Your Baby’s First Food: Introducing Solid Foods to a Baby

For months now your baby has thrived with just breast milk or formula on the menu. Now that they’re getting bigger, you’ve probably got some questions: When do babies start eating baby food or other solid foods? What’s the best way to introduce new foods? And what are the best first foods to introduce to your baby? Read on to learn everything about introducing solids, including some tasty first food ideas for your baby and tips on how to navigate this new and exciting period in your baby’s development.

Your Baby’s First Food: Introducing Solid Foods to a Baby

When do babies start eating baby food, pureed food, or other solid foods? Breast milk or formula is the most important and consistent component of your baby's diet in the first year. But, typically, around the time your little one reaches 4 months to 6 months old, they will be ready to start on solid foods alongside breast milk or formula. You’ll want these first solid foods to be soft and cut into small pieces or pureed to make them easier for your little one to safely eat. Infant cereals or pureed fruit and vegetables are good choices, as they are just slightly thicker than breast milk or formula. To ease the transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods, start by giving your baby small spoonfuls of food, followed by breast milk or formula. In time, your little one will discover that this new solid food is just as pleasurable as the liquid diet they had been getting, and you can gradually increase the amount of solid food you feed them. So, when do babies start eating table foods? After your baby is accustomed to infant cereals and pureed foods, you can begin offering foods with a chunkier texture. Eventually, when your baby can sit independently, you can give them small pieces of food that they can easily pick up and eat, also known as table food or finger food. On average, babies learn to self-feed around 8 months of age.

If you’re unsure about when to start your baby on solid foods, the 4-month checkup is a great opportunity to consult his healthcare provider. The provider may suggest you watch out for the following signs that your baby may be ready to start on solid foods:

  • Your baby doesn’t push their tongue out at a spoon when you try to feed them. Your baby will probably have this tongue thrust reflex up until 4 or 5 months of age.

  • Your baby can hold their head up on their own and sit upright easily with some support.

  • Your little one opens their mouth when you offer food to them.

  • Your baby follows food with their eyes and makes mouthing movements when they see others eating.

Best First Foods for Babies

What foods can you introduce to a baby first? Traditionally, single grain infant cereals have been the first foods introduced to babies, followed by single-ingredient purees of vegetables, fruits, and then meats. However, there is no medical evidence suggesting that there’s any advantage to keeping to a certain order when introducing new solid foods to your baby, or that any particular food has to be first. You can even start with multiple foods at once. So it’s really up to you. While it was previously recommended to delay introducing allergenic foods like peanuts, eggs, and fish, current guidelines suggest that introducing these foods (in a soft form) early on is safe and may actually prevent a child from developing allergies. Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding your baby's specific situation, especially if they have eczema or an allergy to egg proteins. So, what can a baby eat at 6 months, 8 months, or even 12 months old? Here’s a list of some first solid foods you could introduce to your baby and guidelines on when they can be introduced. Remember, each baby develops differently, so the age-based recommendations below may vary slightly from child to child.

Your Baby’s First Foods: 4 to 6 Months

Feeding your 4- to 6-month-old baby typically involves introducing their first solid foods. Remember, many babies will be exclusively fed breast milk or formula until 6 months, but if your little one is showing signs of readiness after 4 months, you can start to introduce some solids alongside their regular feedings. At this stage, it's important to focus on foods that are soft and easy for your baby to eat and digest. It’s also good to note that from 4 months of age your little one’s motor skills may be developing and they’re beginning to pick up objects and bring them toward their mouth. So, although it’s going to be messy, you might allow your baby to explore their food with their hands; of course, you can still spoon-feed them.

Here are some suitable foods for babies when starting solids:

  • Whole-grain baby cereal. Iron-fortified rice cereal, oatmeal, and barley cereal are often recommended as first foods for babies. Just avoid giving only rice cereal as it can expose your baby to too much arsenic. Mix the cereal with breast milk or formula to achieve a smooth, runny consistency.

  • Pureed fruits. Soft, ripe fruits like bananas, avocados, and pears can be mashed or pureed to a smooth consistency. Make sure to remove any seeds or pits.

  • Pureed vegetables. Cooked and pureed vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and squash are good options. Ensure they are well-cooked and mashed to a soft texture.

6 to 8 Months of Age

Between around 6 to 8 months, babies who have begun to eat solids are typically ready to expand their palate and explore a wider variety of foods. At this stage, you can introduce more textures and flavors to your baby's diet while continuing to prioritize foods that are easy to digest and appropriate for their developmental stage. Continue to prioritize breast milk or formula as the main source of nutrition. Here are some first foods suitable for babies in the 6- to 8-month age range:

  • Fruits. Continue offering pureed or mashed fruits like apples, pears, peaches, and plums. You can also introduce slightly more textured fruits like ripe banana slices or small pieces of well-cooked and mashed fruits.

