Updated February, 2023
Note to mamas reading this: the topic of when and what first foods you should feed your baby can be somewhat controversial. Before feeding your baby solids, be sure to do your own research and speak with your pediatrician. Remember to trust your instincts and do what you feel is best for your little one!
When Should I Start Feeding Baby Solid Foods?
Typically, it is recommended to begin introducing solids to baby around 4 to 6 months of age if your baby is ready. Until then, there is no rush — breast milk provides all the necessary nutrition for him or her to grow and thrive! The child’s digestive system will not be ready for solid foods until at least 4 months, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be exclusively breast or formula fed until six months of age. From 6-12 months old, breastmilk or formula will still offer most of the nutrition your baby needs, but solid food will gradually take on a larger part of their diet as they approach one year old.
Signs Baby Is Ready for Solids?
There will be a few signs around 4-6 months letting you know that your child is ready to start on some solid foods:
- Baby can sit up (with support) and can hold their head and neck up well.
- Their birth weight has doubled.
- Baby is interested in what you’re eating and may even try to grab food from your plate.
- They can keep food in their mouth rather than letting it dribble out.
- Baby shows signs of being hungry for more than they’re getting by clamoring for more when the bottle is empty or wanting to nurse more often.
Which Foods Are Best for Baby?
Once you notice the signs listed above and are ready to introduce baby to solids, you might wonder what foods to try first. A lot of moms recommend starting out with a good mix of mashed fruits and vegetables such as sweet potato, banana, blueberry mixtures, etc. You may want to try mixing a little cereal with baby’s breast milk to get them used to the heavier texture.
Once baby demonstrates that they are comfortable eating purees, some parents choose to offer small pieces of soft foods like peas, sweet potatoes, or bananas that baby can pick up and eat on their own. This can be a great activity for developing motor skills associated with eating, as long as the pieces are kept very small and very soft to avoid a choking hazard. Always sit with your baby when they are eating, even if you are not spoon feeding.
What About Food Allergies?
There has been conflicting evidence over the last few decades about whether preventing food allergies is even possible, and if so - how? While it’s true that any food could potentially cause an allergic reaction, there are a few foods that represent the most common allergens in children. Those foods are cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Many parents worry about how and when to introduce these foods safely, and if early or later introduction is better for preventing food allergies.
Though research has been conflicting over the last few decades, more recent research suggests that early introduction (around 4-6 months of age) of the top allergenic foods may offer more benefit than delaying until baby is a year or older.
Though we may not be able to prevent food allergies altogether, it is helpful to be aware of the most common culprits and to introduce them wisely. Always speak to your pediatrician about introducing allergens, and be sure to clearly discuss any foods that are known to be problematic for parents or older siblings, as there may be an increased risk for baby. Though allergy testing is often imperfect in infants, it may be recommended in certain cases.
For most infants, the general recommendation is to begin to introduce the common allergens at around 4-6 months of age, after starting with a few low-risk foods like vegetables. Allergens should be introduced one at a time, about 3 days apart to allow for any symptoms of allergy to appear before introducing the next new food.
The most common allergic reactions in infants are vomiting and hives, and they may appear within minutes to hours after introducing a new food. If baby is acting normally and with your healthcare provider's guidance, you may be able to manage mild symptoms like a rash at home. Symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, and difficulty swallowing are more common reactions in older kids, but they can occur in infants. Trust your gut - if you see any signs that concern you after introducing a new food, call 911 or your healthcare provider immediately.
Tips From an Expert Mama
The Honest blog by Dr. Tanya Altmann, “Best First Foods for Baby According to a Pediatrician” is a great resource to reference for what your little one should chow down on first. Here are some of the best and most nutritious foods that Dr. Tanya Altmann, pediatrician and mother herself, recommend.
Green vegetables: Green vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals. Some examples of good green veggies to try are kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. It is known that those who consume green veggies are less inclined to get diseases and are able to maintain a healthy weight. Other greens you can try are broccoli, green beans, zucchini and asparagus. Greens are easy to steam and puree. Also, try eating them in front of baby so they feel inclined to try them as well.
Avocados: They are a great source of beneficial monounsaturated fat and fiber. Plus, they are smooth and easy to mash, making them a perfect first food. You can always add breast milk or formula to play with the texture.
Nut butter: Studies recommend introducing nut products early to help decrease the risks of allergies. You can throw some nut butter in oatmeal or a smoothie for a special treat.
Eggs: Easy to make and full of protein, eggs are a delicious first food to give your little one. If you don’t feel like making them in the morning, prepare them at night and just throw them in the microwave in the morning.
Fish: Consuming fish boosts eye and brain development so no wonder it is recommended as a wholesome first food for baby. It also contains Vitamin D and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
Try Different Foods!
Of course, the five foods above are only recommendations. There are plenty of other nutritious foods out there for your baby to try. Also, if you do not succeed with one food, do not hesitate to try it again later. Some of our favorite bloggers shared their babies' first experience with solids.
- Amber Mancha: My son's first actual food was a pureed apple that I had steamed. He did not like this one bit. He gave us the “baby trying food for the first time” face and didn’t really want to eat a ton of it. After trying to give him apples for 3 days I was nervous that I was going to have a picky eater or a baby who wanted to solely breast feed. I moved on to veggies and my kid went CRAZY! He couldn’t get enough, screaming for more after every bite! After introducing enough foods I realized my son isn’t crazy about sweet or tart, ie fruit, but he does love his meats and veggies. Well, all except spinach. That is the only food that has actually made him cry.
- Tiffany from Seeing Sunshine: We gave our daughter mashed avocados first, starting at five months old. We slowly added in other fruits and vegetables such as bananas and sweet potatoes. At six months old, we added in oatmeal mixed with breastmilk. My advice when introducing solids is to take it slow because baby is learning. Wait at least three days before introducing a new food. If baby doesn't seem to like the food, don't give up on it. Try it again later. Also, there is so much advice and information out there. Take it all into consideration, but ultimately do what's best for you and your little one.
- Jennifer from Breastfeeding Needs: When it comes to first foods I skip the rice cereal now and go straight to a fruit or veggie. After three babies I also am not as cautious as I used to be about waiting between foods. I give it a day or two to make sure there is no allergic reaction and then move on to something new. Apple sauce always seems to be popular as a first food with my babies plus it’s easy to make yourself and easy to clean. Carrots are another first food all of my babies love. I also enjoy introducing avocado pretty early. One thing I have done more boldly with each additional baby is baby led weaning, which is basically letting my baby eat small pieces of whatever I am eating rather than purees. I have always made sure everything is small and soft. This approach has seemed to lead to happy eaters who are willing to try everything I put in front of them.
- Trina from The Lactating Mama: Introducing solids was very hard. Although my doctor insisted that she was ready, she felt differently. I tried everything. Every option from sweet potatoes, to an assortment of fruit and even avocados. She refused it all. I even went as far as to play with different textures, but still no luck. I followed every RULE. I started introducing foods around 6 1/2, I pureed her foods, I mashed her foods, I even added my breastmilk to her foods. She just wasn't ready. Her preference was my breast milk. It took months. I continued to try here and there, however, she just wasn't a fan. Not until about 11 months did things turn around. She now at 15 months old eats like a pro. Oh! and can you believe she LOVES avacodos?! Go figure. She is healthy and happy. I say all this not to discourage moms from introducing solids, but to say, listen to your baby. Sometimes they just aren't ready. Because solids offer more of certain nutrients that breast milk doesn't after time, I did have to add a lot of vitamins to my daily regiment. Iron being a very important one. At the end of the day all babies are different. Focus on your baby and their needs and wants. Of course following the RULES is fine but NOT always following the RULES is OK too.
Remember that babies are not used to these weird, odd textures in their mouth and it can take time for them to warm up to solids. Stick with it - by offering a variety of healthy foods, you are helping them learn about taste, texture, and nutrition for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 11). How much and how often to feed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/foods-and-drinks/how-much-and-how-often.html
Gates, M. (n.d.). Baby's first foods: How to introduce solids to your baby. BabyCenter, https://www.babycenter.com/baby/solids-finger-foods/introducing-solids_113
WebMD. (n.d.). Here's when babies are ready fort solid food. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/starting-solid-food
Society, C. P. (n.d.). Timing of introduction of allergenic solids for infants at high risk. Canadian Paediatric Society. Retrieved from https://cps.ca/documents/position/allergenic-solids
- “Babies and food allergies.” Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 24 March 2021. https://www.chla.org/blog/health-and-safety-tips/babies-and-food-allergies
Liem, J. J., Huq, S., Kozyrskyj, A. L., & Becker, A. B. (2008). Should younger siblings of peanut-allergic children be assessed by an allergist before being fed peanut? Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 4(4). https://doi.org/10.1186/1710-1492-4-4-144 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868888/
Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/150/1/e2022057988/188347/Policy-Statement-Breastfeeding-and-the-Use-of