Introducing solid foods is one of the most exciting (if messy) milestones of your baby's first year. Think of all the tastes and textures that await your little one — from savory cheese and scrambled egg to juicy mango and creamy avocado. There's a whole world of flavors to discover and explore, and starting solids is the first step.

Encourage your baby to enjoy herself while trying new foods, even if a good portion of them ends up on her bib, the high chair tray or the floor. It's all part of taking those taste buds to the next level.

When do babies start eating solid foods?

Most babies are ready to start solids[1] between the ages of 4 and 6 months, though experts recommend waiting until closer to 6 months in many cases. Your little one's development will play a part in determining when it’s time for her to graduate to a more varied diet.

Though you might be eager to hop on the feeding bandwagon sooner rather than later, there are plenty of reasons why starting a baby on solids too soon isn't smart.[2]

First, a very young baby's digestive system is not developmentally ready for solids. Young babies tend to involuntarily reject any foreign substances placed in their mouths, and they lack some critical enzymes that help break down food. 

Plus, solids aren't necessary early on — babies can meet all their nutritional needs for the first six months of life with breast milk, formula or a combination of the two.

Bringing on the solids prematurely can also undermine future eating habits — your baby may initially reject those spoonfuls simply because she isn't ready, and then turn her nose up again later because of previous parental pushing. And introducing solids too soon can lead to obesity later in childhood, especially in formula-fed babies.

On the other hand, waiting too long to offer solid food — until 9 months or later — can also lead to potential pitfalls. An older baby may resist trying the challenging, new tricks of chewing and swallowing solids, preferring to cling to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding (which are easier, more familiar ways to eat). And, like habits, tastes can be harder to change at this point. Unlike a more adaptable younger baby, an older baby may not be as open to solids when milky liquids have been monopolizing the menu.

Some parents choose to adopt an approach called baby-led weaning, which bypasses pureed solids in favor of foods served in thick, long pieces that younger babies can hold in their fists and gnaw on (whether or not they have any teeth yet).

If you're trying baby-led weaning, you'll want to wait until around the 6-month mark to start solids, when baby is able to grasp a food and bring it to her mouth, as well as hold and gum the kinds of foods you’ll be offering. Just remember that it will be a few months until she's able to make the leap to finger foods requiring the pincer grasp, which usually develops around month 8.

What are signs my baby is ready for solid food?

To decide if your baby is ready for solid food, look for the following clues — and be sure to consult your doctor:

  • Your baby can hold her head up well when propped to sit. Even strained baby foods should not be offered until your little one can sit up. Chunkier foods should wait until a baby can sit well alone, usually not until 7 months or so.
  • The tongue thrust reflex has disappeared. Try this test: Place a tiny bit of baby-appropriate food thinned with breast milk or formula into your child’s mouth from the tip of a baby spoon or your clean finger. If the food comes right back out again repeatedly after several tries, the tongue thrust reflex is still active, and your little eater isn't ready for spoon-feeding just yet.
  • Your baby reaches for and otherwise shows an interest in table foods. If your cutie is grabbing the fork out of your hand or watching every bite you take intently, that may be a sign she's hungry for more grown-up fare.
  • Your baby is able to make back-and-forth and up-and-down movements with the tongue. How can you tell? Just watch her carefully.
  • Your little one can open her mouth wide. That’s a sign your baby will be able to eat food from a spoon comfortably and safely.

How to introduce solid foods to baby

One of the first and most effective steps in raising a good eater is to model healthy enjoyment of food yourself. Babies who see adults happily eating good food are more likely to be interested in following their example.

A few more tips to help your baby discover solids:

