When is it time to introduce your baby to solid food? And when you start, what and how much solid foods do you give them?
The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage mothers to breastfeed as long as possible—at least one year and longer if possible. Your baby’s diet should consist of almost exclusively breast milk or formula for the first six months. After six months, it’s possible to start diversifying their diet, but not by much.
A baby food chart helps new parents figure out when to try solid foods as well as what and how much to try. Our chart includes the following age ranges:
- 0-4 months
- 4-6 months
- 6-8 months
- 8-10 months
- 10-12 months
Use this baby food charge guide and tips to start planning your baby’s first few spoons of solid food and to better understand the stages of baby foods.
Always Consult with Your Pediatrician First
Before you start introducing your baby to solid foods by the spoonful, always consult with your pediatrician.
Your pediatrician will know when your baby is ready, and they’ll point out any potential risks for allergens.
Birth to Four Months
At four months, your baby uses their rooting reflex and looks towards the nipple—whether bottle or breast—for nourishment.
During this time, they need breast milk or formula only. Your baby’s digestive tract cannot yet handle solid food and giving your baby anything other than breast milk or formula can have serious complications.
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How much breast milk does your baby need? Every baby is different, but you can tell that they get the nutrients they need when your little one seems satisfied after you finish feed and they gain around six to eight ounces each week during their first four months.
When babies get enough milk, they’ll wet about six diapers per day. Though, keep in mind that for the first few days, your baby will feed off colostrum, which is thick and nutrient-rich but only results in one a wet diaper or two each day.
Babies getting the nutrients they need will also produce three stools a day during the first month that turn a mustard-like color around five days to a week after birth.
Your baby likely isn’t getting the milk they need when they:
- Continue to lose weight after the first five days
- Wet under six diapers after the first five days
- Produce dark stool after their first five days
- Expel dark urine (a sign of low fluids)
- Seem to be hungry all the time even after long feedings
If you believe your baby isn’t getting enough milk, check in with a nurse or pediatrician. Lactation consultants are also a big help if you choose to breastfeed, and they can help sort out issues that are preventing the baby from feeding happily.
Starting Solids: Four to Six Months
Pediatricians and world health agencies recommend continuing to use breast milk as a baby’s primary source of nutrients until they are six months old – or even longer if you can.
However, you can also start to introduce solids around four months old and weigh at least 13 pounds. (Always check with your pediatrician).
When you start solids, you start with a tablespoon here and there. Even then, your baby may not finish their tablespoon-sized portion the first few times you feed them. Don’t worry; they still get all the nutrition and calories they need via your breast milk. Solid foods during the first few months are more about practicing swallowing and introducing their digestive systems to food.
Is My Baby Ready for Baby Food?
In addition to working with your care team, you’ll know your baby is ready to try solids when they start to develop more control over their body.
Your baby will need to sit well when support and be able to keep their head steady before solid foods become an option. Control of their head is essential for swallowing solid foods. Without it, they could choke.
Babies are also more ready for food when they exhibit a natural curiosity about it. When they start eyeing your food or reaching for it, they may be emotionally prepared to try something new. Allowing the baby to lead helps them develop a strong, positive relationship with food that will serve you as your little one grows.
Foods to Feed Four to Six-Month-Olds
Baby cereals and baby foods are the staples of food introductions.
You can feed them:
- Semi-liquid cereals (rice, barley, and oat baby cereal)
- Pureed vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash, green beans)
- Pureed fruits (apples, bananas, peaches pears, avocado)
At this age, many parents choose to avoid meat and dairy. While you should not give them cow’s milk before one-year-old, meat may be a good idea.
Pureed beef or chicken can sometimes be a good idea because both contain zinc and iron in easily absorbable forms. Your baby needs both these nutrients for development, and they won’t necessarily get them all from your breast milk after around six months. Talk to your pediatrician to see if pureed meat is a good idea for your children.
