control for how to prepare foods correctly and safely for your baby when you first introduce solids.

  • Combine infant cereal or purees with breast milk to create a smooth texture that is easy for babies to swallow.
  • Cook hard fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots until soft before offering to baby.
  • Remove any fat, skin, and bones for meat, fish, or poultry before cooking to prevent choking hazards.
  • Remove seeds and hard pits from fruits and vegetables.
  • If you’re doing Baby-Led Weaning, start with larger pieces of foods before moving to smaller, bite size pieces to prevent choking and give your baby a chance to practice chewing and swallowing.
  • Avoid choking hazards such as whole grapes and nuts.
  • Avoid honey, raw or in cooked items, in babies under the age of one.
  • Don’t serve a baby under one year old cow’s milk (unlike honey, it can be served in cooked foods).

Practice responsive feeding

Regardless of the approach you choose, it's important to practice responsive feeding, which involves paying attention to your baby's hunger and fullness cues. Let your baby lead the way during mealtimes and avoid pressuring them to eat more than they want.

Be consistent

It's common for babies to initially reject solid foods or make faces as they adjust to new flavors and textures. Be patient and continue offering a variety of foods consistently. It can take up to 10 exposures before your baby accepts certain foods!

Schedule for Introducing Solids

Parents often wonder the best schedule for introducing solids to your baby and if the amount of breast milk or formula you give them changes. The truth is every baby is different, and a schedule that works for one baby may not work for another. Here is an example schedule for introducing foods to your baby.

Introducing Solids Food Chart

Age

Breast Milk/Formula

Solid Food

4-6 months  

24-36 ounces  

About 5-8 nursing sessions or 4-5 bottles  

1-4 tablespoons iron-fortified infant cereal and/or fruit and vegetables 

1-2 times a day  

6-8 months  

24-36 ounces  

About 4-6 nursing sessions or 4-5 bottles  

  

¼-½ cup soft foods such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, or well-cooked meat 

2-3 times a day 

 

Healthy snack, such as mashed fruit  

1 time a day 

8-12 months  

16-30 ounces  

About 3-5 nursing sessions or 4 bottles  

  

½ cup soft foods such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, or well-cooked meat 

3 times a day 

 

Healthy snack, such as mashed fruit  

2 times a day 

Incorporating solids into your baby’s daily eating and sleeping schedule can sometimes be tricky. If you feed too close to bottles or nursing sessions, your baby may refuse solids because they’re full. If you serve dinner too close to sleep, it may be harder for your baby to wind down. If you’re wondering how to incorporate solids into your baby’s daily schedule, start tracking their feeds in the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app to see how starting solids may affect their sleep.

Healthy Eating Habits

The first few months of your baby’s introduction to solids is all about exploration – breast milk or formula will still be your baby’s main source of nutrients until their first birthday. However, how you approach feeding your baby can have a major impact on their eating habits and relationship with food.

One way to help build healthy eating habits in your baby is to practice responsive feeding. Responsive feeding emphasizes focusing on your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, as well as their individual developmental and emotional needs. Ways to practice responsive feeding including:

  • Observe and respond to the baby's cues indicating hunger, such as rooting, sucking motions, or hand-to-mouth movements
  • Let your baby decide how much to eat based on their hunger and fullness cues
  • Avoid pressuring or coaxing the baby to eat more than they want
  • Respect your baby’s preferences and pace of feedings, and offer a variety of foods and textures
  • Respond promptly and sensitively to the baby's needs during feeding interactions, which helps establish a secure bond
  • Don't use food to soothe or comfort

If your baby relies on feeding to fall asleep at night, this is called a sleep association. The Smart Sleep Coach app takes the guess work out of building healthy sleep habits, which includes not relying on food to fall asleep. Take this free 3-minute sleep quiz and get your personalized plan for how to support your baby’s sleep, starting tonight.

When starting solids, it’s also important to remain vigilant for signs of choking and ensure that foods are prepared and served safely.

Developmental and Behavioral Changes You Should Expect

Even if you practice responsive feeding, there will be developmental and behavioral changes around the time you start solids that you should expect. Your baby is changing by the minute, and introducing solids is one of the big milestones of their first year – it can be an adjustment! There are also sleep regression that occur around the same time your baby starts eating more solids.

