Breast milk or formula is the only food babies need for the first 4 to 6 months of life, at which point solid foods can be gradually introduced. Ideally, your baby will be fed only breast milk until 6 months of age. Before you start offering solid foods, talk to your doctor. He or she will want to be certain that your baby is physically and developmentally ready. And although breast-fed babies get the best possible nutrition, they will probably need certain vitamin or nutritional supplements to maintain or improve their health, especially iron. After 4 months of age, your baby will probably not get enough iron from breast milk alone. Your doctor may prescribe a liquid iron supplement until your baby gets enough iron from iron-fortified formulas or foods high in iron. Breast-fed babies born prematurely may be prescribed a liquid iron supplement by 1 month of age.
Your baby may be ready to start eating solid foods if he or she:
When you and your doctor have determined your baby is ready to start eating solid foods, keep these general guidelines in mind.
It's best to keep these specific guidelines in mind, too:
As you introduce new foods, it is important to pay attention to your baby's cues. When your baby's head turns away from a spoonful of food, don't force it. But try again later. Let your baby tell you when he or she is full. Also, it may help to introduce new foods when your baby is well rested and there are no distractions, such as a TV.
As your baby learns to feed himself or herself, keep in mind that your job is to provide a variety of nutritious foods, but your baby will decide how much to eat. It may take more than 10 times before your child accepts a new food.4
Your baby will quickly gain new eating skills, such as chewing, swallowing, and using cups and utensils, at about 6 to 12 months of age. Offer your baby a variety of nutritious foods and gradually allow him or her to explore different tastes and textures. Try to be patient as your baby experiments and learns, and be tolerant of messes. Your baby will likely enjoy playing with a spoon, but most of the food will fall off it. It's natural for your baby to "make a mess" while learning about food. Until your baby can handle a spoon better, you can give your baby a clean spoon to hold while you feed him or her with a different spoon.
To help reduce your cleanup, use a child's high chair that has a detachable tray and raised rims. The rims on the tray help keep dishes and food from sliding off. And you can carry the tray to the sink for cleaning. Cover the seat with a removable, washable pad. Also, think about covering the floor around the high chair. Remember—your child is learning by experimenting.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age four months through seven months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 217–247. New York: Bantam.
- Heird WC (2007). The feeding of infants and children. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed., pp. 214–225. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- Kimmel SR, Ratliff-Schaub K (2007). Growth and development. In RE Rakel, ed., Textbook of Family Medicine, 7th ed., pp. 555–584. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0–3 years of age). Pediatrics, 126(5): 1040–1050. Available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/126/5/1040.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||November 4, 2011|
Last Revised: November 4, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.