You should generally start solid foods between 4-6 months of age. Starting solids earlier than this will not cause your baby to sleep longer at night and may cause digestive problems. For your baby’s first year, breastmilk or formula is the most important part of her diet. As you introduce solids, make sure that she is still drinking adequate amounts of formula or breast milk.
Feed your baby all solids from a spoon. Putting cereal in the bottle is not a good idea, and part of learning about solids is learning to eat with a spoon. You may want to start solids at a time when your baby is hungry but not starving, such as after he has had a little formula or breast milk, but not after a full milk feeding when he is not at all hungry.
Try to introduce new foods with enthusiasm, but do not force your child to eat something. If your child is not interested in a new food, put it away and try introducing it again later. When introducing new foods, there should be an interval of 2-3 days between each new food so that you will know if your baby is having a reaction to a new food.
If your baby develops vomiting, rash, or diarrhea, please do not give that food again and discuss this reaction at your next visit. If your child develops hives or breathing problems, please call the office.
What foods to introduce
- Feeding suggestions for your baby (download)
Somewhere between 4 and 6 months old, you may begin to introduce first foods such as infant cereals, pureed fruits, pureed vegetables, and pureed meats. Start with about one or two tablespoons of food once or twice a day. It is important to make sure that some of your infant’s early foods contain iron, which is important for all babies’ health. Iron-rich foods include iron-fortified baby cereals, meats, and beans.
Once your child is about 8 months old and sitting up well, you may introduce finger foods such as biscuits, Cheerios, pasta, soft bread/toast, small pieces of soft vegetables or fruits, and shredded chicken or meat.
A note on constipation: Sometimes when a baby starts on solid foods, he will become constipated (hard stools). If your baby becomes constipated, use whole wheat or barley cereal instead of rice cereal and avoid bananas and sweet potatoes, which are constipating. All the fruits which begin with “P” (prunes, plums, pears, peaches) will help soften your baby’s stool, so give them often if your baby is having hard stools. If your baby is constipated, you may also give him 1 ounce of prune juice mixed with 1 ounce of water every day or two.
For the whole first year, breast milk or formula should be your baby’s primary beverage. Typical amounts are listed in the table at the end of the sheet. Fruit juice tends to be high in sugar and fills up babies so they eat less nutritious food. We do NOT recommend giving juice to your baby in the first year.
Food sensitivities and allergies
While food allergies seem to be more common among children than they were in the past, no one knows the reason for this. We do not recommend restricting any specific foods for babies because of concerns about allergies, but if you have food allergy questions or a family history of specific food allergies, please discuss this with your provider.
Citrus fruits and tomatoes may cause a rash around the mouth in young children, but this is not a true allergy and is not dangerous; if it happens, you may want to cut back on these types of foods and try them again at a later time.
Peanuts and peanut butter
Recent research suggests that early and continued eating of peanut products decreases the chance of developing a peanut allergy. Some children will still be allergic to peanuts, but introducing peanuts at 4-6 months can prevent peanut allergy for many children. If your child has other food allergies or severe eczema, (or if your family history causes you to be concerned), please discuss blood testing for peanut allergy before you introduce peanuts.
Other infants should begin eating peanut products at 4-6 months. You can mix a small amount of smooth peanut butter into your infant’s baby cereal or pureed food. Bamba, a peanut puff product (available online and in the Israeli or Kosher food section of some grocery stores) can be crumbled into baby cereal. Give a small amount the first few times, and if it is tolerated without hives continue to feed peanut containing products 3 times a week. Older infants and toddlers should continue to eat Bamba or smooth peanut butter (spread thinly on bread or cracker) 3 times a week.
- Nuts, whole grapes, spoonfuls of peanut butter, round slices of hot dog, hard raw vegetables, popcorn, hard candies, and ice are all choking hazards and should not be given to your child until at least 4 years old.
- All foods you give younger children should be soft and in small pieces.
- Do not give your baby honey until he is over 1 year old (honey can carry botulism spores that are dangerous for a young baby but not for older children or adults).
- Do not home prepare beets, turnips, carrots, spinach, and collard greens while your child is an infant. These can be high in nitrates when prepared at home, but are safe if given as store-bought baby food.