If you have a baby between 4 and 6 months old, you’re probably starting to think about what their first foods will be…which means you probably have questions about baby’s first foods, too! Things like: “When should I start?” “Do I need to stick to single-ingredient foods?” and “How do I safely introduce common allergens like peanut butter without freaking out?!” Chances are, you miiiiight be a little overwhelmed at the idea of first foods, too. I know it’s a lot to think about, but the good news is that you’ve found your way here! And now that you’re here, I can help.
As a mom of two and a pediatric dietitian, I’m writing this post to help you navigate the nerves and the new chapter that is buying, preparing, and serving up baby’s first foods! Whether you’re going for purees, baby-led weaning, or a combination of both, consider this your ultimate guide to what first foods to serve and how to introduce them to your baby safely.
P.S. Don’t forget to save this post! I know it’s one you’ll want to come back to again and again.
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Skip right to the first foods info you’re looking for:
- When To Serve Baby Their First Foods
- Safety For Baby’s First Foods
- Purees vs. Baby-Led Weaning: What’s Right For You?
- The Best Foods To Introduce Baby To Between 4 & 6 Months Old
- The Ultimate Baby’s First Foods List
- Baby’s First Foods Chart: What, When & How To Serve Common First Foods to 4- to 6-Month-Old Babies
- First Foods For Babies With Allergies
When To Serve Baby Their First Foods
Although some people will serve baby’s first foods earlier, I recommend starting solids closer to the six-month mark. You want to avoid adding rice cereal or any other food to their bottle, and instead, begin solids when they display the signs of readiness listed below. By waiting to serve baby’s first foods until they’re truly ready, you increase their safety and chances of success as a new eater.
Signs of Eating Readiness
Your baby is ready to start solids if they:
- Can sit upright
- Can sit unsupported
- Have good head and neck control
- Have some practice bringing toys or objects from their hand to their mouth
- Show an interest in food (By reaching for what you’re eating, intently watching as others eat, etc.)
Can I Give My 4-Month-Old Baby Food?
Some pediatricians may okay solids around four months, but again, I generally recommend waiting until closer to six months, and when baby is displaying those signs of readiness.
There are more benefits to waiting than there are to starting earlier. Before six months, babies get everything they need from breastmilk or formula, so starting solids early won’t help them sleep better, grow faster, or, you know, become a professional athlete!
If you want to get your four- or five-month-old baby involved in mealtime, I recommend getting them acquainted with food and eating in these ways:
- Sit them near you while you’re eating
- Give them a silicone spoon to hold (I like NumNum GooTensils, EZPZ Tiny Spoons, and Olababy Training Spoons) and let them practice bringing it to their mouth
- Give them teething toys, like Sophie, or this elephant, to desensitize the gag reflex
FAQ: Do Formula- and Breast-Fed Babies Have Different Nutritional Needs?
Formula and breast milk are both completely nutritionally satisfactory for the first six months of life and beyond. So when it comes to starting solids, it doesn’t matter whether your baby has been receiving breast milk or formula.
That said, babies who are exclusively breastfed should receive a Vitamin D supplement, as levels in breastmilk are low. Formulas on the other hand are typically fortified with Vitamin D, so formula-fed babies don’t need one. Another thing to consider for a baby’s nutrition is iron. Babies build up an iron reserve from their mothers while in utero, but these stores begin to decline around six months of age for all babies.
Safety For Baby’s First Foods
Safety is a huge concern for parents when starting solids. Whether you start with baby foods, purees, or baby-led weaning, there are certain parameters to follow to make sure baby’s intro to food is safe and successful.
Choking Hazards for 4- to 6-Month-Old Babies
Choking hazards for babies ages four to six months old include any foods that are hard, crunchy, sticky, or chewy, as well those that are dangerous shapes.
Common hazardous foods are:
- Raw Apple
- Globs of Nut Butter
- Hot Dogs
- Large seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, for example)
- Whole nuts
Many of these foods can be prepared safely to minimize the risk of choking, but they remain a choking hazard if they’re in their “natural” states until children turn four years old.
You can minimize choking risks by making sure your child is seated upright and strapped in a high chair with good trunk support. Foot support on a high chair is also helpful when your baby is starting out because it reinforces their stability, and when they’re more stable, they can chew and swallow more safely!
AAP & CDC Recommendations
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend starting solids around six months of age, but not before four months. Again, some pediatricians may okay solids around four months of age, but I usually recommend waiting until six months to make sure baby is showing the physical signs of readiness I outlined above.
The one exception may be for introducing certain allergens to certain infants, depending on their inherent level of risk. Speak with your pediatrician or allergist to see if they want to start your baby on certain foods early.
Purees vs. Baby-Led Weaning: What’s Right For You?
