On this page you’ll learn about introducing solids at 4 to 6 months, with tips and advice about the best foods to try… and those to avoid!
The current recommendation – from medical authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, UK Department of Health, World Health Organization and UNICEF – is to wait until 6 months of age before introducing solids.
This is because breastmilk or formula usually meet baby’s nutritional needs for the first 6 months of life.
Some pediatricians, however, recommend that babies start solids at 4 months of age.
This conflicting information may pose something of a dilemma for parents and it can be difficult to know which set of guidelines to follow!
If your baby is steadily gaining weight and seems content after milk feeds alone…
… then you may wish to ask your pediatrician about waiting until 6 months to start your little one on solids.
Of course, the age of 6 months should be seen as a ‘guideline’ – there is no magical change in your baby at that time that makes him more able to cope with solids – and babies are unique, so some certainly do develop faster than others!
Yet many parents find that waiting until 6 months or thereabouts to start solids is worthwhile, because by 6 months…
In some situations, however, your pediatrician may feel that introducing solids at 4-6 months is necessary to your little one’s healthy growth and development.
Babies with reflux, for example, tend to have problems ‘keeping down’ their milk, which may lead to slow weight gain. Starting solids at 4 months may both help prevent frequent spitting up and may also help improve weight gain.
Premature or low birthweight babies may have feeding difficulties affecting the amount of milk they consume, or may simply need extra calories in order to ‘catch up’ on the nutrition they have missed.
Please note: This information is given as a guide only and does not replace professional medical advice. You should ALWAYS discuss the introduction of solid foods with your child’s doctor. He/she will be aware of your baby’s individual circumstances and is the best person to offer specific advice.
It’s quite natural for babies to feed during the night, even after 4 months of age, but some parents are advised to start solids to help their babies sleep through.
(Note: This advice is often given by older family members, yet night time feeding is not, in itself, a reason to start solids. Our page ‘Starting solids – under pressure to start too soon?‘ gives some tips for dealing with advice to introduce solids earlier than you may be comfortable with).
Starting solids purely as a means to help baby sleep through the night can be counter-productive. If your baby’s digestive system isn’t ready, then it can lead to constipation or other digestive issues – which may keep you and your baby awake even more than usual!
Infant rice cereal remains the food most commonly recommended as a first food for babies. This is because it can be easily mixed to a very thin consistency with either breast milk or formula, providing a manageable texture and a taste that baby is already familiar with!
It is also one of the least allergenic foods, making it particularly suitable for babies starting solid foods before 6 months of age.
However, rice can be quite binding and some parents find that it causes constipation in their little ones. And whilst rice may be one of the least allergenic foods, it is not entirely risk-free, as we discuss on our page – The Best First Food for Baby – Does It Have to be Baby Rice?.
It is usually recommended that babies are not given cereal – or other foods – containing gluten until they are at least 6 months of age, particularly if there is a family history of Celiac disease or allergies (please see this page for more information).
This means that wheat, barley and rye may be unsuitable for your baby at 4-6 months. Oats may contain some gluten, although this is because they are often grown and processed alongside other gluten-containing grains. Please speak to your doctor about the current guidelines in your area for offering oats to your baby before 6 months of age.
With your pediatrician’s consent, you may wish to start your baby’s journey into the world of solid foods with pureed fruits or veggies instead of cereal!
Some ideal first foods when introducing solids at 4 to 6 months include
Experts in the US are now recommending that some babies be introduced to foods containing peanuts as early as 4 months of age, as this is now believed to help prevent nut allergy.
This may seem worryingly early to introduce a food that has – until recently – been on the ‘forbidden’ list, precisely because peanuts were believed to TRIGGER nut allergy when introduced too early.
Please see this page for more information on the current guidelines for introducing peanuts – and please do speak to your doctor about these new recommendations.
Banana and avocado do not need to be cooked (making them the ideal convenience foods for babies!) All other fruits and veggies (including apples and pears) should be cooked for your baby until he is AT LEAST 6 months old.
This is partly because cooking produce helps break down the cell walls (making the food easier to digest and to puree!) and also because cooked fruits and veggies are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction than raw.
When introducing solids before 6 months of age, it’s important to remember that your baby’s digestive system is still relatively immature. So it’s best to avoid peel, which can be difficult to digest. Later on, however, you may like to think about leaving certain fruits and veggies unpeeled – particularly if you buy organic!
