When should I introduce foods?

Information to comfort you and boost your confidenceContrary to popular belief, eating cereal at supper does not help infants sleep through the night. How long they sleep at night depends on their biological rhythm and temperament.

Babies’ nutritional needs change as they grow.

Before 6 months, most babies meet all their nutritional needs with their milk.

At about six months of age, it becomes necessary to introduce foods into your baby’s diet. These foods provide the extra energy babies need to grow. They also help prevent problems like iron deficiency.

If you introduce foods earlier, they will replace milk instead of complementing it. If you wait until later, your baby may not get all the nutrients he needs and could have more difficulty adapting to foods.

How do I know my baby is ready?

Essential information to rememberA baby under 6 months old isn’t necessarily ready for foods just because she nurses more often for several days.

It’s not always easy to determine the best time to introduce foods to your baby since she can’t talk yet. But it is possible. Here’s how to tell she’s ready:

  • Your baby is around 6 months old.
  • Your baby can sit in a high chair without support.
  • Your baby has good control of her head and can turn away to indicate refusal.

She may also try to bring food to her mouth.

Essential information to rememberOnce your baby starts eating foods, continue breastfeeding as often as he wants. If you feed your baby commercial infant formula, give him at least 750 ml (25 oz) of milk a day.

Photo: Jean-Claude Mercier

Keep in mind that a baby under 6 months old isn’t necessarily ready for foods just because she nurses more often for several days. More frequent feedings could be due to a growth spurt or a temporary need for more milk (see Growth spurts).

However, some babies may need to start eating foods a little earlier than 6 months.

When you start introducing foods to your baby, the quantity of milk she drinks shouldn’t decrease all that much.

Interest in food varies greatly from one baby to the next. Some need several tries before they get used to foods, while others like them so much that they lose interest in milk.

What about premature babies?

Premature babies are introduced to foods the same way as term babies are—with one key difference. The decision about when to start foods must be based on the corrected age—i.e., the age the baby would be had he been born on the original due date—to ensure his system is mature enough.

Nutrients: Components of food, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, sugars, and fats.