Whether you’re transitioning your baby from breastmilk or formula, moving to solid food is a big step. Generally, babies can be introduced to solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age — but the right moment will differ for each baby.
It’s important to assess your baby’s individual development, rather than relying on a general rule of thumb. Once you see signs that your baby is ready, start offering simple foods one at a time, such as pureed vegetables or fruits — you can buy prepared baby food or puree veggies yourself at home. If your baby starts crying, pushes the food away, or turns their head away from it, don’t force it. Every baby is different, and the goal is to make mealtime an enjoyable experience. Wait a few days, reassess the signs of readiness, and try again.
How can you know if it’s the right time to pull out the baby food? Here are five signs your baby is ready to graduate from milk to solids. Consult with a pediatrician to make sure you’re reading the signs correctly — your doctor will be able to confirm whether your little one is ready for a diet beyond breast milk or formula.
1. Your Baby Can Hold Their Head Up
Can your baby confidently hold their head up when sitting? If you no longer need to help prop their head, this is a sign they could be ready to step into solid foods. The ability to sit up while eating (in a high chair or infant chair) and hold head straight are important for chewing and swallowing foods safely. Until your baby can hold their head up, they shouldn’t be offered solids (and chunky solids should wait until your baby can sit unassisted, usually at 7 months or older).
2. Your Baby Has Doubled In Weight
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies may be ready to begin eating solids when their birth weight has doubled and they’ve reached at least 13 pounds. If your baby is below that weight, you may want to hold off on the pureed vegetables and stick to formula or breastmilk.
3. Your Baby’s Tongue-Thrust Reflex is Gone
Your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex is helpful while they’re young because it keeps your baby from choking on foreign objects, but it needs to go away before you introduce solid food. This reflex usually fades out sometime after 4 months; you can test it by placing a tiny bit of baby food thinned with milk in your baby’s mouth. If their tongue immediately pushes it out, they’re not ready for a spoonful of food yet.
4. Your Baby is Interested in Your Food
Has your baby started eyeing your food, or even reaching for it? This may be a sign that they’re ready for real food. If your baby reaches for your fork or the apple in your hand, that’s a particularly good sign, as the ability to grasp objects demonstrates that your baby is developmentally ready for solids.
5. Your Baby is Healthy
If your baby is battling a cold or has a fever, it’s not the time to introduce solids. Your baby’s immune system is busy fighting off sickness, so give their body time to recover before you introduce something new. A happy, healthy baby is one that is much better prepared to try solids for the first time. Plus, with your baby in a good state of health, you can more clearly identify if there are any signs of a food allergy (which can range from gassiness and diarrhea, to a rash or runny nose). If your baby is under the weather when you introduce a new food, it will be impossible to tell the cold symptoms from potential signs of an allergy.
Starting the Transition
When your baby shows all the signs of being able to eat solid foods, and your pediatrician has given you the green light, it’s time to show your baby what else is out there. Start slow with extremely soft foods, like finely mashed fruit, pureed vegetables or baby cereal.
At 7 to 8 months, your baby may be ready for more variation in her diet — but don’t rush into it. With fruit, vegetables and cereal on the menu, there are plenty of different meals you can create for your little one; from bananas and applesauce to carrots and sweet potatoes to brown rice and oat cereal. Take your time and introduce new foods slowly, allowing your baby to get accustomed to the new tastes and textures. Before you know it, your young one will be enjoying adult delicacies right off your plate!