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Guidelines for Child Care Providers

When, What, Why and How: Introducing Solid Foods

Good nutrition is very important during the first year of life for infants because this is a time for huge growth. Solid foods that are given to an infant before he/she is ready can lead to digestive or allergy problems later in life. Solid foods should complement, not replace, breastmilk or formula in the infant’s diet. Introduce solid foods that have been given by the parent at home.

Breastfeeding should be promoted to foster early infant contact to a variety of food flavors. Infants exposed during pregnancy and breastfeeding to a wider variety of food flavors (e.g. from mother’s diet) are more accepting of new solid foods.

It is important to know the signs that an infant is ready to start eating solid foods at 6 months of age.

Signs can include:

  • Able to sit up with support and hold head upright
  • Opening the mouth
  • Leaning forward to food
  • Close his/her lips around a spoon
  • Move food from the front of the tongue to the back of the tongue
  • Bringing things to his/her mouth
  • Showing interest and wanting what parents or other family members are eating

Infants have small stomachs, so begin with a teaspoon of food or less and give more as the infant wants it. His/her appetite may change each day! It is always important to watch an infant when he/she is eating.

Download handout for charts of when, what, why and how when introducing solid foods to infants.

Other Solid Food Tips

  • At 6 months, watch the amount of cereal being offered, so it does not replace breastmilk or formula.
  • Spoon feeding may be messy business, but that is part of learning to eat!
  • Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, other animal milks, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, soy milk and milks made of nuts or rice are not recommended because they are too high in protein and salt for an infant's kidneys.  These milks may cause allergies if used before 12 months of age.
  • It can take as many as 8 to 12 exposures (or more) to a food for an infant to be willing to try it; this is a normal part of learning to eat new foods.
  • Make mealtime fun! Offer solid foods when your baby is in a good mood. Morning and early afternoon are a good time to experiment with new foods.
  • Feed infant solid food from a small dish rather than from its original jar.  Do not put unfinished foods back into the jar because this can cause harmful bacteria to grow.
  • Never leave an infant alone while he/she is eating.
  • If an infant does not like certain foods, never force feed or use food as an award (e.g. “if you finish your peas, you can have dessert”).
  • Offer infants small portions (1 teaspoon or less at a time) of food as large portions can be too much for them.
  • To decrease the risk of food allergies or intolerances;
    • Introduce foods to an infant that have been given by a parent
    • Introduce one new food at a time (new foods should be single food items) every 5 to 7 days
    • Introduce a small amount of a new food at a time (1 teaspoon or less)
    • Observe the infant closely after feeding a new food
  • Have parents talk with a health professional if they have any other questions or concerns.

 Updated April 5, 2014

© 2016 All Rights Reserved, University of Northern Colorado, Alena Clark, Author