You may notice your baby:

  • Refusing solids
  • Changing their feeding patterns, including an increased or decreased appetite, changes in how often they eat, or longer or shorter feeding sessions
  • Gagging

All these things are normal parts of learning to eat solid foods as babies adjust to new textures and learn to chew and swallow. Until their first birthday solids are complementary to breast milk or formula, so don’t be concerned if they aren’t eating as many solids.

Ways to help your baby build healthy eating habits include:

  • Be present and involved with your baby during mealtime
  • Don’t over control the feeding
  • Offer a variety of healthy foods of different textures, flavors and colors
  • Don’t force your child to finish all their food
  • Focus on healthy food preferences
  • Try to separate solids from formula/breast milk feeds
  • Don’t overfeed

Solid foods and sleep

Parents often wonder if starting solid foods helps babies sleep better, since their bellies have more food in them. Some parents do say that solid foods help with sleep, and a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics does show that introducing solids earlier may help younger babies sleep longer stretches at night and wake less.

That said, every baby is different – some babies are more sensitive to starting solids, and their stomachs take a little time to get used to digesting things other than formula or breast milk. Tummy problems can affect sleep in some babies. Experts recommend introducing new solid foods slowly, and keep an eye on any foods that may cause your baby to be gassy or uncomfortable.

The Smart Sleep Coach app can help you track your baby’s sleep and notice patterns between feeding, whether it be solids, bottles, or nursing, and longer sleep stretches or more wakings. The app will also notify you when a wake window is coming to an end, and even offer you personalized guidance on additional support around your baby’s sleep, whatever your need may be.

The Bottom Line

Introducing solid foods to your baby can be both messy and fun. It’s important to remember that there’s a bit of trial and error as you figure out the best approach for your baby to test out different flavors and textures.

It’s normal for introducing solids to be a transition period, so don’t get immediately worried if your baby is refusing solids or not eating a lot. Breast milk or formula will remain their main source of food until their first birthday.

If you have questions about starting solids with your baby or any concerns about their eating habits, talk to your pediatrician.

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FAQs:

When introducing solid foods to your baby for the first time, it's generally recommended to start with single-ingredient purees that are easy to digest. This can include pureed carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, or banana, or iron-fortified infant cereal.

There are many approaches to introducing solids to your baby, including through spoon feeding or with Baby-Led Weaning. When introducing solids to a baby for the first time, it’s recommended you begin with single-ingredient purees such as rice cereal, mashed fruits, or pureed vegetables. If you're practicing Baby-Led Weaning, you can introduce soft, easy-to-grasp foods that are suitable for your baby to self-feed. Good options include steamed vegetables like carrots or broccoli florets, ripe avocado slices, strips of well-cooked meats or fish, and soft fruits like banana or mango. Gradually introduce new foods one at a time, waiting a few days between each new introduction to monitor for any signs of allergies or intolerance.

Expert recommendations for introducing solid foods for babies include starting slow and practicing responsive feeding. If you pay close attention to your baby's cues for hunger and fullness, you can foster a healthy relationship with food from the very beginning.

Some babies are ready to begin solids as early as 4 months old. Signs of readiness include being over 13 pounds, being able to sit with little support, and showing interest in food. If your 4 month old does not seem interested, you can wait until 6 months old, which is when most babies are ready to begin solids.

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How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources

Annual Review of Nutrition, “Evolution of infant and young child feeding: implications for contemporary public health”

Current Developments in Nutrition, “Responsive Feeding Recommendations: Harmonizing Integration into Dietary Guidelines for Infants and Young Children”

Frontiers in Pediatrics, “First Bites—Why, When, and What Solid Foods to Feed Infants”

Italian Journal of Pediatrics, “Baby-led weaning: what a systematic review of the literature adds on”

JAMA Pediatrics, “Association of Early Introduction of Solids With Infant Sleep”

Pediatrics, “A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking”

Sleep Foundation, “Is Eating Before Bed Bad?”

UNICEF, “Feeding your baby: 6–12 months”

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