Closeup of orange baby spoon.

Essential nutrition for your older baby

A guide for transitioning to solid foods for babies

Is your baby ready for solid foods?

Feeding solid foods can be a fun time for you and your baby — new tastes, textures, and flavors. But you also might be balancing work and home life now. And with all of these changes, you probably have a lot of questions about solid foods and finger foods for babies.

Talk to your health care professional before you begin, but here is some information to help you get ready for this exciting time and make the transition go smoothly.

When to introduce solid foods to babies

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, solid foods can be introduced to babies between 4 and 6 months old. At this age, babies learn to use their tongue to move food to the back of the mouth, and mouth reflexes are developed enough to let them swallow solid foods.

To ease the transition, the makers of Similac® suggest combining cereal with baby formula or breast milk for your baby’s first solid-food experience. In a bowl or cup, mix 4 to 5 tablespoons of breast milk or Similac baby formula, such as Similac® Advance®, with 1 to 2 tablespoons of single-grain cereal. Warm it up, but do not make it hot. Always test the temperature before giving it to your baby.

Here are some more tips:

  • At first, try giving your baby solid food for only one feeding each day. If your baby will not eat it, try introducing it again in a few days.
  • Choose a time of day that is the least stressful for you, and a time when your baby is not too hungry. Many parents find midmorning or midafternoon an ideal time.

About baby food allergies

Introduce only one new finger food at a time, waiting three to five days before introducing any other new foods to check for allergies. Milk, egg, or peanut allergies occur in up to about 5% of babies. If you think your baby is allergic to a food you have fed him, wait a week before trying it again. If your baby has a similar reaction, such as fussiness after eating, he's probably sensitive to that food.

Note: If your baby's symptoms include coughing, a rash, diarrhea, or vomiting, call your pediatrician immediately. If your baby is having difficulty breathing, call 911.

Learn more about baby food allergies or visit the Tummy Trouble Tool to troubleshoot almost any feeding issue.

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Your baby’s first bites: one food at a time

Your baby is not walking yet, but it might be time to take baby steps when it comes to feeding your baby solid foods. Every baby is different, but yours will let you know how much she wants to eat and what she likes and dislikes. She also will eat different amounts on different days. When introducing solid foods, begin with single-ingredient foods. Wait three to five days before introducing each new food to check for allergies.

Most pediatricians recommend starting with a single-grain cereal, because it is easier for babies to digest. Once your baby has tried a single-grain cereal, and when you are both ready, you can introduce your baby to single-ingredient foods, such as any Stage 1 jarred baby food. Here is some basic information to help you and your baby get started.

Is your baby ready for single-grain cereals?

The answer is yes if, between 4 and 6 months, your baby can:

  • Sit with support.
  • Hold her head up and turn away when full.
  • Take food from a spoon and learn to swallow.

Tips for introducing single-grain cereals to your baby

  • Start with a small amount and increase gradually. Even a teaspoonful is enough for some beginners. Start with 4 to 5 tablespoons of breast milk or Similac® formula in a bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice cereal. Gradually increase the amount of cereal, for a thicker consistency, as your baby becomes accustomed to eating from a spoon.
  • Babies usually respond better to the first feedings of cereal if it is thin rather than thick.
  • Put a small amount of warm cereal on the tip of a rubber-coated spoon and place it in your baby's mouth.
  • Do not be surprised if at first the food comes right back out. Your baby has been nursing, or sucking from a bottle, and the natural instinct is to use the same mouth and tongue movements, which is what causes some of the food to be pushed out.
  • Starting solid foods helps your baby transition from a totally liquid diet of breast milk or Similac formula, so your baby might not swallow much at first.
  • As your baby becomes accustomed to eating from a spoon, you can make the cereal thicker and increase the amount. You can begin to offer two to three feedings a day.

Is your baby ready for single-ingredient jarred foods?

The answer is yes after your baby has tried cereal, and can:

  • Sit with support.
  • Hold her head up and turn away when full.
  • Take food from a spoon and swallow.

Tips for introducing single-ingredient jarred foods to your baby

  • Introduce one new food to your baby at a time over the course of three to five days to check for food allergies.
  • Start with a small amount and increase gradually. Even a teaspoonful is enough for some beginners.
  • Do not feed your baby directly from the jar. The bacteria from your baby's saliva will make the food deteriorate.
  • Your baby should only be fed when sitting up.

Do solid foods help your baby sleep through the night?

There is no scientific evidence that feeding your baby solids early in the evening helps her sleep through the night. Babies fed solids early do not sleep through the night any sooner than babies not fed solids early. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that solids can be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.

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Adding variety to mealtime: finger foods for babies

Now that your baby is eating single-ingredient foods regularly, she probably wants to try more foods. From about 6 months, you can add combination foods to your baby's diet for extra variety and flavor. Here are some basic tips and guidelines to help you and your baby get started.

Is your baby ready for combination foods?

The answer is yes when your baby is about 6 months old, and can:

  • Sit well without support.
  • Keep his head upright while sitting.
  • Eat a wide variety of single-ingredient foods.
  • Eat solid foods about three times a day.

Tips for introducing combination foods to your baby

  • Check the ingredients. If your baby was sensitive to any single food, make sure it is not a part of any combination foods. Introduce only one new ingredient at a time, waiting three to five days before introducing any other new foods to check for baby allergies.
  • Keep single foods in your baby's diet. For example, offer your baby a favorite single-grain cereal from time to time for variety.
  • Feed your baby breast milk or Similac formula at each mealtime. It is a vital part of your baby's diet for the first 12 months.
  • Do not worry if your baby refuses to eat, is fussy, or turns away. Try again later.