You’ll find lots more information here…
Then simply mix it with enough breast milk / formula to achieve the consistency you desire. For very young babies, you may like to create a fairly runny texture, which you can gradually thicken as you gauge your baby’s ability to deal with a little more texture.
Just peel, core and dice them, then simmer in a VERY little water – or steam them – until tender. Cooking fruits and veggies until they are just tender ensures that you preserve as many of their nutrients as possible. Transfer to a food processor and puree, adding a little cooking water to create a thinner texture if necessary.
Then simply remove the skin and mash or puree the flesh of the fruit, thinning it with a little breastmilk or formula if necessary.
Then peel and dice them and simply steam or simmer the cubes in a little water until tender. Transfer to a food processor and puree, adding back a little cooking water – or breastmilk/formula – to thin the texture if needed.
Alternatively, you can bake them. We like to bake sweet potatoes in their skins (just wash them and prick them with a fork, then bake at 375 deg F or 190 deg C until they feel soft – usually 45 mins to 1 hour, depending on the size).
You can bake butternut squash whole, too. Just pre-heat your oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C) and put the squash on an ungreased baking sheet. Pierce it all over with a fork to allow the steam to escape (otherwise it may explode!) and bake for around an hour, until tender. Cut in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds and fibres. The flesh can then be scooped from the peel and is ready for mashing or pureeing!
Our favourite way to bake carrots is the easiest way too – we just cut them into sticks, wrap them in foil and let them cook in their own steam! They take about 20-30 minutes in an oven set at 375 deg F (180 deg C).
If you make more baby food than your little one can eat in one sitting, you can store the rest in the fridge for 24 hours, or transfer it to the freezer instead! Freezing extra baby food makes it easy to create a whole batch of meals all in one go!
You should introduce all new foods to your baby separately – at least 4 days apart. This helps you easily identify the cause of any allergic reaction or digestive problem. If you introduce two types of food to your baby within the space of only a day or two – and he experiences any type of unwelcome reaction – then it will be difficult to tell which food was responsible.
Certain foods are more likely than others to trigger allergic reactions or digestive discomfort and it is particularly important to avoid them if your baby is starting solids before 6 months of age. Please see our list of baby foods to avoid for more information.
Begin baby’s first meal by offering him his usual milk feed… milk continues to be the most important part of his diet.
You may offer your baby his first taste of solids at any time of day, but we’ve always found the mornings to be best as babies tend to be happier and more receptive to new experiences!
Note: We recommend offering new foods for the first time on a weekday – rather than a weekend – and never on a public holiday!
Because in the unlikely event that your baby suffers a reaction to a food and requires medical attention, it will be easier to seek help or advice during ‘normal’ working hours!
To get started, sit your baby in a suitable highchair – or even on your lap!
Use a soft, rubber-tipped spoon to offer your baby his first bite (or you can even use your finger!). Either will be kind on his delicate gums.
…anything from a teaspoon to a tablespoon is plenty at first. And don’t panic if your baby refuses this new experience! Stay calm and relaxed (remember, introducing solids should be fun for you both!) and simply try again the following day if your little one doesn’t appear to want to eat, or keeps pushing the food back out.
Do bear in mind, though, that if he continues to refuse food, then he may simply not be ready for solids yet!
And it’s also worth remembering that some babies need to try a new flavour up to ten times before accepting it. So, if he seems able to take the food into his mouth without difficulty, but then spits it out with a look of disgust, don’t be deterred from trying the same food again a week or two later!
These include turning his head away and refusing to open his mouth. Always respect your baby’s signals and don’t force him to eat – this can lead to problems in the future and may make your baby wary of mealtimes altogether. As with so many aspects of feeding your little one, the best judge of how much to feed your baby is your baby himself!
We discuss this in more detail here – How Much Should My Baby be Eating?
And do remember that, at 4 to 6 months, a baby should still be consuming around 24 to 40 oz of formula per day, or nursing often and on demand (please speak to your doctor for more specific guidelines relating to your baby).
As your baby becomes accustomed to enjoying solid food, you can slowly increase the amount and texture of the food you offer. You can also create new flavour combinations by mixing together purees of food he is already enjoying (apple and pear,for example).
Keep things simple for now, until your baby is around 6 months of age, when he can start enjoying a wider variety of foods,flavours and textures – visit our page 6 to 9 Month Baby Foods for ideas and inspiration!
We hope that this information regarding introducing solids at 4 to 6 months has been helpful – by making your own, healthy baby food, you are building a wonderful foundation for your little one to enjoy a lifetime of healthy eating!
You’re very welcome to contact us if you have any comments or questions!