What Is the Healthiest Start for Infants?

Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022
What is the healthiest start for infants?
Food safety concerns for infants include food allergies, choking, and risks of foodborne illnesses.

The healthiest start or best approach for infants is breast milk, which is the predominant source of nutrition for babies during the first six months. However, infant formula can be a good alternative.

  • For the first six months of life:
    • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend exclusive breastfeeding, meaning the infant receives only breast milk during the first six months of life for optimal nutrition and health benefits.
    • Breastfeeding can accommodate an infant’s nutrition and fluid requirements easily.
    • Breast milk is unique and the perfect food that provides all the nutrients your baby needs and protects babies against infection, obesity, and some other chronic diseases such as diabetes, later in life.
  • At or about six months (transition):
    • Signs that a baby is ready to start solid foods include sitting up with minimal support, demonstrating good head control, bringing objects to the mouth, or grasping at small objects.
    • Initiate solid foods such as iron-fortified cereals or iron-rich food such as pureed meat, poultry, beans, tofu, or legumes.
    • Start with a very small amount of solid foods, along with breast milk or infant formula to be the primary stomach filling food.
    • Gradually, add different types of pureed vegetables, fruits, and other foods from the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy).
    • Choose from a variety of foods from the five food groups and gradually vary the texture, from pureed to soft, to mashed, to minced, as the baby gets older.
    • Start weaning (reducing breastfeeding) between seven and eight months. Most infants will drink a small amount of liquid from a cup or glass.
    • Keep breastfeeding or using infant formula while introducing other foods. 
    • Breastfeeding should continue until the baby is 12 months old or for as long as both the mother and infant desire.
  • At 12 months:
    • Your child may be eating a wide variety of nutritious foods enjoyed by the rest of the family.
    • For older babies, whole cow’s milk is appropriate.

Dos and Don’ts of infant nutrition

Food safety concerns for infants include food allergies, choking, and risks of foodborne illnesses. The following safety tips can help:

  • Avoid hard foods to prevent choking.
  • Remember to add only one new single-ingredient food at a time that allows time to monitor for allergic reactions.
  • Start with a small amount of new solid foods. Try a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.
  • Avoid using canned foods that may contain a large amount of salt and sugar.
  • Take care when introducing potential allergy-causing foods such as eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and fish.
  • Do not feed homemade spinach, beets, green beans, squash, or carrots to babies younger than six months. These foods can have a high amount of nitrates that increase the risk of a blood disorder (methemoglobinemia) that can interfere with oxygen delivery in the blood.
  • Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about the risk of food allergies.
  • Do not feed your baby solid foods from a bottle.
  • Do supervise your child while eating.
  • Once your child is taking solids, offer sips of water.
  • Introduce solid foods when infants can sit upright and face forward.
  • Do not feed directly from the jar of food and instead use a spoon.
  • Do not feed honey to children younger than 12 months due to the risk of foodborne illness (botulism).
  • Do not put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in their mouth, which can lead to ear infections and choking.

What are some examples of appropriate solid foods?

  • Six months:
    • Well-cooked and pureed meat, poultry, and beans
    • Single-grain cereal and infant cereal with breast milk or formula
    • Cooked and pureed vegetables
    • Strained peas
    • Mashed banana or avocado
  • Nine months:
    • Well-cooked, minced, or finely chopped meat, poultry, or beans
    • A variety of cooked vegetables such as squash and green beans
    • Sliced and quartered bananas or small pieces of other soft fruits
  • 12 months:
    • Soft, shredded meat, poultry, or fish
    • Small pieces of boiled vegetables or soft, easy-to-chew fruits


Newborn babies don't sleep very much. See Answer

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Do’s and Don’ts for Baby’s First Foods Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/dos-and-donts-for-babys-first-foods

Introducing solid foods for babies BetterHealth Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/eating-tips-for-babies

Infant and Toddler Nutrition CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/index.html

Feeding your baby: When to start with solid foods UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/food-nutrition/feeding-your-baby-when-to-start-solid-foods