Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN
When should I start feeding my baby real food? And how often should I do it? We get asked these questions almost daily. It’s hard to know how and when to transition from breastmilk and/or formula to solid foods, especially when you have so many other things to consider (like nap time, tummy time, etc.).
That’s why we recommend not biting off more than you can chew: start slow and increase by one meal a month. As your baby grows, they will need less milk, so it’ll be easier to consolidate your milk feedings. This will give you more time to invest in feeding your baby real foods.
Most babies aren’t ready to start on solids until they are 5-6 months old. Here are some telltale signs that your baby is ready to start on solids:
- They are sitting up with support.
- They have improved head control: when they are sitting up, their head doesn’t fall forward or to the side.
- They show interest in your food: they watch you feed yourself or reach for your silverware.
Here is a sample schedule:
- If your baby is between 4-6 months old, start with one real-food meal per day.
- During your second month of real-food feedings, increase to two meals per day.
- Once your baby is 8-9 months old, increase to three meals per day.
And here are some other things to keep in mind:
- Timing of meals: Feed your baby 30 to 60 minutes after their most recent milk feeding. This will ensure that your baby won’t be too hungry (and potentially hangry!) while they are in the high chair. We want to get them comfortable in the high chair from the get-go, so they’ll have positive associations and love learning to feed themselves!
- Commit to consistency: Consistency is almost always the key to success in all things baby-related. It’s especially important to be consistent with feeding, so once you start with one meal a day, stick to it! This includes the timing of the meal as well. If you are a parent who wants to start off with three real-food meals a day, then go for it – just stay consistent.
- Practice, practice, practice: As with most things, practice makes perfect. So expect a few snafus once your baby gets in their highchair and begins to experiment with solid foods. It’s as much about developing fine motor skills and intuitive eating as it is about nutrition. The more they practice, the better they will get at feeding themselves. And before you know it, they will be enjoying solids without your help!
- Loop in your doctor: Be sure to consult your pediatrician about feeding. Every baby is different, and your baby’s doctor will be able to provide advice that is timely and tailored to your little one.
If you feel like you need help with this important transition, check out our Feeding Your Baby Solids Food Course, the complete guide to creating intuitive eaters from 4 months on. The course covers everything you need to know about feeding your baby real food and gets you fully prepared to confidently tackle this meaning-full milestone. Also, you can shop all of our favorite Baby Feeding Essentials here (with part of the proceeds going to Baby2Baby).