  • Time it right. The "perfect" time of day to feed your baby is whatever time works for your family. If you're breastfeeding, you might try solids when your milk supply is at its lowest (probably late afternoon or early evening). Experiment: Offer a first course of formula or breast milk to whet baby’s appetite, then bring on the solids. Start with one meal a day, then move up to two (probably a morning and evening meal) for the next month or so.
  • Monitor baby's mood. As trying as those first feedings may be for you, they're even more of a challenge for your child. So keep in mind that a baby who's cheerful and alert is more likely to open wide for an incoming spoon, while one who's fussy or sleepy may want only breast or bottle. If your baby seems cranky, be flexible — you might want to skip solids for the time being and try them again during the next meal.
  • Don't rush. Food is never fast when it comes to babies — you'd be surprised by how long it takes to get one small spoonful into that little mouth. Give yourself and your baby plenty of time for feedings — and get plenty of practice too. You'll need it.
  • Sit pretty. Holding a squirming baby on your lap while trying to put an unfamiliar substance into an unreceptive mouth is a perfect recipe for disaster. Before your baby actually takes that first bite, let her practice sitting in the high chair or feeding seat for a couple of days, or give her a baby-safe spoon to try on for size. And don't forget how wiggly your little worm can be — always fasten the safety straps, including the one around the crotch. Remember, if baby can’t sit up at all in her high chair (or other seat), it’s best to postpone solids until she can.
  • Gear up. Skip the silver spoon — a silicone, plastic or corn-based model with a small, soft bowl is much easier on tender gums. Count on having several on hand during feedings (one for you, one for baby and a spare when one lands on the floor) to foster your child’s sense of independence and avoid power struggles (yes, those happen even at this age). And while you're gearing up, a word to the wise: Don't forget to put a bib on baby right from the start or you'll face big-time resistance later.
  • Make some introductions. Before even attempting to bring spoon to mouth, put a dab of the food on the table or high chair tray and give your baby a chance to examine it, squish it, mash it, rub it and maybe even taste it. That way, when you do offer food on a spoon, it won't be totally unfamiliar.
  • Ease in. For a tiny person who's brand new to the concept of spoon-feeding — and all the textures that go with it — solids can come as a bit of a shock. So take it easy at first. Start by gently placing about a quarter teaspoon of food on the tip of baby's tongue. If that's swallowed, place the next quarter teaspoon a little farther back. At first, expect almost as much food to come in as goes out. Eventually, your little one will get the hang of spoon-feeding — and respond mouth-open.
  • Count on rejection. Even bland tastes can be acquired tastes for a brand new solids eater. Babies may reject a new food several times or more before they like it. So don't push when your little one bristles at mealtime. But do try again another time soon.
  • Invite imitation. What your baby sees, she may be more likely to do. It's an oldie but a goodie in the bag of parent tricks: Open up wide and take a pretend taste from the spoon. Don't forget to smack your lips and relish your make-believe bite enthusiastically!
  • Know when enough is enough. Realizing when it's time to stop feeding is as important as understanding when to start. A turned head or a clenched mouth are sure signs that baby is finished with this meal. Forcing your sweet pea to eat is usually a lost cause — and can actually set up future food fights.
  • Don't worry too much about portions. If most of what you serve your baby ends up on the floor or otherwise uneaten, it's often not cause for concern, especially during the first year when she’s getting most of her nutrients from breast milk, formula or a combo of the two. Worried about wasting food? You can help conserve by keeping serving sizes small. Your baby's first experiments with food are more about the "experiments" and less about “food” — getting experience vs. sustenance, in other words.

What are the best first foods for a baby?

No matter what's on the menu, if you're introducing solids in the form of purees (as opposed to trying baby-led weaning), the texture of your baby's first foods should be super smooth and practically dripping off the spoon. If you prepare your own baby food, you should strain, puree or finely mash it, then thin it with liquid if necessary.

As your baby becomes a more experienced eater (usually around 7 months or older), gradually reduce the liquid you add and thicken the texture.

Here are good first foods to start with if you’re spoon-feeding:

  • Cereal. Choose a single-grain, iron-enriched, whole grain variety like brown rice, whole grain oat or whole grain barley. Mix a small amount of baby cereal with formula, breast milk or even water to create a creamy "soup." Don't sweeten the taste by adding things like mashed bananas, applesauce or juice — first, because it's best to introduce only one food at a time, and second, because it's better for baby to acquire a taste for food without added sweeteners first.
  • Vegetables. Start with milder yellow or orange options like sweet potatoes and carrots before moving on to the green team, like peas and string beans, which have slightly stronger flavors. If your baby rejects what you give her, try again tomorrow and the next day and the next. Some babies need to be introduced to a new food 10 to 15 times before they'll accept it, so perseverance is key.
  • Fruit. Delicious, digestible first fruits include finely mashed bananas, baby applesauce, peaches and pears. For something completely different and baby-friendly, start with smoothed-down mashed or pureed ripe avocado — it's creamy, yummy and loaded with healthy fats.

