May 10, 2024
Starting solid foods
May 10, 2024
Starting solid foods

Solid foods 101: introducing first foods

Right when you think you’ve become the expert in milk feeds, solid food enters the chat and shakes up your routine (yet again!). Whether you're a first-time parent or experienced pro, we're here to guide you through the process of introducing solids. We'll cover signs of readiness, recommended foods, allergen introduction, and provide the top tips and tricks to make this a smooth and happy transition for both you and your baby. Don't worry, we're here to support you every step of the way.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC
Medically reviewed by
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC

When should I introduce solid foods?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests introducing complementary foods around six months, when babies start to show signs of developmental readiness. At six months, babies continue to depend on breastmilk and/or formula as their primary source of nutrition. However, solid foods are introduced at this age to complement and support their evolving nutritional and developmental needs.

Signs of readiness

Here are some signs that your baby might be ready for solids, which usually show up around the six month mark:

  • Your baby can sit with little support.
  • Your baby has steady head control.
  • Your baby is eagerly watching when you eat and seems interested in food.
  • Your baby has mastered bringing objects to their mouth.

Which foods should I introduce to my child first?

We suggest introducing a diverse range of foods right from the beginning. This way, babies are exposed to a variety of colors, textures, flavors, and food groups right from the start. You can offer multiple foods at once and in any order you prefer. Feel free to mix it up—whether it's bananas, avocado, chicken, or all three at once. The goal is to have fun and enjoy this exciting milestone.


When babies turn 6 months old, their iron needs increase to 11 milligrams per day. To help meet these needs and ensure they’re getting enough iron, we recommend incorporating iron rich foods into your baby’s diet early on. This is especially important for breastfed babies because breast milk doesn’t have enough iron. Here are some examples of iron rich foods:

  • Iron-fortified infant cereal
  • Lentils
  • White beans
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Edamame (allergen)
  • Nuts (allergen)
  • Tofu (allergen)
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Black beans

Food groups

The goal is to introduce a wide variety of foods. Young babies are incredibly curious and eager to learn. They're more receptive to trying new foods and textures at this age compared to when they're toddlers and may have stronger preferences or be more hesitant about new things. That's why we suggest introducing as much diversity as possible from the beginning—different food groups, colors, flavors, and textures. Herbs and spices are a fun way to mix in flavor to get those little palettes excited! Here are some examples broken down by food group:


  • Chicken
  • Ground beef
  • Dairy - plain whole milk yogurt or cheese (allergen)
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Eggs (allergen)
  • Fish and shellfish (allergen)
  • Tofu (allergen)


  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini
  • Butternut squash
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin


  • Strawberries
  • Blueberry
  • Raspberry
  • Blackberry
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Mango
  • Peach


  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts/nut butter (allergen)
  • Butter (allergen)
  • Seed/seed butter
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Hemp seeds


You have two options: you can introduce purees or mashed foods and/or try baby-led weaning (BLW) by offering soft finger foods. Purees can range from very thin to thick textures, like thin applesauce or a thick soup. Finger foods should be soft enough that you can easily squish them between your fingers. Avoid giving hard, sharp, gummy, or sticky foods (like thick, globby peanut butter), as they can be choking hazards.


When introducing finger foods, the goal is to offer options that babies can easily pick up. Since babies haven't developed the pincer grasp yet (which usually happens around 8 or 9 months), they rely on their palmar grasp to hold finger food with their whole hand. Finger-shaped foods or long spear-shaped pieces are easiest for babies to grab. When cutting finger foods into spears, use your pinky finger as a guide for length. If the food is cut too short, it might get trapped in their palm, making it frustrating for them to eat. It should be long enough so that when babies hold the food in their palm, the ends stick out for them to easily eat and enjoy.

Stay away from small, round foods like whole blueberries, chickpeas, or grapes as they can pose a choking risk. These tiny, circular items can block the airway and may lead to true choking.

