Feeding a newborn is straightforward: They’re either drinking breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two. But as your baby grows, it gets more confusing—knowing when to transition them to solids, when to introduce chunkier textures, and eventually when to serve them the same foods the bigger kids and adults in your home are eating at mealtime.
While it’s always a smart idea to consult your pediatrician before transitioning to the next food milestone, here is a general timeline for moving your little one from milk or formula to solids.
0-12 months - Milk & Formula
During your baby’s first year, breastmilk and/or formula should be their primary source of nutrition—exclusively at first, and eventually in tandem with solid foods. Not only do formula and breastmilk provide all the vitamins, nutrients, and calories your baby needs, but newborns and young infants don’t have the physical maturity to eat solid foods.
6+ months - Introducing Solids
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods when your baby is around six months old. Your baby may be ready to try solid foods if they can:
- Sit up on their own
- Opens their mouth for food
- Reaches for toys or food
- Can control their head and neck
At six months, your baby might also be ready to start drinking from a cup.
First Foods For Your Baby
Whether you puree your own foods or choose store-bought baby foods, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest you begin by introducing single ingredients to your baby one at a time, waiting three to five days before introducing a different food. This not only lets you see whether your baby likes a particular food, but also allows you to make sure they don’t have any food allergies.
Peas, carrots, bananas, cooked apples, and other purees are popular first foods. Pureed meats are also good first foods. This is also when you can consider starting to feed your baby rice cereal. Fortified single-grain infant cereals—like oat, barley, and rice—can be mixed with water, formula, or breast milk.
Babies are curious by nature, so as your child gets used to eating smooth single-ingredient purees and thin cereals, play to their curiosity with food combinations and more pronounced textures. As your baby gets older, you can use less liquid to thicken cereals. And transition from smooth purees to foods like fork-mashed avocado or sweet potatoes—your baby may discover some new favorite foods.
Introducing Potentially Allergenic Foods
There is no guaranteed way to prevent food allergies, so be sure to discuss this topic with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Generally, experts suggest introducing potentially allergenic foods to your baby’s diet at the same time you introduce other foods—one at a time, so that you can identify any allergic reactions. High-allergy foods include:
- Fish and shellfish
- Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts)
8+ months - Starting Finger Foods
If your baby reaches for the spoon when you feed them, it might be time to give them finger foods. Try small pieces or thin slices of tofu, soft cheese, scrambled eggs, or well-cooked pasta—anything that is easily dissolved with saliva, requiring no actual chewing.
As your baby experiments with finger foods, continue to give them a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables—not just starchy foods like dry cereal or “puffs.” For now, avoid any fibrous or skin-on fruits or vegetables, as well as anything round like whole grapes or tomatoes, which could pose a choking hazard.
Babies and toddlers are more likely to be interested in food they see family members eating—which has the double benefit of enticing your baby to try new foods and streamlining family meal prep.
12+ months - Feeding Your Toddler
By the time your baby is around a year old, you might decide to transition them off breast milk and/or infant formula. At this age, they can drink toddler formula, cow’s milk and juices, though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water over juice, and limiting juice to 4-6 oz a day.
At this point, your little one has likely displayed preference for different foods—and also let you know one way or another what foods they don’t like! Experts estimate it can take 12-17 times of trying a food to develop a taste for it, so be sure to keep your child’s diet varied.
There are still some foods that are potential choking hazards to children this age—including but not limited to popcorn; peanut or other nut butters; whole nuts and seeds; whole beans; hot dogs, marshmallows, and other cylindrical foods; and round foods like berries and cherries.
Though experts caution against giving honey to infants less than a year old, due to the possibility of contracting infant botulism, by 12 months the risk generally decreases. That said, experts also advise against giving babies and toddlers any added sugar, including honey.
Overall, by this stage, your toddler should be eating a varied diet of nutritious, whole foods—just like their family members! As they get exposed to new flavors and textures and seasoning and combinations, be sure to tell them what you enjoy about those same foods, and how the foods your little one eats help their body grow healthy and strong.