Before you serve baby their first foods, you’ll need to decide what kinds of foods you want to offer. And while there’s a lot of dialogue and opinions about the “best” way to feed a baby, I want you to know there isn’t one right way to do this. You can start with purees or baby-led weaning, or you can do a combination of both.
Tip: If you take a puree approach, help them learn to self-feed by offering baby preloaded spoons and letting them bring the food to their mouth.
Babies are very intuitive about getting the nutrition they need, so full permission to opt for the feeding style that’s comfortable for you. They’ll be able to get enough to eat either way! If simple textures feel easier and lower-stress for you, start with purees. If you’re ready to tackle preparing foods in a way that’s safe for baby, go for baby-led weaning. And if you’re on the go a lot or need a caretaker to feed your baby sometimes, maybe a hybrid approach is best. It truly doesn’t matter as long as you’re helping them foster independence in eating, and offering a variety of different foods.
One thing that DOES matter when it comes to feeding your baby is letting them be in charge of how much they eat (while you learn to interpret their hunger and fullness cues). And you can do this whether you’re feeding them purees or finger foods.
Baby Signs Of Hunger:
- Reaching for food
- Moving toward the spoon
- Opening their mouth
- Pointing to food
- Excited at the sight of food
Baby Signs Of Fullness:
- Turning away from food
- Batting spoon away
- Clamping mouth shut
- Playing with/throwing food
- Significantly slowed pace of eating
- No longer showing interest
The Best Foods To Introduce Baby To Between 4 & 6 Months Old
A common question I get is, “What baby foods should I introduce first?” And really, there isn’t one “best” first food. You do not have to start with only baby cereal or only veggies or fruits. In fact, you shouldn’t! Research shows that introducing babies to a wide variety of foods early on is what’s most beneficial.
That said, my favorite first food is avocado! It’s a wonderful source of healthy fat, and it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Fat is essential to the developing brain and central nervous system, so we want to prioritize it within a baby’s first foods and make sure it’s completely unrestricted during their first two years of life.
(We also want to prioritize iron, because it’s a common dietary deficiency, and our babies begin to run out of the iron stores they got in utero by about six months.)
It’s Okay If Baby’s First Foods Have Multiple Ingredients!
You may choose to serve solely single-ingredient foods like avocado or sweet potato, but know that it’s not necessary to do so. It can be really helpful to serve a variety of new foods together, so they get used to different tastes and textures. Plus, there are nutritional benefits to mixing foods. For example, yogurt—a common first food for babies—can be fortified with mashed fruit, nut butter, or hemp seeds to up the nutritional value. (But if you ever notice a reaction or suspect an allergy to a component of a food combination you’ve been serving, stop serving the suspected allergen and contact your pediatrician.)
PSA: Skip The Baby Cereal
The recommendations from years past telling parents to start with rice-based infant cereals are outdated now. Rice cereals aren’t super nutritious, and we don’t want to rely too much on rice due to potential exposure to arsenic. So instead of cereals, offer new foods in safely-prepared forms. This is way more nutritious, and it exposes them to different flavors, textures, and nutrients which are beneficial for growth and development and can protect them against food allergies and picky eating.
The Ultimate List of Baby Foods
I’m covering allll the best kinds of baby foods separately, so you get all the juicy info and context you need. Then, I’m combining them all into one big, bad, comprehensive list of the best first foods for baby at the end.
Best Finger Foods & Baby-Led Weaning First Foods
For baby’s first foods, I like to suggest approachable options like avocado, sweet potato, and banana. These can be prepared and served baby-led-weaning-style by cutting them in wedges or crescent shapes that can be gripped with a palmar grasp. Bananas can be served as halves or in thirds-long ways. Just stick to serving items in longer shapes, about the width of two adult fingers, for the first few months of BLW. This way, baby can hold them and bring them to their mouth. Once your baby is a little bit older—usually around 9 months—many foods can be served safely in smaller pieces.
The Best Pureed First Foods
If you’re going the puree route, you can start with many of the same foods. Just mash up the sweet potato, avocado, banana—or whatever else, really!—and serve those as purees. You may want to thin them some with breastmilk or formula.
But shortly after starting with these foods, I would move on to introducing allergenic foods, because the early and repeated introduction of allergenic foods can be protective against the development of food allergies in babies, specifically for peanuts. Foods like yogurt and peanut butter may be good early options for allergenic introductions and are already in pureed form. Just start with small amounts.
The Best Easy-To-Make First Foods
Foods that are naturally soft are the easiest to prepare for young eaters. Banana, yogurt, apple sauce, and avocado are all great options that are easy to serve with little to no prep. You can also mix creamy nut butter with yogurt and incorporate other mashed fruits, like raspberries and blackberries, to ramp up the nutritional value while keeping prep extremely low.
