how to start introducing food to babies
Babies, Nutrition, Tips / How-Tos

How to Start Introducing Solid Foods to Babies

Introducing solids to your baby can be intimidating. With safety and nutrition top of mind, we’d like to help simplify the introduction process. Starting on solid foods allows babies to get accustomed to eating, establish a feeding routine, learn about textures and experience using utensils. Our guide will help you transition your baby during their first year of life as they explore the diversity of solid foods.

Ready to start solids?

Prior to introducing solids, make sure your baby is developmentally ready. Consider the following readiness cues and benchmarks. Is your baby:

  1. Holding their head up without assistance?
  2. Sitting up without assistance?
  3. Propping up on their elbows while lying on their tummy?
  4. No longer sticking out their tongue automatically when something is put in their mouth (also called the “extrusion reflex”)?
  5. At least 4 months old?

When you’ve answered yes to these questions, and you’ve discussed starting solids with your pediatrician, we recommend introducing single ingredient purees. Don’t be surprised if your little one only eats a spoonful or two, as it can take a few days or even weeks before they learn to eat off a spoon. As you introduce solids, it is also important to remember that up until 12 months, babies should receive most of their nutritional needs from breast milk, formula or a combination of both.

What foods should I start with my baby?

Since babies are naturally inclined to prefer sweeter foods, it’s important to introduce vegetables prior to fruit in order to increase acceptance of more savory flavors. Additionally, when your baby starts eating, try one new puree every 2–3 days so your baby can get used to the new tastes and you can monitor for any allergic reactions.

Help your little one embark on their food journey by following these guidelines for choosing which purees to introduce.

Orange vegetables first

When first introducing solids, start with orange vegetable purees, like butternut squash, yam, sweet potato or pumpkin. These offer a natural sweetness that tends to be easily accepted by babies. Increased acceptance can lead to an eager eater, so if your baby has a good first experience with foods, they’ll be more likely to try other purees later on.

orange veggie purees for babies

Green veggies next

pea purees for babiesOnce your baby accepts orange veggies, begin incorporating green veggie purees to their eating schedule while continuing to offer orange veggies. Green bean, pea and zucchini purees are a great place to start. These are slightly bitter in taste, which means your baby might need some help adjusting to these new flavors. If your baby is having difficulty accepting green veggies alone, try mixing in some of an orange veggie puree to add a little sweetness.

Finally…fruit!

fruit puree for babiesWhile your baby continues to enjoy orange and green veggies, slowly start introducing naturally sweet fruit. Fruit purees such as mango, apple, strawberry and pear are great single ingredient purees to start. Once your baby enjoys the sweetness of fruit, they may be less eager to enjoy veggies. Consider offering these less frequently or towards the end of the meal.

Frequently asked questions about starting solids

1. Should I feed my baby rice cereal?

In addition to fruits and vegetables, single iron-fortified grains like rice are a popular choice for first foods due to their bland taste, smooth texture and low allergen risk. Until they are about five to six months old, most babies have adequate iron stores acquired in-utero, so at six months, we recommend introducing foods that naturally contain dietary iron and pose a low allergy risk. Rather than traditional rice cereal, consider trying more fiber-filled, nutrient-dense grains or legumes such as buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, beans or lentils.

2. What is the best way to introduce solids for the first time?

When your baby is first starting solid food, it’s important to start mealtime when your baby is hungry and eager to eat. We recommend offering food before breast milk or formula is offered. Learn how to encourage interest in mealtime and exploration of new tastes in our full post on tips for introducing solids to your baby

3. How much food should I offer per feeding? How many times should I offer purees to my baby throughout the day?

We recommend starting with three meals per day, offering a few spoonfuls at each “meal” and progressing as your baby shows interest.

4. How can I prevent food allergies for my kid?

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, allergists now recommend introducing certain foods as early as 4–6 months, which may reduce the potential of an allergen risk. Be sure to discuss introducing allergens with your pediatrician before starting solids. For more information on food allergies in children, check out our two part blog series with Dr. Steve Handoyo of the University of Chicago: Part 1, Part 2.

Starting solids with your baby is meant to be a time for food exploration and motor skill development. Remember that each baby is different and their starting solids experience will likely deviate from fellow babies’ experiences.

If you have questions or would like further guidance in designing the meal plan that is best for your child, feel free to contact our team here at Nurture Life.

Lara Field at Nurture Life

Lara Field

Lara has been working with Nurture Life since its inception, collaborating with the culinary team on the creation of all menus and recipes to ensure they are nutritionally appropriate and correctly proportioned for every age and stage of a child’s development and providing pediatric nutrition expertise to Nurture Life customers. Lara is the owner/founder of FEED—Forming Early Eating Decisions, a nutrition consulting practice specializing in pediatric nutrition and digestive diseases. Lara has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Lara received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Lara truly enjoys the process of eating (and feeding!), from procuring the ingredients at various grocery stores and farmers markets, to organizing her pantry/refrigerator at home to make it easy to select healthy options, to preparing balanced meals with her children. Whether it be a decadent treat to a hearty, home-cooked meal, there is no greater satisfaction for Lara than enjoying food with her family.