Solid foods: How to get your baby started

Solid foods are a big step for a baby. Find out when and how to make the transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Is your baby suddenly interested in what you're eating? It might be time to start introducing solid foods.

Is your baby ready for solid foods?

Breast milk or formula is the only food your newborn needs. However, by ages 4 months to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding. It's during this time that babies typically stop using their tongues to push food out of their mouths and begin to develop the coordination to move solid food from the front of the mouth to the back for swallowing.

In addition to age, look for other signs that your baby is ready for solid foods. For example:

  • Can your baby hold his or her head in a steady, upright position?
  • Can your baby sit with support?
  • Is your baby mouthing his or her hands or toys?
  • Is your baby interested in what you're eating?

If you answer yes to these questions and you have the OK from your baby's doctor, you can begin supplementing your baby's liquid diet.

What to serve when

Continue feeding your baby breast milk or formula as usual. Then:

  • Start with baby cereal. Mix 1 tablespoon of a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal with 4 tablespoons (60 milliliters) of breast milk or formula. Many parents start with rice cereal. Even if the cereal barely thickens the liquid, resist the temptation to serve it from a bottle. Instead, help your baby sit upright and offer the cereal with a small spoon once or twice a day. Once your baby gets the hang of swallowing runny cereal, mix it with less liquid and gradually increase the amount you offer. For variety, you might offer single-grain oatmeal or barley cereals.
  • Add pureed meat, vegetables and fruits. Once your baby masters cereal, gradually introduce pureed meat, vegetables and fruits. Offer single-ingredient foods that contain no sugar or salt, and wait three to five days between each new food. If your baby has a reaction to a particular food — such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting — you'll know the culprit. After introducing your baby to a variety of single-ingredient foods, you can begin to offer them in combination.
  • Offer finely chopped finger foods. By ages 8 months to 10 months, most babies can handle small portions of finely chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits, vegetables, pasta, cheese, well-cooked meat, baby crackers and dry cereal. As your baby approaches his or her first birthday, you might offer your baby three meals a day — as well as snacks — with mashed or chopped versions of whatever the rest of the family is eating.

What about food allergies?

To help prevent food allergies, parents were once told to avoid feeding young children highly allergenic foods such as eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts. Today, however, research suggests there's no convincing evidence that avoiding these foods during early childhood will help prevent food allergies.

Still, it's a good idea to check with your baby's doctor if any close relatives have a food allergy. You might consider giving your child his or her first taste of a highly allergenic food at home — rather than at a restaurant — with an oral antihistamine available, just in case.

Jun. 06, 2013 See more In-depth