How Much to Feed Them
Start with a teaspoon or tablespoon of the cereal or puree. Once or twice a day depending on how well they take to the food.
For the most success with your cereal, mix it with breast milk. You’ll want the first few feedings to be almost liquid because they’ll learn to swallow something that isn’t breast milk.
You can gradually thicken the cereal over the new few months to challenge them.
Tips for Solid Food Introduction
There’s no right way to introduce your baby to solids. Even if your first child took solids like it was the best meal of their lives, your second or third might scream at the sight of cereal.
For your first few feedings offer them only a teaspoon or two. If they don’t want it, don’t force the issue.
When feeding, use a rubber-tipped spoon to avoid damaging their gums. Feed them from a bowl rather than straight from the jar to avoid getting bacteria in the pot of food.
Try introducing new foods one a time. Don’t switch to another type of food immediate but wait two or three days before starting something new. The order of foods doesn’t matter.
Six to Eight Months: Trying New Foods
By six months, they’ll have tried at least a few spoons of solids—or maybe you decided only to introduce them now.
The signs of readiness for food are the same as among four to six months old. The ability to sit on their own, control their movements and signs of interest are all indicators that they are ready to start with food.
Ideally, you will still breastfeed at six months (and longer). So, their diet will be a “breast milk/formula PLUS” diet.
Suitable Foods for Six Months Plus
You can feed them many of the same foods you introduced during months four, five, and six. Including pureed and strained fruits and vegetables.
Also, you can add in pureed meat or pureed tofu and legumes. You can offer them:
- Chicken, beef, and pork
- Iron-fortified cereals
- Yogurt (goat or sheep milk is best)
Again, they shouldn’t get any cows milk until they are at least one year old because it is not a substitute for breast milk or formula. You should also avoid any honey because there’s a risk for bacterial infection (infant botulism) with this sweetener.
Do your best to avoid foods processed for adults, even if your baby reaches for them. Peanut butter and marshmallows are difficult to swallow and are choking hazards. Small foods like popcorn or nuts should also remain off the table, as they are easy to choke on even for adults.
How Much to Feed Them
Because they’re on a breast milk/formula PLUS diet, servings of solid food are still small.
Generally, you’ll give them a teaspoon of both fruit and vegetables each day. You can increase it to two or three tablespoons throughout several feedings.
The bulk of their solid food diet should be cereal. Avoid giving babies more than three tablespoons three times a day.
Eight to Ten Months: Trying Something New
By the time your baby reaches eight to ten months old, they will start to show even more signs of readiness for solid foods. In addition to more major motor control, they are beginning to pick up their objects and their food with a pincer grasp (between their thumb and forefinger).
The pincer grasp may seem obvious to an adult, but your baby’s ability to grasp using their forefinger and thumb signifies an important landmark in their development. For one, it requires clear coordination between their brain and muscles to execute the fine motor development. Two, it offers one (small) step closer to independence.
You’ll also notice that this is the age where everything goes in their mouth if you’re not careful. After all, your baby’s new and developing ability to pick up small things is wondrous. They also start to develop more chewing skills, and they’re keen to test them out.
Trying New Foods
In addition to the foods you offered between six and eight months, you can now introduce some of the baby foods you might be more familiar with.
O-shaped cereal (either baby cereal or Cheerios) make great finger foods that encourage dexterity and cater to your baby’s pincer grasp. Other great finger foods include well-cooked pasta and potato, scrambled eggs, and teething crackers. Always serve them in tiny bites.
You can also introduce some dairy products including cottage cheese, yogurt, and soft cheese. Avoid anything sweetened (naturally or otherwise) and provide cheeses and dairy only in small amounts.
If your baby has the motor skills, you can start introducing tiny pieces of cut up meat to replace the pureed meat. Well-cooked (somewhat mushy) beans are also fine.
How Much Solid Food Should They Eat?