Does your baby dislike a certain food?

If your baby makes a funny face, it does not mean she dislikes the food. Your baby will need time to adjust to a new taste. Use the new food for your baby's first bite of solids for a few days. The first day you try new food, your baby might make a face and spit the food out. The second day your baby usually will swallow the first bite but might refuse the second. But if you continue this pattern, your baby probably will develop a taste for new foods — even strong-tasting vegetables.

Is it time for your baby to use a cup?

With a little help, your baby can start drinking from a cup as early as 6 months.
Drinking from a cup can help wean your baby from the breast or bottle later on. Wait until your baby can sit up unsupported. Look for a spill-proof baby cup with a spout.

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Introducing more flavors and textures into your baby’s solid foods

From about 8 months, you can keep adding new foods with more complex tastes and textures to your baby's diet. Your baby might want more "grown-up" foods; however, be sure to offer a balanced diet by introducing Stage 3 foods.

Is your baby ready for complex tastes?

The answer is yes when your baby is about 8 months old, and:

  • Can pull up from a sitting to a standing position
  • Can walk by holding on to furniture
  • Wants to eat with her fingers
  • Mashes food well with her gums or teeth
  • Enjoys a variety of tastes and textures

Blending your baby’s mealtime and playtime

Your baby probably is trying to feed himself with a spoon now, often without much success, and might be enjoying his new eating skills. You can help your baby learn and have fun by letting him hold on to the spoon while feeding. Letting your baby play with his food is a healthy part of development because it allows him to practice grasping, painting, picking up, stacking, and throwing — which might encourage him to eat while he touches.

You also can start introducing foods with new textures, such as oatmeal, noodles, and peas. Your baby also will like chewing on hard but dissolvable foods while teething.

Choking hazards for babies

Your baby can potentially choke on any object that is more than a half-inch in diameter. Never give your baby popcorn, hot dogs, whole grapes, or fruit with seeds, such as cherries. And, of course, never give your baby any nuts or seeds.

Have you noticed a yellow tinge to your baby's skin?

This could be a harmless condition known as carotenemia, but check with your health care professional. Babies can turn yellow with as little as 2 tablespoons of pureed carrots every day for five to seven weeks. The color will subside if you stop feeding carotene-rich foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and peaches, for a couple of days.

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The truth about food allergies in babies

As you start solid foods, introducing your baby to one new food for three to five days at a time is a good way to check for allergic reactions in your baby.

What are the most common food allergies in babies?

  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy products
  • Wheat

Other problem foods for babies

Fresh strawberries sometimes can cause food reactions in babies. Cooked strawberries usually do not because heat pasteurization destroys the substance responsible for reactions.

Some potentially high-allergen foods usually not fed to babies are fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts. Any food can cause an allergy. Check with your health care professional if your baby shows any sign of an allergic reaction.

How to recognize an allergic reaction in your baby

Baby food allergy reactions vary greatly. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, skin rash, coughing, runny nose, or watery eyes. If you see anything unusual in your baby when you add a new food, call your health care professional immediately.Introducing just one new food every three to five days can help you detect a food that triggers an allergic reaction. If your baby is fussy after eating a specific food, you can find help by troubleshooting the problem with the Tummy Trouble Tool.

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Dos and don’ts for feeding your baby solid foods

Even though talking is still months away, your baby might be telling you something. These dos and don’ts will help you figure out your baby’s feeding signals and make the transition to solid foods as easy as possible for both of you.

Getting your baby started with solids

  • DO remember that breast milk or Similac baby formula is still your baby's main source of nutrition for the first full year.
  • DON'T start your baby on solids earlier than about 4 months (unless your health care professional tells you otherwise). Your baby might not be ready for them.

Tips for mealtime success with your baby

  • DO make sure your baby is hungry, but not starving. A small "appetizer" of breast milk or Similac formula before feeding solids is recommended. Select a time of day that is the least stressful for you, and make sure you have plenty of time.
  • DO keep a sense of humor. Early feedings can be unproductive, challenging, messy, and comical.

Recognizing signs of hunger and fullness in your baby

  • DO learn to read your baby's signals. Feed your baby when you see these cues: Your baby eagerly swallows every bite, follows the spoon with his eyes, and becomes impatient if not fed fast enough.
  • DON'T continue feeding your baby if you see these cues: He turns his head away, refuses to open his mouth, or cries when you try feeding him.

Ingredients and new foods for your baby

  • DO wait three to five days to add each new food to your baby's diet. This is so you can detect any allergic reaction your baby might have to a certain food. If your baby is fussy after eating a specific food, you can find help by troubleshooting the problem with the Tummy Trouble Tool.
  • DON'T season baby food. Babies do not need added salt or sugar.

Baby feeding methods

  • DO serve baby food from a small bowl. Feeding your baby directly from a jar can encourage bacteria growth. Your baby's saliva can make the food watery.
  • DON'T put your baby to bed with a bottle. This can promote "baby-bottle mouth," a form of tooth decay.
  • DO gently stir and test the temperature of any food from the microwave before serving it to your baby. Make sure the temperature is warm, not hot.
  • DON'T feed cereals or other solid foods through a bottle, unless your health care professional directs you to do so. Cereal in a bottle might cause your baby to gag or choke.
  • DON'T feed your baby in a reclining position because of the danger of gagging or choking.

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