Starting Solid Foods

Print Friendly

When to Start Solid Foods

 

Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, IBFAN, UNICEF, the WHO Global Strategies on Infant Feeding, and most paediatric societies around the world recommend exclusive breastfeeding to about six months.

 

You should start your baby on solids when he or she shows signs of interest and readiness – this is often around 6 months, but sometimes it’s a little bit earlier or a little bit later.  Follow your baby’s cues instead of the calendar. By five or six months of age, most babies will be trying to grab food from your plate.  When the baby is starting to reach for food, grabs it and tries to put it into his or her mouth, this seems a reasonable time to start letting him or her eat.

 

Why Start Solid Foods?

 

  • There comes a time when breastmilk no longer supplies all your baby’s nutritional needs. A full term baby will start requiring iron from other sources by 6 to 9 months of age and the calories supplied by breastmilk may become inadequate by 8 to 9 months of age.  Some will say that breastmilk has no nutritional value for a baby after 6 months, but this is simply not true and is said by those who do not understand how breastfeeding works.
  • Some babies can continue to grow well on breastmilk alone well past a year. But just because they can grow well on breastfeeding alone is not a reason to delay introduction of solids if the baby is obviously ready for them.

 

  • Starting solids is a developmental milestone. The baby is growing up and becoming ready to participate with the rest of the family in this activity.

 

Solids When the Baby is Not Getting Enough at the Breast

 

When a baby seems to be hungry and/or weight gain is not continuing at the desired rate it may be reasonable to start solids as early as four months of age. Consider solids only after you have done everything possible to improve the breastfeeding so that the baby gets more breastmilk.  See the information sheets “Late Onset Decreased Milk Supply or Flow” and “Protocol to Increase Breastmilk Intake”.

 

Giving breastmilk in a bottle is not recommended in these situations because the baby who is not satisfied completely at the breast may start to take more and more from the bottle, and end up refusing to take the breast completely.  There is also no advantage to starting infant formula – if the baby is able to eat solids, they are a much better choice!

 

If the baby has been supplemented with infant formula from earlier on in his or her life, the supplement can be gradually replaced with solids starting around 4 months of age. Formula can even be mixed into solid foods to reduce the need for bottles and/or lactation aids.

 

Note: Starting solids at four months of age when baby is exclusively breastfed and things are going well, is not recommended.

 

 

 

How Should Solids Be Introduced?

 

Around 6 months of age:

 

  • What foods you start with and in what order they are introduced does not really matter. The only foods to avoid are very spicy foods, foods easy to choke on (like whole grapes, popcorn), and honey/foods that contain honey (until after 1 year of age). Your baby will be able to eat most of the foods your family eats, with some adjustments to the texture, right from the start. There is no need for foods be pureed – simple mashing with a fork is all that is necessary at first.
  • Commercially prepared baby foods, including infant cereals, are not required. They are expensive for what you get, are poor in nutrients except iron which ends up in the diaper and are constipating.
  • Other beverages are not required if the baby is still drinking a significant amount of breastmilk. A small amount of water in an open cup can be offered or mixed with solids, if desired.
  • Offer solids in a relaxed way when you are eating/when the family is eating.
  • Allow your baby to eat whatever he wants from what you have offered. There is no need to control the amount of solids or to force the baby to “finish” – let the baby eat as much or as little as he or she wants.
  • The easiest way to give extra iron to your baby is by giving him or her meat. Infant cereal has iron, but it is poorly absorbed and may cause the baby to be constipated.  If you wish your baby to be vegetarian, it would be best to speak with an experienced Registered Dietitian about how to get iron into the baby’s diet.
  • Respect your baby’s likes and dislikes. If your baby does not like a certain food, do not try to force him or her to eat it – just try again another time.  Sometimes babies need to be offered a new food a number of times over a period of days or weeks before accepting it.  If your baby still won’t eat a particular food, it’s ok!  There is no essential food (except breastmilk).

 

Around 4 months of age:

 

  • Start with soft and easily mashed foods, like ripe avocado or cooked sweet potato.
  • Sometimes the baby will eat more easily off your finger than off a spoon.
  • Follow your baby’s cues. As the baby tolerates solids, both quantity and variety of foods can be increased, as the baby desires.

 

Solids or Breast First?

 

If breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods both are going well, it probably does not matter much.  Also, there is no reason that a baby needs both breast and solids every time he eats.

 

If your baby tends to be fussy at the breast, sometimes offering some solids before the breast can be helpful.

 

Get help if the baby is consistently refusing solids after 6 months.

 

 

The information presented here is general and not a substitute for personalized treatment from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or other qualified medical professionals.

 

 

This information sheet may be copied and distributed without further permission on the condition that it is not used in any context that violates the WHO International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (1981) and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. If you don’t know what this means, please email us to ask!

 

 

©IBC, updated November 2016

 

 

Questions or concerns?  Email Dr. Jack Newman (read the page carefully, and answer the listed questions).
Make an appointment at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic.