FAQ: Introducing Solid Foods

You’ve got questions, so we talked with infant and toddler feeding experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help answer them! As 1,000 Days released 12 bite-sized videos for parents about the introduction of solid foods, we quickly discovered that there are even more questions to answer. So we compiled the most frequently asked questions from our community and invited our friends at the CDC to help answer them. Dr. Heather Hamner, a health scientist, and Chloe Barrera, a CDC fellow, both played a lead role in developing CDC’s new Infant and Toddler Nutrition website, so they are very familiar with all things infant and toddler feeding. We are excited to share their answers to your questions!

My baby shows all of the developmental milestones of being ready to start solid foods, but he/she is not 6 months old yet. Is it important to wait until 6 months old?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your child is about 6 months old to begin introducing solid foods, but every child is different. If you notice your baby is able to sit with little or no support, has good head control, reaches for food or seems eager to eat, and can move objects toward his or her mouth then your baby may be ready for solid foods. Talk to your baby’s doctor or nurse to find out if your baby is ready to be introduced to solid foods. Visit CDC’s When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods to learn more.

What foods should I introduce my baby to first?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most babies, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your baby can eat a variety of foods from different food groups and can try meats, cereals, fruits, and vegetables all within the first month of introducing solid foods. Visit CDC’s When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods to learn more.

Is meat considered a good first food?

Meat is an excellent first food for your baby because it is high in iron and zinc. Iron and zinc are important nutrients that support growth and brain development. To provide these nutrients, pediatricians often recommend feeding infant cereals and small pieces of meat like beef, turkey, and chicken.

What are other foods besides meat that are rich in iron and appropriate for first foods?

Iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is most easily absorbed by the body. Good sources of heme iron include red meats, fatty fish, poultry, and eggs. Good sources of non-heme iron include iron-fortified infant cereals, tofu, beans and lentils, and dark green leafy vegetables. All of these are appropriate first foods for your baby. Visit CDC’s Iron page to learn more.

Should parents skip feeding their babies rice cereal all together?

There is no reason to skip feeding your child infant cereals. Infant cereals contain vitamins and minerals that are important for your child. Choose an infant cereal that is iron-fortified. If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for infants to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the US Food and Drug Administration to learn more.

At what age should my child be ready to try soft finger foods?

At about 6 months of age, you can begin introducing your child to solid foods. It’s important to give your child food with different textures to help him or her define fine motor skills, develop chewing skills, and to learn to accept a variety of foods. After 6 months, you can let your child try foods that are smooth, mashed or lumpy, and finely chopped or ground. Your child may start out with smooth or mashed foods and then begin to eat soft finger foods as he or she gets older. Encourage your child to pinch or pick up foods as he or she develops these skills. By the time your child is 12 months old, he or she should be able to easily feed themselves with his or her fingers. Visit CDC’s Fingers, Spoons, Forks, and Cups page to learn more.

Why is honey bad for infants? Is it okay to cook with honey or give my child foods with honey in it?

Honey may cause botulism, a serious type of food poisoning, in children younger than 12 months. Before your child is 12 months old do not give him or her any foods containing honey including yogurt with honey and cereals or crackers with honey, such as honey graham crackers.

Is it okay to give my baby prune juice for constipation before they are 12 months old?

In some instances, pediatricians may suggest babies drink juice to help with constipation. Parents should talk with their child’s doctor to see if this is needed.

Is watered down juice OK for babies to drink?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should not drink any juice (even 100% juice) before they are 12 months of age. This includes watered down juice. After 12 months, pediatricians recommend 4 ounces or less of 100% juice a day. Visit CDC’s Foods and Drinks to Limit to learn more.

Is any type of milk safe for my baby to drink before 12 months old?

No, your child should not drink cow’s milk or other animal or alternative milk (including soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, etc.) before he or she is 12 months old. Before your child is 12 months old, drinking cow’s milk may put him or her at risk for intestinal bleeding. It also has too many proteins and minerals for your infant’s kidneys to handle and does not have the right amount of nutrients your child needs. The only types of milk your child needs before 12 months are breast milk or infant formula. Learn more about when to introduce your baby to cow’s milk by visiting CDC’s Fortified Cow’s Milk and Milk Alternatives

Is cow’s milk an ingredient in infant formula?

The ingredients in infant formula can be found on the formula label. Some infant formulas contain cow’s milk as their protein base and other infant formulas contain soy as their protein base. Talk to your baby’s doctor or nurse about the type of formula that is best for your baby.

If I let my baby decide how much he wants to eat, wouldn’t he eat too much or too little?

Before your child can talk, he or she will show signs of hunger or fullness by using sounds and movements. Understanding your child’s signs are important to help you know when and how often to feed your child. Letting your child decide how much he or she wants to eat is best. Some days your child will eat more than others, that’s okay. Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse if you are concerned about how much or how little he or she is eating. Visit CDC’s Signs Your Child Is Hungry or Full to learn more.

Do you really need to wait a few days before introducing a new food? Or is this recommended only for common allergenic foods?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start by introducing one food at a time and waiting 3 to 5 days between each new food. This helps you see how your child reacts to a new food. This is recommended for every type of food, not just for the common allergens.

What are common allergenic foods? When and how should they be introduced?

The most common allergenic foods associated with infant allergies are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shell fish, tree nuts and seeds, peanuts, wheat, and soy. There is no evidence that waiting to introduce allergenic foods will prevent food allergies and some evidence shows that delaying the introduction of the food may actually increase the risk of allergy. Talk with your child’s doctor to find out what is best for your baby when it comes to introducing allergenic foods.