5 - 6 Months

How to know if your baby is ready for solid foods—and 5 tips for getting started

Mother feeding their child

At around 6 months, most babies are ready to start solid foods. This early stage is about learning how to eat and enjoy new tastes and textures. Until age 1, most of your baby’s nutrition will still come from breast milk and/or formula.

3 signs your baby is ready for solids

Because every baby develops at their own pace, it’s important to look for signs of solid food readiness, even if they are 6 months old. There are three signs to look for:

  1. Mouthing toys with infrequent gagging
  2. Starting to show interest in food and mealtimes
  3. Sitting upright with just a little help for balance

Note: Many babies who are unable to sit upright can begin solids with extra support for posture in their high chair or feeding seat. So if you aren’t seeing this sign by 7 months, ask your baby’s pediatrician for their assessment of your child’s readiness for solids.

Tips for introducing solids

No matter what feeding method you choose—traditional purees, baby-led weaning, or a mix of both—here are some tips to help you get started. Need more advice? Check out our expert course, “The Food Before 1 Course Pack.”

Time it right. Your baby’s first introductions to solids tend to go better if your baby is well-rested—and even well fed. Solid foods should not replace feedings at this stage, so if your baby is hungry, offer breast milk or formula. These early tastings are about exploring flavor and texture. 

Once a day is okay. For the first couple of months, aim to offer solids one or two times a day. When starting solids, many babies are napping up to three times per day and nursing or taking a bottle frequently. It can be tricky to fit solid food into their daily rhythms, so stay flexible. It’s okay if they only eat solid foods once a day in the beginning. As they approach their first birthday, you can establish a more structured schedule of three meals a day. 

Let them determine the quantity. At this stage, your baby should decide how much they eat. There’s a wide range in how much solid food babies eat—there is no single “right” amount. 

Watch their posture. To reduce the risk of choking, be sure your baby is sitting upright, not leaning backward or slumping forward.

Prepare for a mess 😉. Touching food and trying to feed themselves are important mealtime experiences for your baby, but this can be messy. Be prepared with supplies like bibs, wipes, placemats, and floor covers. It can be tempting to use mess-minimizing shortcuts like feeding your baby every bite or letting them eat directly from a baby food pouch. Try to do that in moderation so your baby has time to learn and explore.

Follow your baby’s lead. If the process of introducing solids gets frustrating, your baby may be giving you a sign that they’re not interested right now. If they cry, look away, or refuse to take a bite, stop and try again another time.

What foods are best to start with?

While new parents were once advised to start with rice cereal, there’s no scientific reason you need to start that way. These days, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledges a range of options for nutrient-dense first foods.   

Puree foods with breast milk or formula: Use breast milk, formula, low-sodium broth, or water when pureeing fruits, vegetables, and meats. You don’t need to worry about the order of foods introduced, but do wait a couple of days before introducing the next new food. 

Soft finger foods: You can introduce mashable soft solids in small pieces or thin strips for finger-feeding. Chop small pieces no bigger than 1/2″ thick, wide or long. Slice thin strips no longer than 2″ and no more than 1/2″ thick or wide. All first solids should be soft enough for you to mash easily between your thumb and index finger. A banana, well-cooked apple and sweet potato are all great options. 

Extra iron: Exclusively or primarily breastfed babies in particular need external sources of iron at around 6 months of age. Regularly include iron-rich foods in your baby’s solid food meals, such as mashed or pureed beans, pureed meat, and pureed spinach. Studies show that serving foods rich in vitamin C—like strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes—supports iron absorption.

Safety considerations when introducing solids

Stay close and attentive. Caregiver supervision is one of the most effective ways to reduce your baby’s risk of choking. Though choking is unlikely, it is best for you and any caregiver who will supervise your baby’s mealtimes to be trained in infant CPR and First Aid.

Consult your baby’s doctor if there’s a family history of food allergies and/or your baby has moderate to severe eczema.

Introduce common allergens early and often if your baby does not have severe eczema and there’s no family history of food allergies. Common allergens include peanuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, sesame, soy, and wheat. Allergens should be offered one by one, waiting three to five days between each. Most reactions—like rash, vomiting, and diarrhea—will occur within 24 hours of exposure.

Learn more about the research

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. (2020). Chapter 6: Complementary Feeding. In R. E. Kleinman, & F. R. Greer (Eds.) Pediatric Nutrition (pp. 123-139). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Naylor, A. J., & Morrow, A. L. (2001). Developmental readiness of normal full term infants to progress from exclusive breastfeeding to the introduction of complementary foods: Reviews of the relevant literature concerning infant immunologic, gastrointestinal, oral motor and maternal reproductive and lactational development. Washington, DC: Wellstart International and the LINKAGES Project/Academy for Educational Development.


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Posted in: 5 - 6 Months, 7 - 8 Months, Eating and Drinking, Feeding, Baby Care, Health, Child Development

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