  • Vegetables. Experiment with a variety of cooked and mashed or diced vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, and spinach. Soft, well-cooked vegetables can be offered in small, bite-sized pieces for babies who are starting to develop their pincer grasp.

  • Cereals. You can start introducing a wider range of single-grain cereals like oatmeal and barley, in addition to rice cereal. Choose iron-fortified whole grain varieties. Mix the cereal with breast milk or formula for a thicker consistency.

  • Proteins. You can introduce small amounts of pureed, cooked meats such as chicken or turkey, which are high in zinc and iron, nutrients that babies need at 6 months old. Ensure that the meat is finely mashed and free of bones. You can also include well-cooked and mashed legumes like lentils and beans.

  • Finger foods. As your baby's motor skills develop and they can sit independently, you can offer small, soft, and easy-to-hold finger foods like small pieces of ripe banana, avocado, and well-cooked pasta. Always supervise closely to prevent choking.

8 to 12 Months of Age

Between 8 to 12 months of age, babies tend to become more proficient at eating solid foods and are ready for a wider variety of textures. This is also the age when many babies are learning to self-feed and need less assistance from parents. By 9 months, many babies have developed the pincer grasp, using the forefinger or middle finger and thumb together to “pinch” or grasp an object. This makes finger foods a perfect option for this period and onwards. Along with the foods mentioned in the previous sections, here are some foods that are suitable for babies in the 8- to 10-month age range:

  • Finger foods. These are table foods that you’ve cut up into small pieces that are easy to pick up. Offer foods that are soft and easy to swallow for your baby, like cooked cut-up sweet potatoes, cooked green beans, diced meat, cubes of bread, sliced banana, pasta, scrambled eggs, and crackers. Avoid foods that require chewing and avoid foods that may be a choking hazard [anchor link to how to prevent choking].

  • Homemade baby food. An alternative to store-bought jarred baby foods is making your own baby food at home. A baby food maker, blender, or food processor (or sometimes just a fork) is all you need to create food with the right consistency for your baby’s needs—pureed when they’re starting solids and chunkier as they reach about 8 months of age. You might also choose to give your little one a spoon and let them figure out how to feed themselves. Don’t add salt or other seasonings to the food you prepare. Be aware that homemade baby foods will spoil faster than store-bought jarred baby food, so don’t store leftovers for too long in your refrigerator. Instead, consider freezing extra batches.

Continue to offer breast milk or formula as the primary source of nutrition throughout your child’s first year.

Homemade baby food

Tips for Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby

If you’ve discovered that your baby is ready for their first solid foods and you have an idea of what to feed them, you might be wondering how to introduce solids to your baby. Here are some tips and insights to help you successfully introduce solid foods to your baby:

  1. Offer solid foods when your baby is slightly hungry. Find a time of day when your baby is in a good mood and slightly hungry so that they’ll be more inclined to try solid foods. Eventually, as your baby gets older, they’ll want to join the rest of the family for mealtimes, which, in fact, is recommended as it can have a positive effect on their development.

  2. Sit your baby upright. This is important for reducing the risk of choking. You can either support them in your lap or, if they’re able to sit well (which often happens at about 6 or 7 months of age), you can put them in a high chair with a safety strap.

  3. Introduce drinking from a cup. When can babies have water is a common question. If your baby is thirsty, you can give them small sips of water after they’re 6 months old (up until then their only liquids should be either breast milk or formula). Around 6 months old is also a good time to start teaching your baby how to drink from a cup. Give them liquids in a cup with two large handles and a spouted lid, like a sippy cup.

  4. Dish out servings. It’s not a good idea to feed your baby directly from the baby food jar or other container as this can lead to contaminating whatever remains in the jar. Instead, remove a small amount from the jar to a dish and feed your baby from that. You'll need to discard any leftovers in the dish, but you can refrigerate the contents remaining in the jar for another mealtime.

  5. Start with a small spoon. Never put solids in a bottle unless your child’s healthcare provider has recommended it. Use a small coffee spoon or a rubber-coated baby spoon so you don’t hurt your baby’s lips or mouth. Start with a small amount of food, even less than half a spoonful. It also helps to give your little one a utensil to hold while you feed them. This can eventually encourage them to start self-feeding at around 8 or 9 months of age.

