A Guide to Starting Solids
4 min read • By: Gerber Medical Hub
The feeding journey for babies begins around their first year when they need iron from solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting solids around 6 months when the baby has good head control and shows interest in food. Tips for successful feeding include choosing a suitable time, using a soft spoon, and being patient with the baby's learning process. The game plan for introducing solids involves iron-fortified cereals followed by various fruits and vegetables. As the baby grows, different stages require nutrient-dense foods and a variety of nutritious options.
Table of contents
Let the feeding journey begin
Around the middle of their first year of life, babies need iron from the foods they eat — especially when they are breastfeeding. Iron-fortified baby cereal and baby meats help provide this important nutrient that supports your baby's healthy growth and brain development.
When is your baby ready for solid foods?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of age. Do not offer foods before 4 months, but waiting until after 6 months is also not recommended. Most babies are ready around 6 months. Talk with your pediatrician to be sure your child is developmentally ready before starting solid foods.
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods include:
- Has good head control
- Sits up with help or support
- Brings objects to their mouth
- Seems interested in your food
Tips for a successful first solid food experience
For those first attempts at eating, pick a time of day when your baby is in good spirits, wide awake, and mildly hungry. You can give some breastmilk or formula before solids so they're not uncomfortably hungry.
Make sure your baby is sitting up and secured in a feeding or high chair. Use a soft, rubber-tipped spoon. Start by guiding the spoon to their mouth with your hand and your baby's hand together on the spoon.
Your baby's first tries at swallowing solid foods may be awkward and they may need practice. If food is rejected, offer a few more spoonfuls. Enjoy seeing your baby learn something new: how to eat solid foods.
Starting solids game plan for supported sitters 4-6 months
When mixing cereal for your baby's first feeding, mix 1 Tbsp. cereal with 4–5 Tbsp. of breastmilk or infant formula. This familiar taste helps your baby accept the new taste of cereal.
Iron-fortified baby cereal supports baby's healthy growth and brain development.
Start with a plain grain baby cereal, such as oatmeal or rice.
After a few days:
Introduce 1 new food from any food group — the order doesn't matter. Check for allergies by waiting about 3 days to watch for any reactions. Increase the amount of food gradually, to allow your baby time to learn how to swallow solids.
Continue cereal and add fruits and vegetables such as:
- Sweet potato
Gerber single-ingredient baby foods are an excellent way to introduce new foods.
In the following weeks:
Introducing a variety of foods is key to expose your baby to new tastes, flavors, and textures. During this time it is no longer necessary to avoid foods with allergens for most infants. Talk to your pediatrician about how to introduce common food allergens. It may take up to 10 tries for your little one to enjoy a new food. Don’t give up, and always introduce new foods with a smile and a happy voice!
You may be offering solid foods 2–3 times each day. Mix infant cereal into your baby’s favorite purees for a new thicker texture as they progress.
Hunger and fullness cues
Mealtime is your time together
Mealtime is bonding time and the perfect moment to learn more about your baby’s appetite. You’ll find out if they’re adventurous or cautious; hungry or full. All this will help you feed them in the way that suits them best. It’s called “responsive feeding,” and helps to set them up for more healthy eating habits.
Follow your baby's lead
Pay attention to signs of your baby’s hunger and fullness so you know when to start and stop feeding. Research shows that babies know how much they need. And they’ll tell you in many ways — smiling, reaching toward the spoon, and eagerly opening their mouths.
Signs your baby is full
Readiness cues for the next stages
Sitter: 6+ Months
- Sits independently
- Picks up and holds small objects in hands
- Reaches for spoon when hungry
- Uses upper lip to help clear food off spoon
Sitters need nutrient dense, complementary foods that help provide iron to the diet, such as baby cereals and meat. With your doctor’s go-ahead, you can offer foods such as peanut and egg in baby-safe forms once your baby is eating a variety of solid foods.
Crawler: 8+ Months
- Crawls with stomach off the floor
- May pull self up to stand
- Begins to self feed with fingers
- Begins to use jaw to mash food
Crawlers are learning different textures and picking up foods to self feed. Make every bite count with fortified finger foods designed just for them. Encourage your baby to consume a variety of foods from all food groups and avoid added sugar. Include foods rich in iron and zinc, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Toddler: 12+ Months
- Stands alone and begins to walk alone
- Feeds self easily with fingers
- Begins to use spoon and fork
- Bites through a variety of textures
Toddlers need a daily variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Eat the rainbow of fruit and veggies — a variety of colors helps provide a variety of nutrients and helps limit sodium from salty snacks. Meats, eggs, whole grains, dairy, and toddler safe forms of nuts and seeds are important for protein, vitamins, and minerals.