Solids 101: The Beginner's Guide to Starting Baby Food

Bring on the bib! Bite-size meals are big-time fun.

Solids 101 Baby Eating Food Marley Kate
Is Baby Ready?

The timing of your little one’s first solid meal, whether right at 4 months or closer to 6 months, depends on her neurodevelopment. “You should only introduce solids when your baby is ready. All babies don’t roll over or walk at the same time, and they shouldn’t eat solids at the same time,” says Frank R. Greer, M.D., an infant-feeding specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. How will you know? Once your sweetie passes the 4-month mark, watch for these signs:

  1. She has good head control.
  2. She can sit up with support.
  3. She picks up things and puts them in her mouth.
  4. She joins you at meals and shows interest in what you are eating.
  5. She has lost the newborn tongue reflex that pushes out anything that’s put in her mouth. 

How To Get Started

The rules aren’t as strict as they used to be. You can start with whole-grain cereal, fruits, veggies, or even pureed meat, says Mark R. Corkins, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis. Whatever you choose, prepare yourself for rejection. The unfamiliar tastes and textures will probably be a shock to your baby. Go slow, depositing a tiny amount on the tip of his tongue. He’ll likely spit out more than he swallows at first, but that doesn’t mean he’s picky. It means he’s a baby! And when he turns his head or swats away the spoon, he’s telling you he’s done for the moment, so go with that. “We don’t want solids to displace breast milk or formula,” Dr. Corkins explains. Some babies do best eating before breast—or bottle—feeding, others afterward, so experiment. 

Tip: 2 tbsp is the amount considered a full meal for a new eater.

Encourage It

Even if your baby gets the okay for solids, she may not open wide. How to motivate your newbie eater:

  1. Dine together. Put her in the high chair when you’re eating, and regularly offer food—don’t force it, suggests Dr. Corkins.
  2. Be persistent. Keep serving those green beans or carrots. It takes some babies up to ten times before they accept certain foods.
  3. Train her taste buds. Babies exposed to many flavors before age 1 are more likely to eat a wide variety of healthy foods as they get older.

Allergy Alert

In the past, parents were told to hold off on allergenic foods like nuts until after the first birthday, but research shows that early exposure may actually reduce a child’s risk of allergies. Discuss the issue with your pediatrician; if you get the go-ahead, you can start by stirring a little bit of peanut butter into a puree at about 7 months.