Introducing Solid Foods Infants should be breastfed or formula-fed exclusively for the first six months of life according to the WHO. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk or bottle formula exclusively for at least the first four months, but ideally for six months.) Infants should not consume solid foods before six months because solids do not contain the right nutrient mix that infants need. Also, eating solids may mean drinking less breast milk or bottle formula. If that occurs, an infant may not consume the right quantities of various nutrients. If parents try to feed an infant who is too young or is not ready, their tongue will push the food out, which is called an extrusion reflex. After six months, the suck-swallow reflexes are not as strong, and infants can hold up their heads and move them around, both of which make eating solid foods more feasible.13
Knowing When an Infant is Ready for Solid Foods Here are several ways you can tell that an infant is ready to eat solid foods:
The infant’s birth weight has doubled.
The infant can control their head and neck movements.
The infant can sit up with some support.
The infant can show you they are full by turning their head away or by not opening their mouth.
The infant begins showing interest in food when others are eating. Solid baby foods can be bought commercially or prepared from regular food using a food processor, blender, food mill, or grinder.14 Baby food can be served at room temperature. If it is warmed, it must be stirred to distribute evenly.15 Portion the amount of food you intend to serve the baby (any uneaten food will need to be thrown away after a feeding and use small amounts on an infant-sized spoon. When beginning solid foods, timing is important. To keep mealtimes positive, choose a time when the infant is happy and when you have the patience and time to focus. Offer 1 to 2 teaspoons after a breastmilk or formula feeding. This can increase over time to 2 to 3 tablespoons.