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Getting a Start on Solid Foods

It's every first-time mother's worry as her infant approaches ages 4 to 6 months: When to start solid foods? Experts recommend going slowly and steadily as you help your baby transition from breast milk or formula to pureed foods to solids.

A baby's introduction to solids should begin after ages 4 to 6 months and be gradual. One or two tablespoons of rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, twice a day, is easiest on the stomach and less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Many parents move quickly from cereal to pureed fruit, but some pediatricians recommend trying vegetables first. Often, babies will not eat vegetables if they first get used to the sweet taste of fruits. 

What if your baby is unwilling to take solids at age 4 months?

Some children are late starters and won't eat a bite before age 6 months. Around age 6 months, your child grows interested in your eating habits and wants to imitate you. If things don't go well, wait a week, then try again.

By age 9 months, your baby should be familiar with many common foods in a pureed form and should be eating three meals a day. By ages 12 to 13 months, your baby is ready to be weaned from the bottle or breast, and by age 15 months your baby is ready to eat table food.

Weaning from the breast is a personal decision, and some mothers continue breast-feeding past age 13 months. Be patient when weaning. The transition from breast to table food may be trying for some infants.

Don't feed your infant honey or corn syrup before age 1 year, because these foods may contain botulism spores that can be harmful to infants.

When is your child ready?

This checklist from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) can help you determine whether your baby is ready to start solids:

  • Your child can hold his or her head steady when sitting.

  • Your child is between ages 4 and 6 months.

  • Your child sometimes opens his or her mouth when food approaches.

  • Your child is interested in food when others eat.

  • Your child is able to swallow baby food placed on the tongue.

A timetable for foods

This chart from the IFIC offers guidelines on when to introduce certain solid foods.

Ages 4 to 6 months:

  • Iron-fortified, single-grain baby cereal

  • Strained/pureed plain vegetables and fruit

  • 100 percent fruit juices fortified with vitamin C (limit amount because of the high sugar content)

Ages 7 to 9 months:

  • Strained meats/poultry

  • Mixtures of strained vegetables and fruits

  • Junior baby foods

Ages 10 to 12 months:

  • Soft, finely chopped foods

Age 12 months

  • Family foods

  • Foods with high-fiber content