By now, your baby eats cups of food rather than tablespoons. You can give them up to:
- ¾ to 1 cup of fruit and vegetables (each)
- ¼ to 1/3 cup of dairy
- ¼ to ½ cup of baby cereal
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of cooked meat
Ten to Twelve Months: Expanding Their Diet and Self-Feeding
By ten to 12 months, your baby continues to work on mastering swallowing. Their teeth and improved eating skills mean more of their food makes into their mouths and stays there rather than falling out.
Their grip will also improve, making the use of a baby or toddler spoon more likely. Though, many babies don’t start grabbing at utensils until their first birthday.
If they reach for it, let them practice eating with their spoon to develop self-feeding skills that go beyond their pincer grabbing. Using a spoon requires even more fine motor control, so it takes more time to learn.
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Trying New Foods
You are now at a point where the food they eat resembles some of the food you eat. In addition to all the foods listed above, you can soon transition to bite-size and soft-cooked vegetables rather than relying solely on puree. Make sure they are very soft because all food needs to be easy to chew with a few teeth.
If your baby shows interest, introduce them to soft foods that you find on your table. Combination foods like casseroles and macaroni and cheese make great options as long as you cook them thoroughly.
You can also start to introduce them to:
Tips for Introducing Babies to Solid Food
The transition to solid food can be fraught or exciting, but it’s always an adventure. While our baby food chart guide will help you figure out the bigger picture, there’s still the little issue of getting them to eat solids. And every baby is different.
Some tips for those first few feedings (or even weeks of feedings) follow in this section.
Start with Nursing
For the first six months at a minimum, your baby will rely on breast milk or formula for their nutrition. They will be hungry and expect a nipple of some sort to appear.
Always nurse your baby before offering them additional food like cereal or pureed vegetables. They will likely be more interested in what you have to offer if they are not already ravenous.
Food should be fun before ages six to eight months, so worry less about finishing servings and more about experimenting and building a positive relationship with food.
Don’t forget to nurse them again after their spoonful of solids.
Try Different Positions
Everyone needs to be comfortable for the baby to eat. If they aren’t interested in the spoon, try finding a new position, such as putting them in the high chair. If they are already in the chair and won’t eat, try feeding them in your lap.
Don’t Force Foods
Babies don’t love every spoonful of food you offer. The flavors are so foreign to them that they may need a few tries to discover and enjoy the new food.
Give it a few days between feedings to re-offer the same food, particularly in the first stages.
Additionally, don’t mix up the foods in between those feedings.
Stick to learning about one food and giving them a chance to accept it. If you offer them something else and they react badly, you won’t know what food caused the problem.
Dealing with Allergies
All parents should be wary of common allergenic foods but expect to tread particularly carefully when you or another of your children have food allergies.
The most common allergenic foods include:
- Peanuts and tree nuts
You can introduce your child to these foods as appropriate (i.e., when they can chew and swallow them). Always start with purees and other soft textures to avoid choking. However, don’t confuse foods like peanut butter for soft food—its sticky texture makes it difficult for young children to handle.
The National Institutes of Health encourages parents to introduce their children to nuts as young as possible—even by four to six months. Doing so can lower their risk of experiencing an allergy as they grow.
Introduce peanut-products or peanut powder in an age-appropriate form. Don’t give them peanuts or pieces of peanuts. Instead, mix peanut powder into fruit puree or thin some peanut butter with water to make it easier to eat.
Getting Started with Solids is Easier than You Think
Babies are ready to start solid foods between the age of four and six months. You’ll start to see signs like holding their head up and improve gross motor control, which aids them in eating. Although their diet for the first six months to one year should largely include breast milk or formula alone, you can also get adventurous with the type of food you give them as time goes on.
Remember, the most important part of feeding them solid food is to have fun and explore new flavors together. When you can build a relationship between fun and food early, you’ll watch them grow into new foods as they reach toddlerhood.
Has our baby food chart guide helped you better understand what comes next in your baby’s diet?
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