Starting Solid Foods: What You Need to Know

This article has been updated on

Starting solid foods with your baby is one of the most exciting milestones to meet in the first year. Watching your baby’s face light up as he tries something he loves for the first time. His facial expression when he tries something he dislikes is always comical, the perfect photo opportunity. While starting solids is pretty straightforward, there are some things that you should know beforehand.

I remember all of my kids first time eating solid foods. My oldest had bananas first, and her eyes lit up like I gave her a piece of heaven. My second child had carrots first, and he burst into a huge smile. They were pretty delicious since I grew them in my garden. My third child tried sweet potatoes first with a bit of cinnamon, and she thought they were disgusting. My husband took the best pictures of her.

Each experience has been a bit different, but some things stay the same. Let’s get started so you can learn everything you need to know about starting solid foods with your baby.

What Do the Experts Say

Before you decide to start solid foods, let’s take a look at what the experts say. Here is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about six months. When you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months.” – HealthyChildren.Org 

So, we know that the AAP recommends parents wait until six months old to start solid foods, and this may differ significantly than what your family recommends. My grandmother told me she started solid foods with her kids at two weeks old – Yikes!

In general, expect to introduce solid foods between 4 and six months old. The sole source of nutrition must be formula or breastmilk at this time. Over the next six months, your baby will start to eat more solids, slowly reducing his consumption of breastmilk or formula. Breastfeeding should continue for as long as you want to breastfeed your child. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two years old.

solid food

Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods 

While going by the six months recommendation is a good idea, you need to watch your baby’s signs of readiness as well. Some babies might need a bit longer than six months to start solid foods. There is no rush; solid foods under one-year-old is just for fun. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start before they turn a year old; it is an important milestone for all kid to meet before they become one. It means don’t stress!

Here are some signs your baby is ready for solid foods.

Holds His Head Up

A baby starting solid foods before he can hold his head up is dangerous. It can lead to choking. Your baby needs to be able to sit in a high hair, feeding seat or any other seat with proper head control.

Opens Mouth Ready for Food

Does your baby open his mouth when he sees you eating or does he reach for your food? A baby should be eager to be fed when he starts solid foods. Otherwise, he might not be interested!

Moves Food From a Spoon to His Throat

Babies are born with a tongue thrust reflex. It can be annoying, but it’s there for a good reason. The reflex helps your baby avoid choking. When you start solid foods, the reflex needs to be gone to feed him properly. Otherwise, everything will roll back out of his mouth and frustrate you.

It does take time for babies to get used to moving the food. Try slowly and thin down the food with water or breastmilk. Then, you can gradually thicken the texture. If he is struggling, then that means you might need to wait a few more weeks to start solids.

At Least Doubled His Birth Weight

Most pediatricians recommend that an infant doubles his birth weight and weigh at least 13 pounds before they start solid foods. However, if your baby is 13 pounds by two months like my third child, that doesn’t give you the green light to start. All signs of readiness should be there.

Don’t Put Cereal in a Bottle 

Some pediatricians might tell you to put cereal in a baby’s bottle, but this advice is severely outdated and not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics anymore. The only time it might be considered is if your child has severe reflux. It’s not a way to introduce solid foods to your baby.

According to the AAP:

“ Do not put baby cereal in a bottle because your baby could choke. It may also increase the amount of food your baby eats and can cause your baby to gain too much weight.”  – HealthyChildren.Org 

What Foods to Start With First

You’ve probably heard people tell you that you need to give vegetables to your baby to avoid a sweet tooth. While it makes sense, what your baby likes and doesn’t like is individual. Some babies love veggies, and some don’t. A lot of it has to do with preparation and presentation. Once you’ve introduced your baby to a food, feel free to add some spices or mix other foods for unique flavors.

No one food is better than another to start with first for your baby. Traditionally, parents began with a single-grain cereal, such as rice cereal, but no evidence shows that this is the right choice. Many parents, such as myself, never use single-grain cereal for our babies.

If you’re breastfeeding, some doctors recommend starting with meat first because it contains sources of zinc and iron that are needed between 4 and six months old. However, I think baby food meats are gross, and I never used them solely without mixing them with other food.

solid food

Introduce More Every 3 Days 

Once you introduce food to your baby, continue to feed him that same food three days in a row.  Variety will come later. For now, you’re watching for reactions and how your child’s digestive system handles the addition of solid foods.

In three days, introduce a new, single food, to your baby. For example, the first food might be carrots, and then you introduce apples on the fourth day. Continue to do this while you add new foods. It makes it easier to identify an allergic reaction to a particular food.

Once you’ve introduced a food, feel free to mix them. Apples and bananas, once introduced separately, can be combined with a bit of cinnamon. You can mix sweet potatoes, apples, and cinnamon, or carrots and ginger. Yum!

NOTE: Don’t add honey, salt, or sugar to your baby food.

Healthy Foods Your Baby Will Love

Fruits

Apples, bananas, pears, blueberries, raspberries, mangos

Vegetables                          

Avocado, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, squash, green beans, corn

Grains

Oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta

Proteins

Ground beef, chicken, beans, tofu

What about Common Food Allergens?

Talking to your doctor about family food allergens is a good idea. My husband has some allergies to specific seafood, and we avoid those for a while.

Evidence doesn’t show any benefits to waiting to introduce allergy-causing foods. Quite the contrary, studies show that introducing allergy-foods earlier, around six months, can help to reduce the risk of food allergies. You can introduce allergenic foods around six months old, such as:

  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

What About Dairy?

You can introduce dairy foods around six months old as well! This gives you more options for your baby, such:

  • Plain Yogurt
  • Yogurt Mixed with Fruits
  • Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream Cheese

solid food

Stool Changes When Starting Solid Foods

When your baby starts solid foods, you can expect his stools to change as well. This is when diaper changing becomes quite exciting and stinky. All of the added sugars and fats will increase the odor of the stools.

If you feed your baby peas and other green vegetables, you might notice his stools are a deep-green color. Beets make stools red, and they can make urine red as well. Corn can come out whole or have undigested pieces of food. All of this is normal and should be expected.

Remember, your baby has an immature digestive system. It needs time to learn how to digest all of these new foods. However, if your baby’s stools are loose, watery, or full of mucus, that might mean his digestive tract is irritated, and you need to reduce the solids and slow the introduction.

Introducing Water and Juice

Your baby doesn’t need juice, even if your grandmother swears it’s necessary. Babies younger than 12 months old shouldn’t be given juice, even if the juice bottles show that they’re for babies who are sitters.

Once your baby is a year old, you can introduce 100% fruit juice that is diluted. Give no more than four ounces per day. Juice can cause tooth decay and reduce his appetite for healthy foods. Plus, too much juice causes diaper rashes because of the acid.

As for water, babies don’t need water, but you can safely introduce water when you add solid foods. Only a small amount of water needs to be given. You can also, at this time, give water if it’s hot outside in small amounts.

Get Ready for Solid Foods

Introducing solid foods is such an exciting time. Now is the time to get ready. Set up the high chair, get appropriate utensils for your baby’s age. Wash the bibs and get ready to start solids. This time is enjoyable for your baby and the parents!

EVA Baby Gear