Those early-bird specials (rice cereal, applesauce, bananas, yellow veggies) get pretty old after a few dozen meals. Spice things up (at around 7 or 8 months) by adding:

  • Minced meat (chicken, lamb, turkey or beef)
  • Mashed eggs
  • Whole milk yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Pasta
  • Beans
  • Tofu

At 8 months, you can start trying finger foods to add a whole other dimension to eating.

Ready to serve up a combo platter? That's fine, as long as you keep the foods separate for a while. Your goal is to get your baby acquainted (and happy) with the taste of particular foods, so if you mush the meats and veggies together, she may never know the joy of just plain peas. Once she likes the taste of a variety of different flavors, feel free to mix things up.

Always hold off on honey (which can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that is harmless to adults but can cause infantile botulism, a serious illness, in babies) and cow's milk until your baby is at least 1 year old. Most doctors these days will, however, green-light whole milk yogurt, cottage cheese and hard cheese by about 8 months (and sometimes sooner). And be sure to offer plenty of iron-rich foods, which are especially important at this stage, to your baby.

What should I know about food allergies when introducing solids?

Although it was once common to delay giving a baby certain foods like eggs, seafood, nuts and some dairy in the hopes of staving off allergies, the AAP no longer recommends doing so since the data shows that holding off on certain foods does not prevent food allergies.

In fact, the AAP now says that introducing allergenic foods like peanut butter earlier in a child's life — between 4 and 6 months and certainly by 11 months — actually reduces her chances of developing a food allergy. Just be sure you've successfully introduced a couple of other solids (cereals, fruits or vegetables) first, and introduce the foods one at a time at home (not, say, at baby's day care center).

What are the signs of a food allergy in babies to look out for?

While food allergies are relatively uncommon in babies (and some children will outgrow them by age 5), they have become more prevalent and do need to be taken seriously. Babies' reactions to food can range from gassiness, diarrhea or mucus in the stool to vomiting and rashes (these usually occur along with mouth swelling or itching). 

Other symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing that doesn't seem to be due to a cold, and unusual wakefulness or crankiness, day or night.

If you think your baby may be allergic to something you've fed her, speak to your pediatrician before offering it again. It's especially important to check in with your doctor if your baby seems to react to almost every new food you offer, or there's a history of allergies in your family.

How do I prevent choking when introducing solids?

Here's what to do to prevent choking when solid food is on the menu:

  • Stay close. At this point, eating should be a spectator sport, with you closely watching every bite your baby takes.
  • Start small. Cut food into pieces tiny enough that your baby can swallow them whole if she doesn't spend any time gumming them (enthusiastic eaters often gulp them down).
  • Get bigger slowly. As your baby gets used to eating pieces of soft, solid food (and as you get more comfortable watching her eat them successfully), gradually move up — from minced to chopped to small cubes.
  • Keep the portions baby-sized. Place only one or two chunks at a time on the plate or tray so she doesn't stuff in more than she can handle.
  • Stay seated. Not you, but baby. Offer finger foods to your baby only when she's sitting down — not crawling, cruising or toddling around. Eating on the run isn't just bad manners; it's unsafe for the inexperienced eater.

You also shouldn't give your baby foods that won't dissolve in the mouth, can't be mashed with the gums, or can be easily sucked into the windpipe.


  • Uncooked raisins
  • Whole peas (unless they are smashed)
  • Raw, firm-fleshed vegetables (carrots, bell peppers) 
  • Raw, firm-fleshed fruit (apples, unripe pears, grapes)
  • Large chunks of meat or poultry
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Chunky nut butters
  • Hot dogs

Gagging vs. choking: How can I tell the difference?

Alarming as it might seem, if your baby gags during her first encounter with any kind of food, her reaction is normal. When a baby gags, it's a sign that she has either taken in too much food or pushed it too far back in her mouth. In either case, the gag reflex is what helps her get that food all the way out of harm's way (and, usually, all the way back out onto the bib or tray in the process).

Make sure your baby is sitting upright in her chair, offer manageable servings and be sure to learn the difference between gagging and choking:

  • A child who is choking will look terrified, will not be making any sounds, and will be unable to breathe
  • A baby who is experiencing a gag reflex will be coughing and making sounds.
If all this sounds complicated, take heart: In some ways, feeding a baby is easier than satisfying sophisticated older palates. Baby's first solid foods can be served cold, slightly warmed or at room temperature. And don't worry about adding salt, sugar or other spices — even the mildest pureed squash is an adventurous new taste and sensation for a little one just starting out.