The moment your baby is ready for solids is a major milestone. But what foods are best to start with? From mashed avocado to single-grain cereal, there’s quite a range. But what matters most for a smooth transition from breast milk or formula is how you introduce them. Here’s a complete guide to the dos and don’ts for transitioning to solid food and also what you should be serving your child.
DO'S FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION TO SOLIDS
Do: Check with Your Pediatrician to Confirm That Your Baby Is Ready
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there: Should you introduce your baby to solids at four months? Six months? What’s best? The truth is that it varies from baby to baby, which is why it never hurts to ask your pediatrician about it at the four-month checkup. (You probably already know this, but they’re the best resource for the most personalized advice.)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, six months is the optimal age to introduce your baby to solid foods—i.e., it’s the first time that your infant should taste anything other than breast milk or formula, their primary source of nutrition up to that point. Still, there are signs to watch for that serve as indicators that your baby is ready to taste-test solids ahead of that. For example:
- Your baby can hold themselves upright with little or no support
- Your baby has really good head control (a lack of this can pose a choking risk)
- Your baby is showing a clear interest in the food on your plate, either reaching for it or opening their mouth and leaning toward it when solids are around them
Do: Practice Food Safety When Offering Them Solids for the First Time
As tempting as it is to prop baby in the high chair as they experience their first taste of food, it’s recommended that you hold baby upright in your lap to ensure that they sit up straight and face forward—something that can make swallowing easier and reduce the risk of choking, too. (As soon as they can sit up on their own, you're good to move them to the high chair.)
If you’re spoon feeding, you should also plan to utilize a clean spoon and a bowl versus the jar, regardless if the food is store-bought or homemade. Feeding directly from the jar can introduce bacteria as the spoon travels between your baby’s mouth and the container, creating a food safety issue if they don’t finish the contents in one meal.
Another word of warning when it comes to safe eating practices for your baby’s first foods: Never, ever bottle feed solid foods to your baby. It can be a choking hazard, especially since your baby could end up eating too much.
Do: Stick with the Same Foods for Three Days Before Trying Something Else
First foods for baby are all about trial and error. But you don’t want to give up on something too quickly. If your baby isn’t into puréed carrots, for example, try serving mashed next time.
Another reason to stick with the same choices three days in a row is so that you have a chance to tune into any potential allergies. For example, maybe they develop a minor rash after sampling egg whites. You don’t want to serve a variety and then have a hard time pinpointing the cause.
DONT'S FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION TO SOLIDS
Don’t: Worry About the Order in Which First Foods Are Consumed
As much as parents would like a paint-by-number approach that outlines the exact order of foods to offer your baby first, it’s totally at your discretion to vary it as you see fit—as long as everything you’re offering has a soft texture.
A good starting point for most parents is iron-fortified baby cereals (like this oatmeal from Happy Baby) followed by vegetables, fruits and meats (think avocado, pears or prunes and lamb). But don’t get discouraged—or write off a food too quickly—if your baby rejects something on first bite.
Don’t: 'Entertain' While the Baby Eats
Another common temptation: Distracting your baby to get them to ingest foods they’re refusing to try. Understand that it can take babies several tries for their taste buds to become accustomed to various textures and tastes. Regardless of their attitude toward a particular food group, try to create a quiet, calm and distraction-free environment (i.e., no toys) for them to eat in and experience their first foods.
Don’t: Shy Away from Allergen Foods
Up until recently, parents were advised to shy away from the most common culprits—peanuts, eggs, dairy, fish and tree nuts—especially in the early days of introducing foods.
That guideline has changed and now it’s recommended that you expose your infant to allergens early—in an age-appropriate format like purées or soft textures they can easily mash with their gums.
For example, yogurt (best served around seven or eight months) is an easy way to test a reaction to dairy. Peanuts are also best introduced before the age of one. That’s because an early intro can decrease the chances of developing an allergy before age five by 80 percent, compared with kids who first try them later in life, according to the AAP. (Keep in mind that you should never serve peanuts whole. Instead, it’s best to test this allergy with peanut powder or peanut butter that has been thinned out with water.)
Check with your pediatrician about the best way to approach allergens and what makes the most sense for your kid—not to mention what to watch for should an allergic reaction take place. Reactions usually occur within two minutes to two hours. If it’s severe, you should call 911 right away.
What to Feed Baby at…Six Months
Again, the recommended age for a baby to taste their first food is six months, but it varies—there’s a chance your infant could be ready as soon as four months. For their very first taste, opt for vegetables that are puréed or mashed. Pediatrician- and parent-approved favorites include:
- sweet potato
You could also offer your baby cooked (and mashed) beans, infant cereal mixed with breast milk or formula and puréed meat or poultry.
What to Feed Baby at…Nine Months
By this point, your baby is comfortable pushing food from the front to the back of their mouth, which means you can kick things up a notch. Try offering soft fruits and veggies that can be sliced and quartered into small pieces like:
- green beans
You can also let them experiment with things like whole cooked beans or finely chopped meat, poultry or fish.
What to Feed Baby at…12 Months
At this point, your toddler is getting pretty comfortable and familiar with a variety of foods. You should still watch them closely, but your baby is ready to try their hand at small pieces of:
- cooked vegetables
- soft shredded meat
- fish and more
You can also offer them more of what the entire family is eating—say, torn up pieces of pancake for breakfast or homemade soups (that have been appropriately cooled) for dinner. It’s also a good time to start introducing citrus.
You Might Want to Try Baby-Led Weaning
In recent years, more and more parents have been leaning into the baby-led weaning concept, centered around the idea that the baby is allowed to reject food as they please with the understanding that it may be offered again at a later date. A variety of foods (all appropriately sized or ready to be gnawed on) are placed in front of the baby and they’re in charge of how much they want to eat. There’s no spoon-feeding. There’s no rushing. This process often starts with soft fruits and vegetables, but then segues into harder foods that are prepared to be soft enough to chew with bare gums. (The only exception is non-finger foods, which are offered with a spoon so the baby can experiment with self-feeding.) To learn more about the benefits of this feeding style, read more here.