MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, and mindful eating.
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Research shows it is beneficial to start introducing solid foods when your baby is around six months, regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed (or a combination).1,2 The six month mark is a sweet spot for continuing to provide essential nutrition and hydration from breastmilk, formula or both; while introducing additional nutrients for your growing baby.2, 3
You may be eager to jump into the eating stage, but feeding your baby solids before baby is ready can turn an otherwise fun milestone into a frustrating activity for both you and your child. It’s important to wait until your baby shows the appropriate feeding cues and abilities.1,4,5,6
So as your baby nears six months, what should you look for to determine whether they’re ready to start eating? Let’s take a deeper dive to find out.
Here are readiness cues to watch for:
*Always chat with your pediatrician before starting solids with your baby.
If your little one closes their mouth, turns their head, and just seems disinteresting in eating, stop introducing solids for a few days and then try again. Some babies take to solids right away, advancing textures and increasing amounts quickly, while others take a little more time.1, 7
Know that waiting a little longer for your baby to be ready to start solids is usually just fine. However, studies indicate that waiting too long (usually beyond 7 months) may cause longer term issues, such as difficulty accepting solids, difficulty learning to chew, or even vomiting.6, 16, 17 Speak with your baby’s pediatrician if your little one isn’t taking to solids after about 7 months.
Once your little one is ready for solids, continue to offer solids on a regular basis to help your little one learn to eat and get used to new flavors and textures.9
Read more: Introducing Solids: First Foods and Textures
Eating solids at this early stage is mostly about letting your baby explore new flavors and textures and less about getting in calories. Breastmilk or formula will remain your child’s primary source of nutrition for most of their first year of life.1
As your little one gets closer to a year, they will begin to take in less breastmilk and/or formula while also eating more solid foods.6
Learn about: Making Your Own Baby Food
Since your little one isn’t able to eat very efficiently or very much right now, it’s important to make every bite count when it comes to solids.6, 7
Choose a wide variety of healthy foods across each food group for mealtimes. Grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats are all options for first foods as long as they are in a texture your little one can handle!1, 7
Be sure to trial only one new food at a time and watch for reactions over a couple days before introducing another new food.1, 7, 5
Don’t forget to have fun with feeding, letting your little one play with and explore their foods, get messy, and allowing them set the pace!14
Read more: Nutrient Needs and Feeding Tips for 6 to 12 Month Olds
Check out our Infant Nutrition: Starting Solids Chart
Provide a supportive seat or highchair, with a safety strap, so your baby can comfortably eat in a safe, upright position. Always supervise your little one while they eat to help them remain upright while feeding as well as to help prevent choking.
New research indicates that introducing major allergens early – when your little one is ready to start solids – may help prevent allergies and eczema.10, 11
To do so safely, speak with baby’s pediatrician about any allergies in your family and how to begin introducing allergens to your little one.
Read more: Introducing Major Allergens
Unless directed by your pediatrician, do not add cereal or other foods to a bottle. This feeding practice may be a choking hazard and add calories to your baby’s diet that they do not need.12, 13
Traditional spoon-feeding of purees as well as baby led weaning can both options when it comes to feeding your little one. Learn more about each method below:
Introducing Solids: Purees versus Baby Led Weaning
Introducing Solids: First Foods and Textures
Introducing Solids: Baby Led Weaning
When it comes to eating, your baby’s hunger and fullness cues are most important. Your job is to provide your little one with healthy foods while it’s their job to decide how much (if any!) they want to eat.6, 7, 15
Following this guideline will help make mealtime less stressful and help your little one build a healthy relationship with food right from the start.
Learn about: Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding
Read more: The Division of Responsibility: Helping Avoid Picky Eating
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Introducing Solids: First food and advancing textures
Introducing Solids: Different Approaches and Strategies
Choosing Store Bought Baby Food
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting Solid Foods. Accessed 19 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx
2. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf
3. World Health Organization. Complementary Feeding. Accessed 1 October 2021. https://www.who.int/health-topics/complementary-feeding#tab=tab_1
4. Up To Date. Patient Education: Starting Solids Foods During Infancy. Accessed 1 October 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/starting-solid-foods-during-infancy-beyond-the-basics
5. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When, What and How to Introduce Solid Foods. Accessed 20 September 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html
6. Holt K., Woolridge N. Bright Futures: Nutrition Supervision, third edition. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2011 https://brightfutures.aap.org/Bright%20Futures%20Documents/BFNutrition3rdEditionSupervision.pdf
7. United State Department of Agriculture. Infant Nutrition and Feeding Guide: A Guide for Use in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. April 2019. https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/Infant_Nutrition_and_Feeding_Guide.pdf
8. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained. Accessed 1 October 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx
9. Mura Paroche M, Caton SJ, Vereijken CMJL, Weenen H, Houston-Price C. How Infants and Young Children Learn About Food: A Systematic Review. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1046. Published 2017 Jul 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524770/
10. David M. Fleischer, Jonathan M. Spergel, Amal H. Assa’ad, Jacqueline A. Pongracic. Primary Prevention of Allergic Disease Through Nutritional Interventions. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2013, Pages 29-36. https://www.jaci-inpractice.org/article/S2213-2198(12)00014-1/fulltext
11. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Prevention of Allergies and Asthma in Children. Accessed 4 October 2021. https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/prevention-of-allergies-and-asthma-in-children
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bottle Feeding. Accessed 4 October 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/bottle-feeding/index.html
13. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cereal in a Bottle: Solid Food Shortcuts to Avoid. Accessed 4 October 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Cereal-in-a-Bottle-Solid-Food-Shortcuts-to-Avoid.aspx
14. American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips for Introducing Solids. Accessed 4 October 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Tips-for-Introducing-Solid-Foods.aspx
15. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained. Accessed 4 October 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx
16. Illingworth RS, Lister J. The critical or sensitive period, with special reference to certain feeding problems in infants and children. J Pediatr. 1964;65:839–848. https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(64)80006-8/pdf
17. Northstone K, Emmett P, Nethersole F; ALSPAC Study Team. Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood. The effect of age of introduction to lumpy solids on foods eaten and reported feeding difficulties at 6 and 15 months. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2001;14(1):43–54. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11301932/