Don’t feel like you need to shy away from foods that aren’t naturally soft, either! Many other fruits and veggies, like sweet potato, broccoli, and pears, can also be safely served with simple steaming or roasting techniques. Just make sure to cook these foods until they’re soft enough to be smashed between your fingers, so baby can safely enjoy them, and present them in a shape or style that they can safely navigate. (Soft foods can also be served to them on a pre-loaded spoon if they can’t be eaten by hand, yet.)
Low-Prep First Food Options:
- Yogurt (Can mix with mashed berries or nut butter)
- Apple Sauce
- Steamed Veggies (Soft enough to mash between your fingers)
The Most Nutritious First Foods
There are so many great, nutrient-dense choices for baby’s first foods that are safe by six months of age no matter what type of foods you serve. (But it’s true that, if you take a baby-led weaning approach, you’ll probably have more options.) Sardines and salmon (fresh or canned) are both loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, protein, and tons of vitamins and minerals, which make them highly nutritious first foods! From the plant kingdom, sweet potato and avocado are nutrient-dense foods with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium.
The Best Vegetarian First Foods
Vegetarian foods are some of the best first foods for baby! There are tons of wonderful and nutritious fruit and veggie options that suit young eaters, like berries, bananas, avocados, potatoes, broccoli, squash, and many others. Non-produce vegetarian items are great first foods for baby, too. Think tofu strips, eggs (yolk and white), beans, nut butter, and oatmeal.
Just be sure you serve these in safe shapes and forms, and that they’re soft enough to be mashed between your fingers. Always avoid serving things that are hard, sticky, or chewy, and keep in mind that many raw vegetables and fruits are choking hazards (like celery and apple).
Foods That Should Be Avoided
While most foods have a place in most diets, there are some foods to avoid serving your 4- to 6-month-old baby:
To make sure our babies get the most nutrition possible during this important phase of growth and development, it’s best to avoid added sugar for children under two. Added sugar doesn’t have much nutritional value, so it’s best to limit it as much as possible and avoid it altogether if possible.
Want to offer baby fun, homemade foods like cookies, bars, and muffins once they are fully established on solids? You still can! Just use the recipes in my No Sugar, Still Sweet cookbook, where everything is sweetened with fruit alone.
Babies should strictly avoid honey before 12 months of age. Honey can be contaminated with spores of a bacteria called clostridium botulinum. In babies under one, these spores can multiply and produce a dangerous toxin that causes infant botulism.
Related: Honey for Babies & Toddlers
Finally, sodium should be limited. For babies ages four to six months, the recommended sodium limit intake for a day is 110 mg, which includes any sodium present in breast milk and/or formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no fruit juice before 1 year of age. Juice offers very few nutritional benefits and therefore isn’t a helpful addition to a baby’s diet.
- Under 1: No Juice
- Age 1-3: 4 Oz Daily Max
- Age 4-6: 4-6 Oz Daily Max
- Age 7-18: 8 Oz Daily Max
The Ultimate Baby’s First Foods List
- Sweet Potato (Mashed or Steamed)
- Broccoli (Steamed or Roasted)
- Pears (Steamed or Roasted)
- Butternut Squash
- Nut Butter* (Mixed-In To Purees or Spread Thin on Toast)
- Apple Sauce
- Mashed Raspberries
- Mashed Blueberries
- Mashed Blackberries
- Canned Sardines*
- Canned Salmon*
- Potatoes (Mashed or Steamed)
- Squash (Steamed or Roasted)
- Tofu Strips*
- Baby-Safe Eggs* (Try omelet-style and cut into strips!)
