Feeding solids to your baby: When and Where to Start

By: Andrea Godfreyson, RD

Introducing solids to your baby can be a fun time of exploration and a busy time of cleaning up rainbow coloured food splatters. But, before you start, there are a few things to know. What your parents or caregivers fed you as a baby might be different from what is recommended today. The current recommendations take into account your baby’s development, nutritional needs and the best available scientific evidence. Here are some key points:

Start at six months

Six months is the recommended time to start. If your baby is six months of age, can sit up and hold her head up, can watch and open her mouth for the spoon, and doesn’t push food out of her mouth with her tongue, she is ready for solid foods.

Start with iron-rich foods

You want the first foods you offer to be rich in iron. At this age, it is normal for babies’ iron stores to be running low so they need iron-rich foods. Start with well-cooked finely minced meat, poultry, tofu, lentils, fish, egg and/or iron-fortified infant cereal (mixed with water). Offer these foods at least twice a day.

Increase the texture as baby learns

Along with iron-rich foods, you can also offer mashed, minced or soft-cooked vegetables and fruit, yogurt, and finger foods like grated cheese, pieces of scrambled egg, toast strips spread thinly with nut butters and oat-rings cereal. You can start by offering solids in two to three feedings and one or two snacks depending on your baby’s appetite. You can then slowly increase to three meals and one or two snacks per day by nine months. Start offering lumpy foods no later than nine months. By about 12 months, babies can eat a variety of family foods (moistened, cut-up in small pieces).

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Introduce foods that are common allergens

There is no known benefit from waiting beyond six months of age to introduce foods that are common allergens, such as milk products (yogurt and cheese), eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, sesame, soy and wheat. Introduce these foods one at a time in a texture your baby can manage and wait a few days before introducing the next common allergen. If you think your baby has had an allergic reaction, stop giving that food and seek medical advice. You can continue introducing other new foods during this time.

Watch for hunger and fullness cues

Just as you decide the types of foods that you offer to your baby, your baby gets to decide when she has had enough. Opening her mouth for food is a sign she is hungry. Turning her head or pushing food away means she has had enough.

Continue offering breast milk or formula

Breast milk (or formula if you are not able to breastfeed) continues to provide your baby with good nutrition and hydration at this time. Continue offering as usual. Your baby can have sips of water from a cup both at and between meals. Wait to offer whole cow’s milk (3.25% MF) until nine months of age and when your baby is also eating iron-rich foods well.