Is your baby eyeing your mashed potatoes or green bean puree at the dinner table? Are they a pro during feeding time, swallowing milk with an upright head and neck? Was your little one reaching for the sweet potato casserole during your baby's first Thanksgiving? These could be signs that your baby is ready for their first solid foods. Your baby's first solid food is just one of the many baby developmental milestones they'll reach in their first year.
Knowing when to introduce baby food is all about understanding your baby and giving them the purest, most nutritious foods you can possibly give to ensure they absorb the essential nutrients they’ll need to grow healthy in their first few years. Your baby’s health is our number one priority. So, before you get started be sure to consult with your baby’s pediatrician.
How do you know when to start baby food the right way? In this guide, we’re taking baby steps through the world of baby’s first foods: when to introduce it, foods to look for and avoid & how to introduce solid foods to your baby’s tiny tummy the right way.
When to Start Baby Food
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting babies on baby food, or solid foods, at about 6 months old. By 7 or 8 months, your little food critic may be taste testing a variety of solid foods, such as infant cereal, proteins, vegetables & grains.1
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solid Foods
The morning your baby reaches for you on their 6-month birthday may not magically be the day they’re starting solids. Every child is different. Although solid foods are not recommended before 4 months old, there are signs you can look for around 4–6 months that indicate your baby may be ready to nibble on tasty new solid foods, including:2
- Baby can sit up on their own or with support
- Baby can lift and control their head and neck
- When food comes airplaning by, baby opens wide
- Most food goes down the hatch and not over the chin
- Baby brings toys and teethers to their mouth
- Baby swallows food easily and readily
Best First Foods for Baby
Solid foods like pureed meat, vegetables, fruits & iron-fortified baby cereal are excellent places to start when serving up your baby’s first foods outside breast milk and formula.
We asked Dr. Payal Adhikari, a board-certified pediatrician and expectant parents teacher at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, to provide us with her favorite first baby foods. Here’s what she said:
Banana – Besides being loaded with potassium and fiber (good for regular baby bowel movements), bananas are a terrific first baby food because they're usually on the countertop and easy to mash up. Use a ripe banana and a spoon, and feed away.
Avocado – Paleo or not, most babies love avocados. They are full of healthy fats, vitamins & minerals,and mash up well, too. Give them a small piece to taste. Pretty soon, they'll be asking you for chips and guacamole!
Puréed meat – Breastfed babies need iron rich food, so why not start them on some puréed meat? While it may seem unappealing to us, babies often welcome the introduction of protein—perhaps they’re preparing for plenty of fancy steak dinners in the future.
Sweet potato – Sweet potatoes are a superfood for your super baby! High in vitamins A, B6 & C (and many minerals), sweet potatoes are a perfect way to start teaching your little one the alphabet. Mix with formula or breast milk to a pureed consistency, and start singing the ABCs!
Chickpeas – Pureed chickpeas are the baby version of hummus (just hold the pita). High in protein and fiber, chickpeas are a creamy, healthy introduction to the more adventurous foods soon to grace baby’s tray.
Solid Foods to Avoid
A rule of thumb for baby’s first foods is to stick to 100% natural, organic foods. Try to avoid baby food in cans if you’re able. Instead, mash organic fruits and cooked vegetables yourself.
Remember that your baby’s digestive system is still developing, so choose gentler, more basic foods that are free of additives, preservatives, bacteria & chemicals.
Here are some solid foods to avoid:3
Honey – Mom might enjoy a teaspoon or two in her hot tea at night, but the baby shouldn’t partake. Although honey is packed with health benefits for adults, it may contain clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that can cause infant botulism. Skip the sweetener altogether during solid food introduction. (That smile is sweet enough!)
Cow’s milk – Cow’s milk contains certain enzymes that babies have a hard time digesting, which could lead to kidney problems. If you’re looking for a breastmilk replacement, opt for infant formula instead. Before year one, skipping cow’s milk products altogether is best to avoid digestive issues.
Unpasteurized foods and drinks – Avoid juices, milk, yogurt & cheeses that are unpasteurized. They contain certain amounts of bacteria that a baby’s digestive system cannot process. Unpasteurized milk is also known as raw milk. Look for foods that are pasteurized—especially if you’d prefer to sidestep any unpleasant diaper-changing duties.
Added sugars – Sugar doesn’t add any value to your baby’s vital nutrition in their growing months, so there’s no need to introduce it in the baby’s first foods. Steer clear of snacks with added sugar, like bread or cookies, and sweetened beverages like sports drinks, soda, flavored water & fruit juice until around 24 months.
