Introducing solid food to your baby

This is a fun and exciting time in you and your baby’s life! Use these tips to help you get started on introducing solid foods to your child.

1. When can you introduce solid foods to your baby?

2. Is it ok to feed my baby solids before six months?

3. How do you know when your baby is ready for different textures of solid foods?

4. In what order should foods be introduced?

5. The transition from breast milk to fluid milk

6. What about vitamin D?

7. Safety Tips

8. What are some safe finger foods?

9. What about food allergies?

10. How much should your baby eat?

When can you introduce solid foods to your baby?

Babies are ready for solid foods after six months. At that age, they can handle more textures and their digestive system is ready for new foods. They are usually physically able to sit up, eat from a spoon and show interest in solid food. 

Is it ok to feed my baby solids before six months?

Before six months babies don’t need solid foods as breast milk (or formula) provides all the nutrients that babies need. Six months is a good time to start solid foods because that is when babies need more nutrients, like iron, that solid foods provide in addition to breast milk or formula.

How do you know when your baby is ready for different textures of solid foods?

Every baby is different but there are some signs that can tell you when your baby is ready for solid foods. Look for baby to sit or hold her head up, for when his tongue has control to take in food instead of just pushing it out and for when she is watching or opening her mouth for the spoon.

Start your baby on pureed or mashed foods. As your baby develops, gradually change the texture of food from runny to more solid. Every baby is different but here are some signs to look for to help you start changing texture:

When your baby can…

You can start feeding your baby…

Sit with help

Pureed, mashed and semisolid foods

Sit without help

Soft mashed food without lumps

Crawl (moves around on hands and knees)

Ground or soft mashed foods with tiny soft noticeable lumps; foods with soft texture, crunchy foods that dissolve (e.g. whole grain biscuits or crackers)

Walk with help

Coarsely chopped foods including foods with noticeable pieces; foods soft to moderate in texture; toddler foods; bite-sized pieces of food; finger foods

By 12 months babies can be eating family foods mashed or chopped appropriately and served in small amounts. Include a variety of foods from each of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.

In what order should foods be introduced?

At 6 months babies need more iron in their diet so start with iron-rich foods. Introduce one new food at a time. Give the same food for 2 to 7 days before introducing a new food. This way, if your baby shows signs of allergy, this makes it easier to know which food is causing the problem.

Between 6-9 months:

Start with iron-rich foods:

  • Offer iron-fortified infant cereals mixed with breast milk or formula. 
  • Start with single grain cereals one at a time, such as rice cereal, then barley and oats. Watch for any sign of an allergic reaction to the new food introduced. Once you know your baby does not react to those cereals, you can introduce mixed cereals. The allergy risk for cereals is low. See below for more information on allergies.
  • At the same time as iron-fortified cereals, you can introduce iron-rich foods from the meat and alternatives food group, including meat, fish, poultry, cooked eggs, well cooked legumes and tofu.

After iron-rich foods:

  • Vegetables and fruit can be offered next. These foods provide important nutrients and add colour, texture and variety to your baby’s meal.  
  • Infants do not need to drink fruit juice. If you decide to offer fruit juice, use 100% pasteurized fruit juice (not fruit drink or cocktail). Keep portions small – no more than 60 to 125 mL (1/4 to 1/2 cup) per day.  Always offer juice as part of a meal or snack in a cup, not a bottle.  Keep in mind that whole fruits are more nutritious than fruit juice. Make whole fruit your first choice for your child.
  • Sips of water may be offered from a cup but don’t let your baby fill up on water.

Anytime between 9-12 months:

  • Milk products such as cottage cheese, other cheeses and yogurt can be introduced.

The transition from breast milk to fluid milk:

  • Breastfeeding can continue for up to two years or beyond.
  • Pasteurized whole cow's milk (3.25%) may be intro­duced at 9 to 12 months of age.
  • Skim milk and partly skimmed milk (1% and 2%) are not recommended until after 2 years of age because they are lower in fat. Fat is important because it helps babies brains develop.
  • Aim for 2 cups (500 mL) of cow’s milk by age 2. Do not give more than 3 cups (750 mL) of milk per day.  This is because your child may fill up on milk and not eat other foods with important nutrients.
  • Soy beverages are not recommended or appropriate for most children under the age of 2 because they have less vitamin D, fat and energy than whole cow’s milk. If your child has a milk allergy or intolerance, is vegan, or avoids milk products for any reason, speak to your doctor about alternatives or call 1-877-510-510-2 to speak to an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian.

What about vitamin D?

  • All infants need 400 IU of vitamin D each day.
  • Infants who are fed only breastmilk should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 12 months old.
  • Infants who are fed breastmilk and formula should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 12 months old.
  • Infants who are fed only formula do not need a vitamin D supplement.  The formula already provides enough.

Safety Tips

  • Always stay with your baby during mealtimes.  To prevent choking do not give your baby:
  • raw vegetables unless grated
  • small, smooth objects like peanuts and nuts, weiners, hard candy, cough drops, ice cubes, chips, raisins, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, marshmallows
  • grapes and hot dogs unless cut up into bite size pieces or cut lengthwise.
  • fish with bones
  • popcorn
  • peanut butter or other nut butters spread thickly or served on a spoon. 

Other tips:

  • Babies under one year of age should not be given unpasteurized or pasteurized honey. Babies should not have foods containing or cooked in honey. This is because honey can cause botulism poisoning.
  • All milk, juice and cheese should be pasteurized.

What are some safe finger foods?

By about 8 months, your baby will be ready for finger foods. Try bread crusts, dry toast, pieces of soft cooked vegetables and fruit, soft ripe fruit such as banana, cooked meat and poultry, cheese cubes, and “O” type cereals.

For more finger food ideas, please see this handout: Finger Foods 8-24 Months.

What about food allergies?

  • Allergies tend to run in families. A baby is at increased risk for food allergies if a doctor has ever diagnosed one or more parents, sisters or brothers with an allergic condition like food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever. Discuss your family history with your doctor to find out if your baby is at higher risk.
  • In the past, some health professionals used to recommend that babies at a higher risk for allergies should delay eating foods like milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and fish. Recently it has been suggested that delaying certain foods is not helpful in reducing food allergies. We still need more research to find the best way to prevent food allergies.
  • Some parents wait to introduce some foods until the child is able to communicate that their lips or tongue feel funny or that it is hard to breathe (signs of an allergic reaction). It is up to you to decide when you feel comfortable offering foods like peanut butter to your kids. Remember the safety tips to prevent choking mentioned above.  

Do you have more questions about food allergies? Call 1-877-510-510-2 to speak to an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian or send an email.

How much should your baby eat?

A hungry baby will open their mouth for a spoon or may act upset when you take the food away. A full baby may shut their mouth, turn away or push the food away. Never try and force your baby to eat. It is important to pay attention to these signs and let your baby decide how much to eat. This is the first step in your child developing healthy food habits. 

The bottom line:

Learning about new foods and textures can be a fun time with your baby. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy! Getting messy is part of your baby learning about different textures and learning how to eat. Every child is different and will learn to eat solid foods when they are ready. 

If you have questions, an EatRight Ontario dietitian can help. Call 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.


For more information:

Baby’s First Foods

Sample meal plans for feeding your baby

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.