Mighty Blog

Tips for introducing solid foods to a baby

Introducing solid foods to your baby is a big milestone. However, it is important to wait until your baby is ready and showing interest before introducing solid food. This typically happens around the 4-6 months mark. Keep reading to learn more about signs to look out for, what food to give to your child at different ages and common myths about introducing food.

Signs that your baby may be ready for solid foods

Around the 4-6 months mark is when babies will typically start showing signs that they are ready to explore food.

Mom feeding baby
  • Can your baby hold their head up? Your baby should be able to sit upright in a highchair and hold their head steady.
  • Is your baby showing interest in food? This will look like reaching out to grab food, opening their mouth when food is coming their way or staring at food, especially while you are eating.
  • Can your baby swallow in a coordinated way? Before introducing solid food, it is important to check if your little one has developed the coordination to move food from the front of their mouth to the back to swallow. You can check this by feeding them a small amount of infant cereal or baby food puree to see if they are swallowing it or if they’re spitting the cereal back out.

If you’re not sure if your child is ready, talk to your child’s pediatrician for confirmation and guidance.

What foods to give your child at different age groups

The number one thing to remember when introducing food to a baby or toddler is to do it slowly. Especially for a baby, you want them to have the time to get used to the different food, getting enough nutrients and ensure that they are ready for transitions from purees to solids.

Birth to about 6 months old

Breastmilk or infant formula should be a baby’s only source of nutrients until they are showing signs that they are interested in food.

4-6 months old

There is some overlap here for when parents can start introducing food versus sticking to just breastmilk or formula due to every baby being different. But between 4-6 months is when babies typically start showing signs that they are ready for food.

If your baby is showing the signs mentioned above, try giving them infant cereal first and eventually you will be able to progress to purees for their solids. Parents can make purees themselves or buy them from the grocery store. Some foods that make good purees are bananas, cooked and cooled carrots, avocados or cooked and cooled sweet potatoes.

It is important to note that the food being introduced during this time is just complementary to breastmilk or formula. It is recommended that breastmilk and formula be a baby’s main source of nutrients until at least a year old. So, try offering cereal or purees a few times per day during your mealtimes for socialization.

Introducing peanut powder or a very thin smear of peanut butter on your finger is recommended to minimize your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy to peanuts. This could be offered a few times per week.

6-12 months old

For this age group, babies can now begin advancing from thicker purees to some finely cut up softer solids. This can be done with fruits, vegetables, shredded meat or fish and even eggs, especially if the yolk is cooked through. Not only is it important to make sure the food is soft, but also to cut it into smaller pieces to avoid choking. Offering solids at mealtime increases socialization and opportunities to begin eating foods that you eat also.

1 year old and older

When your child can confidently eat solid food, start offering them a wide variety of food to make sure that they are getting enough nutrients. But it is still important to remember to cut foods like meat, vegetables and fruits into smaller pieces. It is recommended that parents continue cutting food into smaller pieces until their child is at least 4 years old.

Encourage your toddler to eat the foods you normally eat to specifically prevent the scenario of only “kid foods” being the staple of your child’s diet and to prevent you from always having to make two types of foods for every meal. Set the goal of family mealtime, seated at the table, to prevent the choking risk of toddlers running around with food in their mouths.

Three myths when it comes to introducing food

Introducing solid food and a variety of food to a child for the first time can be difficult and lead to many misconceptions. Let’s talk about some of the most common myths when it comes to introducing food to a baby.

Waiting to introduce common allergen foods

There is no link to waiting to introduce common allergen foods like dairy and eggs to prevent an allergy from developing. We recommend introducing foods as you see fit to ensure your child is getting all the nutrients they need. However, when introducing food that are common allergens, families could choose to wait a couple days before introducing anything new to see if their child develops an allergy.

Picky eating

Children can be picky eaters but before crossing a food item off the list, have them try it a couple of times first. It can often take a child trying a new food item multiple times before accepting it. Make sure you are eating the new food and demonstrably enjoying it. Toddlers often have to feel and play with food a few times before they are willing to try to put it in their mouths.

Babies need teeth to eat solids

Did you know? Babies’ gums are strong enough to mash food. When introducing solids, start with tender and soft food that can be mashed with just the gums, tongue and roof of the mouth. Some example foods are steamed vegetables like carrots or bananas.

Mai Songsawatwong