Excess sodium – Similar to sugar, there’s no need to sprinkle any extra salt onto your baby’s food. (Although we’re not putting any bans on a little salt for the grownups.) Too much sodium in babies could cause kidney damage and high blood pressure.3 Avoid foods high in sodium, including processed foods like frozen meals, lunch meat, cured meat, canned meat & canned legumes.
How to Introduce Baby Foods
Now that we’ve covered when to introduce baby food, let’s talk about how to introduce them.
At about 6 months, or whenever your baby shows signs of solid food readiness, you’ll introduce very small amounts of a single-ingredient solid food in addition to breastmilk or formula to slowly transition your baby from soft food to 100% solid foods.
This process is called weaning, as you’ll be weaning your baby off breastmilk and/or formula and onto solid foods permanently. The weaning process takes place between around 6 months to 12-18 months.
Baby’s Food by Age
The idea of weaning is to gradually decrease the amount of breastmilk or formula per day while gradually increasing the amount of solid foods per day over several months. In the first few months, think about solid foods as a tiny taste test rather than a full-fledged meal.
Every baby is different, and your child might move more quickly or slowly than the track is shown below. That’s OK! The extra patience will be worth it when you watch your explorer’s eyes light up as they traverse the culinary world.
4 to 6 months – When the baby starts showing plenty of interest in solid foods, this will tell you when to start baby food. Maintain about 5-8 nursing sessions per day, and then, when the baby shows signs of hunger, introduce 1-2 teaspoons of baby cereal, fruits, or veggies per day. From there, work your way up to a couple tablespoons per day.4
6 to 8 months – Decrease the amount of nursing sessions to 4-6, and increase the amount of solid food meals baby gets to enjoy. Incorporate about 4-9 tablespoons of infant cereal, fruit & cooked vegetables, and 1-6 tablespoons of meat or other protein. As you introduce new foods like peanut butter or nut butter, keep a food log to track any food allergy or adverse reactions.4
9 to 12 months – Reduce nursing sessions to 3-5, and add even more exciting solid food meals into your baby’s life. By now, your baby can enjoy ½ cup of grains, fruits, and/or vegetables twice daily, ½ cup of dairy daily & ½ cup of meat or protein daily. If they lack interest, slightly decrease solid foods until they get the hang of it.4
Essential Supplies for Feeding Time
When introducing your baby’s first foods, there’s bound to be some dribbled squash, smashed sweet potato & smeared banana left in the wake of meal time. (Hey, they’re working on eating and artistic skills, right?)
Stock your kitchen and changing room with the following essentials to wipe sticky messes clean like a pro:
Bibs – Rescue those carefully-curated pajama sets from stains with plenty of bibs. Our classic bibs come in a variety of limited-edition prints, like pizza, puppies & rainbows, so baby can look adorable as they savor that first succulent strawberry!
High chairs – Prepare for your handsome dinner date’s arrival with an essential seat for baby. Choose an easy-to-clean traditional high chair, or our most-loved Fast Table Chair: a high chair anywhere.
Eating utensils – The only thing that might be cuter than a baby eating with their hands is a baby eating with a tiny spoon. Our First Food Set has everything you need for baby’s first foods—and it even comes in 11 fun colors.
Nourish Your Future Food Critic with Monica + Andy
Who knows? How you mash that pumpkin may just be why they become the future Gordon Ramsay. No matter what, a baby’s first foods are an essential step in infant development that provides essential nutrients, teaches motor skills & expands their world of colorful, flavorful possibilities.
Our team of 95% women at Monica + Andy is designing baby and toddler products that we would trust with our kids. Our standards are high because we know yours are, too. Our fabrics are the softest + safest, our materials are chemical-free & our designs make parenthood a whole lot easier.
Show up with the best gift at the baby shower, sign up for a registry, browse gift sets, or find our new arrivals to get started.
CDC. When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html#:~:text=Your%20child%20can%20begin%20eating,yogurts%20and%20cheeses%2C%20and%20more
CDC. Foods and Drinks to Avoid or Limit. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html
Healthline. Salt for Babies: How Much Is Safe? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-for-babies#bottom-line
What to Expect. Baby Feeding Schedule and Food Chart for the First Year. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/feeding-baby/how-to-get-baby-on-feeding-schedule/
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Do's and Don'ts for Baby's First Foods. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/dos-and-donts-for-babys-first-foods