All about allergens

Starting solids can be a source of worry and anxiety for many parents because of the fear of potential allergic reactions. It’s important to note that most foods aren't considered allergens, and only 8% of children in the United States are affected by food allergies. Recent research suggests that introducing allergenic foods early and frequently can significantly decrease the risk of developing a food allergy. We recommend offering allergens to your baby when they start solids. The nine major allergens include:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Soy
  • Sesame
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

How to introduce allergens

While non-allergenic foods can be introduced together without a waiting period, allergens require a more careful and spaced-out approach when introducing them to babies. Here are some some guidelines to follow when introducing allergens to your baby:

  • Introduce one allergen over the course of 3 or 4 days.
  • Plan to increase the dose gradually if there's no reaction. Begin with a small amount, like ⅛-¼ of a teaspoon on the first day.
  • Symptoms of a reaction can occur within minutes, hours, or even days after exposure.
  • Once you confirm that your baby isn't allergic to a certain food, aim to offer it 1-2 times per week. Regular exposure can also help reduce the risk of developing a food allergy.

Symptoms of allergic reactions

Allergic reactions can vary, and may appear differently in each child. Symptoms can range from mild and manageable to severe and potentially life-threatening.  Symptoms of allergic reactions may include:

  • Skin reactions - itching, hives, swelling
  • Gastrointestinal reactions - mild to severe gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting
  • Respiratory reactions - shortness of breath, wheezing, anaphylaxis
  • Cardiovascular reaction - anaphylaxis

Allergic reactions can occur immediately after exposure or hours later. When introducing allergens, we suggest offering them early in the morning. This way, you have a whole day to monitor for signs and symptoms. If you notice a severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis or difficulty breathing, it requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 or emergency services immediately, and request an ambulance.

If you suspect your child has a food allergy, set up an appointment with your child's pediatrician to discuss next steps.

Tips and tricks when starting solids

Starting solids can feel overwhelming, especially for first-time parents. Here are some tips and tricks to help ease this transition for both you and your baby:

  1. Try introducing solid foods roughly 30-90 minutes before or after a breastmilk or formula feeding. The goal is to find the sweet spot when your baby is hungry enough for solids but not too full from milk.
  2. Give a baby some food, and you're guaranteed to have a mess, but that's all part of the fun! Allow your baby to explore this new sensory experience. But even though it can get messy, there are ways to minimize it and cut down on cleanup time. Invest in an easy-to-clean highchair, some comfortable bibs, and consider using a splat mat or disposable tablecloth under the highchair to catch spills and crumbs.
  3. Babies are excellent at regulating their hunger and fullness. They naturally eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. Let them eat as much or as little as they want, and they'll give you cues when they're satisfied or still hungry. Hunger cues may include smacking their lips, sticking out their tongue, licking their lips, or showing interest in that uneaten sandwich on your plate. Fullness cues might involve turning their head away from the spoon, closing their mouth, or becoming fussy or irritable at mealtime.
  4. Remember, babies don't eat a lot when they start solid foods. It's typical for them to push their food around, only eat a spoonful or two, and then be finished with mealtime. If your baby isn't showing much interest at first, don't worry too much. It takes time and practice for them to get the hang of it.
  5. It's completely normal for babies to make funny faces or even spit out food during the first few days, or even months, of starting solids. This transition introduces them to a whole new sensory experience because up until this point, their diet consisted solely of milk. Solid food introduces a variety of flavors and textures that they're not used to yet. However, with repeated exposure, they’ll gradually become more accustomed to new tastes. Remember, it takes time and plenty of practice for them to adjust.
  6. Regardless of whether you go the pureed food route or the baby led weaning one, there's no wrong way. Mealtime should be fun, enjoyable, and a happy time to connect with your baby. Do what works best for you, your baby, and your family.
  7. Remember, breastmilk or formula are still the primary source of nutrition for your baby.
  8. If you decide to make homemade baby food, purchase silicone ice cube trays (with lids) or storage containers to store leftovers in your freezer. You'll thank yourself later when you stumble upon a stash of leftover sweet potatoes, or homemade carrot-applesauce.
  9. Lastly, feel free to reach out to your child’s pediatrician, or one of Summer Health’s pediatricians and registered dietitians for additional guidance and support.

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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