  6. Sell it like a salesperson. Talk to your baby during the feeding process, and feel free to narrate what’s happening: “Look at this yummy food coming your way!” Your baby may not understand what’s going on, but helping them become familiar with the food and offering encouragement with your voice can convince them to give it a try.

  7. Look for signs that your baby is full or not interested in eating. If your little one starts crying or turns away during a feeding, don’t force it. They could be full or may not want any food at the moment. You could try feeding them solid foods at another time when they may be more receptive. If it’s one of your baby’s first feedings, it could be that they’re not quite ready to start solid foods yet, so you could return to only breastfeeding or formula-feeding for a little longer.

  8. Don’t worry about the mess. At first, more food will end up on the floor, on your little one’s bib, on your baby’s cheeks, and pretty much anywhere but in your baby’s mouth, which is OK. Increase the size of each feeding gradually, giving your baby the chance to get accustomed to this new concept of swallowing solid food.

  9. Stay with your baby during mealtimes. For your baby’s safety and to reduce the risk of choking, always be there when your baby tries solid foods.

How to Prevent Choking When Introducing Solids

When introducing solid foods to your baby, it’s important to ensure that the foods you offer them are soft and easy to swallow. Avoid foods that require chewing. Here’s a list of some foods that are potential choking hazards for babies:

  • hot dogs, meat sticks, or sausages

  • chunks of meat or cheese

  • fish with bones

  • nuts and seeds, including nut butter

  • cooked or raw corn kernels and popcorn

  • whole pieces of canned fruit

  • whole grapes, berries, cherries, grape tomatoes, or melon balls

  • raw vegetables

  • chunks of raw fruit

  • dry fruit such as raisins

  • cookies and granola bars

  • potato or corn chips, pretzels, and other snack foods

  • crackers or breads with seeds, nuts, or whole-grain kernels

  • whole-grain kernels such as rice, barley, and wheat

  • hard, gooey, or sticky candy

  • chewing gum

  • marshmallows.

Be sure to stay with your baby at all times when they’re eating and make sure they’re sitting upright on your lap or in a high chair . You and your family members might even consider taking a first-aid course to learn what to do when a baby or child is choking. It’s always good to be prepared!

Food Allergies When Introducing Solids

After introducing a new food to your baby, you can keep an eye out for signs that your baby has an allergy. If you notice diarrhea, a rash, or vomiting, stop giving that food and consult your baby’s healthcare provider. If there’s a history of food allergies in your family, consult your provider before trying out that particular food. While it was previously recommended to delay introducing allergenic foods like peanuts, eggs, dairy, soy, and fish, current guidelines now suggest that the introduction of these foods when your baby is starting on solids may reduce the risk of allergies. However, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider regarding your baby's specific situation, especially if your little one has severe eczema or an egg protein allergy. New recommendations suggest introducing multiple foods to your baby at once, if you like, rather than introducing only one new food every few days. Here are a couple of things to avoid feeding your little one:

  • Don’t feed them honey and corn syrup until after their first birthday, as these can contain spores that can cause infant botulism

  • No cow’s milk until after their first birthday, as your baby can't properly digest it before then.

Introducing Solids Schedule

When you first introduce solid foods to your baby, you may wonder how much baby food is appropriate for a 6-month-old. Give them one or two tablespoons of food in addition to their regular feedings of breast milk or formula. Remember, their bellies are small. Over time, you can introduce more solid foods to your little one, watching for signs that they’re full, such as turning their head away. Eventually, from around 9 months, your little one may eat three to four small meals per day, plus one or two snacks. At this stage, your baby may eat or drink about every two to three hours. For more information about feeding your baby in their first year, check out our article on feeding schedules.

Food Chart for Babie

Take a look at our fun food chart and schedule for babies from 4 months to 12 months of age, and get a general idea of when to introduce solids to your baby and what foods they can try first.

The Bottom Line

Beginning to eat solids is a big milestone for your little one. A whole new world of flavors, textures, and smells is opening up for them. Before long, your baby will get the hang of taking small bites, chewing, resting between bites, and even self-feeding with a spoon or their hands. Whenever it’s possible, have family meals together, as it can have a positive effect on your baby’s development, and mealtimes can be a special bonding time for the whole family. If you have any questions about your baby’s diet or healthy development, including how to handle a picky eater, consult your baby’s healthcare provider. With all the eating your baby is doing, you’re bound to be changing lots of diapers. Did you know that for every Pampers product you purchase, you could be earning rewards points? Download the Pampers Club app, and get access to Pampers rewards, parenting tips, and more.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.