- Beans (Mashed)
Baby’s First Foods Chart: What, When & How To Serve Common First Foods to 4- to 6-Month-Old Babies
|BABY’S FIRST FOOD||WHEN TO SERVE||HOW TO SERVE|
|Avocado||6 Months or Later||Mashed, mixed-in to sauces, and purees, or in wedge shapes baby can grip (BLW).|
|Oatmeal||6 Months of Later||Prepare with breastmilk or formula. Option to mix in yogurt, nut butter, mashed berries, or mashed banana.|
|Banana||6 Months or Later||Mashed, mixed into sauces and purees, cut in halves or third-long pieces (BLW).|
|Sweet Potato||6 Months or Later||Roasted or steamed so they’re soft enough to mash between your fingers.|
|Mango||6 Months or Later||Cut into wedge-shaped pieces that baby can grip. Or, give baby the pit to work on!|
|Eggs (Common Allergen)||6 Months or Earlier (If advised by a pediatrician or allergist)||Prepare eggs omelet-style and cut them into strips baby can grip.|
|Yogurt (Common Allergen)||6 Months or Earlier (If advised by a pediatrician or allergist)||Serve yogurt as-is or mix it into sauces, oatmeals, or purees.|
|Nut Butter (Common Allergen)||6 Months or Earlier (If advised by a pediatrician or allergist)||Mix nut butters into oatmeal or purees, or spread them thinly over toast.|
|Berries||6 Months or Later||Mash berries into a thicker, jam-like consistency before serving. Consider mixing mashed berries into other foods.|
|Tofu (Common Allergen)||6 Months or Earlier (If advised by a pediatrician or allergist)||Cut into thin strips that baby can grasp and fry them up in a pan. Serve cool or warm, not hot.|
|Broccoli||6 Months or Later||Steamed or roasted so it’s soft enough to mash between your fingers.|
|Apple Sauce||6 Months or Later||As-is or mixed in to oatmeal, yogurt, or purees.|
|Canned Sardines (Common Allergen)||6 Months or Later||Whole piece or mashed with other foods.|
|Honey||1 Year or Later||At 1 year or later, serve mixed-in to yogurt, sauces, or purees, or spread thinly on toast.|
|Fruit Juice||1 year or Later||At 1 year or later, offer up to 4 oz per day.|
|Sugar||2 Years or Later||Avoid added sugar before age two, then introduce it gradually and only as-needed.|
First Foods For Babies With Allergies
Food allergies have grown in prevalence over the last 50 years, and it’s now estimated that about 7% of babies have a food allergy! And while that can make choosing a baby’s first foods a little scary, the good news is that up to 80% of kids can grow out of their food allergies. (Especially when those allergies are milk and eggs!)
Important Information on Allergic Reactions & Introducing Allergens
For at least the last decade, parents were told to wait until 12 months or older to introduce the top eight allergens (peanut, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish) to their babies. Now, things are different. Today, we recommend introducing allergenic foods to your baby when they start solids, which, for most children, is around six months old. Introducing allergenic foods at this point in your baby’s development can reduce the risk of developing some food allergies—especially allergies to eggs and peanuts.
For Babies With Known Allergies
If your baby is already known to have a food allergy, do not introduce that food. But, if baby has certain risk factors WITHOUT a confirmed allergy (like eczema or a family member with a food allergy), consult the pediatrician. You may be referred to an allergist who will determine the best course of action with an introduction.
Introducing Allergens: What To Watch For
Mild allergic reactions may look like new hives around the mouth or face.
More severe reactions can include:
- Lip Swelling
- Widespread Hives
- Face Or Tongue Swelling
- Difficulty Breathing
- Changes In Skin Color
- Sudden Lethargy Or Limpness
If you notice any of these severe signs, seek emergency medical help immediately.
Make Starting Solids Simple
I know that getting ready to start serving your baby their first foods is nerve-wracking. But with the right info (which you now have) and prep (which you’re equipped to do), I promise you it can be a great experience. Now that you know all the things about safety, allergic reactions, which foods to serve, and how to serve them, go in with your bases covered and just enjoy the time spent with your little one.
I also know that if you decide to go with solids, you might be a little extra nervous about things like gagging and making all foods baby-safe. And, I get it! These things can be intimidating the first few times. Lucky for you though, you’re not alone! You’ve got me in your corner. I’ve been there before, I’ve helped so many parents navigate through it, and I know you can do it, too.
To help you up your confidence, ditch the unnecessary doubts, and feed them well right from the start, I put together my research-backed Simply Solids guide. If you’re about to start—or already on—your baby-feeding journey, Simply Solids is a must-have.
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Baby’s First Foods
- Sweet Potato
- Eggs (Common Allergen)
- Yogurt (Common Allergen)
- Nut Butter (Common Allergen)
- Tofu (Common Allergen)
- Apple Sauce
- Canned Sardines (Common Allergen)
- Mashed, mixed-in to sauces or purees, or in wedge shapes baby can grip (BLW).
- Prepare with breastmilk, formula, canned coconut milk or water. Option to mix in yogurt, nut butter, mashed berries, or mashed banana.
- Mashed, mixed into sauces and purees, cut in halves or third-long pieces (BLW).
- Roasted or steamed so they’re soft enough to mash between your fingers. Or, serve mashed with a spoon.
- Cut into wedge-shaped pieces that baby can grip. Or, give baby the pit to work on!
- Prepare eggs omelet-style and cut them into strips baby can grip.
- Serve yogurt as-is or mix it into sauces, oatmeals, or purees.
- Mix nut butters into oatmeal or purees, or spread them thinly over toast.
- Mash berries into a thicker, jam-like consistency before serving. Consider mixing mashed berries into other foods.
- Cut into thin strips that baby can grasp and fry them up in a pan. Serve cool or warm, not hot.
- Steamed or roasted so it’s soft enough to mash between your fingers.
- As-is or mixed in to oatmeal, yogurt, or purees.
- Whole piece or mashed with other foods.
Brittany · January 29, 2023 at 11:16 pm
How often should you introduce a new food?