With the advice on starting solids varying depending on who you ask, it can be hard to know when the milestone should happen for your baby. We go through the research on when to start solids—at 4 months or at 6 months—to help you make the best decision possible.
Starting solids is one of the most fun and exciting milestones that we get to experience with our babies during the first year. But when to actually start a baby on solid foods is controversial and the advice can change depending on who you ask. Many families start at 4 months, and many wait until 6. There’s no one right answer, but there are some factors to consider.
We’ll cover them below.
Starting Solids at 4 Months
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to start solids until a baby is 6 months, and to go with wide variety of foods, introduced one at a time. But many pediatricians still say it’s okay to start rice cereal at 4 months. If your pediatrician recommends this at the 4 month check up, ask their thoughts on the recommendation from the AAP.
Newer research, as written about in the book First Bite, also suggests starting closer to 4 months, but with a wider range of flavors to take advantage of a window of greater flavor acceptability in younger babies. It’s thought that by introducing a lot of flavors early on, you might be able to ward off picky eating in toddlerhood.
I am not convinced that there’s that direct of a correlation since most kids go through a very normal phase called neophobia when they are more fearful of new foods during the ages between 2-6. But, it is interesting to know that the thoughts on exactly when to start solids is a little more fluid than many of us might have assumed.
Starting Solids at 6 Months
Megan McNamee MPH, RDN, CLT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in pediatric nutrition and runs Feeding Littles. She’s also an expert in helping parents start solids and she gives such helpful advice for how to know when your baby is ready to start solids. She recommends that we pay attention to these readiness signs:
- How well they can sit up on their own.
- How good their head control is.
- Whether they show interest in food when sitting at the table.
- How they sit when they’re in the highchair—can they sit upright without being extensively propped up?
TIP: These markers look at a broader context of the child’s development than just age, and can give you more information when deciding when to start.
Which are the best foods for starting solids?
For most babies, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it doesn’t really matter which foods you start with as long as they’re whole foods without added salt or sugar. You can start with single-grain baby cereals like Baby Rice Cereal or Baby Oatmeal, or go with fruits or vegetables, either as purees or BLW style foods.
Babies are born with a preference for sweet foods, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid fruits or just offer veggies to start. Aim to do a mix of flavors! We like banana, avocado, sweet potato, pureed peas, butternut squash, and pureed fruits.
And you can introduce meat, which is a great source of iron and zinc and are more readily absorbed than from plant-based sources.
TIP: This baby food introduction chart is a great month-by-month resource on which foods are great to offer during baby’s first year.
How many meals should I offer baby each day?
You can start with one meal a day, then gradually increase as baby becomes more interested in food and it works naturally with your schedule. There’s no one right way for every family, but generally aim to reach 3 meals (and possibly even two snacks if it works with your schedule) by the first birthday.
I’m worried about choking—what should I do?
The best thing would be to take an infant CPR course so you feel armed with information. You can also read this post on Toddler Choking Hazards, which will give you all of the info you need about foods to watch out for an avoid to keep mealtimes safe and enjoyable.
Best Early Finger Foods for Babies
Once a baby reaches around 9 months of age, they will have the ability to pick up smaller pieces of foods with their fingers. At that point, you can start offering more finger foods. Aim for them to be very easy to chew—you should be able to squish them between your fingers easily.
TIP: Find my full list of the best Early Finger Foods here.
When can baby have peanut butter?
Experts advise introducing it soon after you start solids—assuming there is no history of severe food allergies in the family and baby has not had eczema. Read more about introducing peanut butter here and find my favorite peanut butter puree!
When can baby have water?
When you start offering foods, you can offer a little water along with it to help baby get into the habit of drinking water and to make foods easier to eat. Read more about babies and water—and why we want to wait until 6 months to start it.
Babies and Salt
It’s a good idea to review the recommendations on avoiding salt for babies—and how to do it without making yourself crazy. You can read my full post on babies and salt here.
Which highchair is best for a baby?
You’ll want a highchair that allows a baby to sit upright, rather than slouched back in a reclining position which could be a choking hazard. It’s also a good idea to choose a highchair that has a food rest which can promote proper body positioning while sitting.
Two of our favorites are the Stokke Tripp Trapp, which I’ve had for 7 years now and can say that it’s incredibly durable and easy to clean. We also love that it transforms into a stool once the kids are too big for the highchair components. It’s totally worth the price!
Another highchair that’s great for babies is Keekaroo Height Right Kids Chair that has nice cushions for added support.
TIP: Find my full list of favorite Highchairs for Babies and Toddlers here.
Learn More About Starting Solids
For my full information on starting solids. check out my Yummy Baby Food ebook. It takes you through the first year, with step-by-step advice, recipes, and tips in an easy to use digital format.
You can listen to us discuss starting solids with Meghan on a past episode of the Comfort Food Podcast.You can download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, or wherever else you get your podcasts. or listen to it below!