When is best to introduce certain foods?

by Katelin Whiddon

Food. We all need it, and we all love it — some of us too much.

As parents, we focus so much of our attention on our children eating. Milk, rice, baby food and solids are stages our children go through as they are growing from infants to toddlers and beyond. We discussed picky eating in a previous article; this article addresses introducing foods.

Many questions arise about when we can introduce certain foods to our children. Of course, some children have special needs and special guidelines and timelines, but these tips are basic for the general population. Before introducing anything you have questions about, always consult with your child’s pediatrician.

Generally, a child remains solely on milk — either breast or formula — until 4 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition does not recommend the introduction of any solids until at least 4 months of age.

Early introduction of solid foods can cause problems with digestion, introducing unnecessary pathogens and replacing nutrition that should be gained through milk alone. Many studies also link early solid food introduction to an increased consumption of foods higher in sugar in later developmental stages.

The easier grains — single grain white rice cereal — are among the easiest and least allergenic foods to introduce at the earlier ages (4-6 months).

Generally, baby foods are encouraged to begin around 6 months of age. In terms of introducing fruits and vegetables, it is recommended to introduce vegetables first. Sometimes the introduction of fruits before vegetables can turn babies on to sweet tastes and deter the love for vegetables.

Anytime a new food is introduced — rice cereal, fruits, vegetables, juices, etc. — it is best to wait several days or even a week before introducing a new food. If a child has any type of allergic reaction to a food, you will want to know what triggered the reaction. If your child has had mango apple blueberry medley served with pea turkey rice dinner and has a reaction, it will be difficult to determine which individual food caused the reaction. For this reason, it is important to start with the single foods, and once those have been successfully introduced, the combinations can be introduced.

Some foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions and thus, we encourage delayed introductions of those foods. These foods include, but are not limited to, eggs, strawberries, fish and peanuts. Eggs, strawberries and fish are discouraged in children until 1 year of age. There are many varying opinions on when to introduce peanut products and new studies are published often regarding the topic. I would encourage you to talk to your child’s pediatrician regarding their recommendations on the age to introduce peanut products.

During the summer months, I am often asked about giving babies water to drink. While we do encourage training our kids to be water drinkers, infants need to be receiving a diet high in vitamins and minerals that are best found in milk. Breast milk and formula provide both the adequate hydration and the rich nutrition your baby needs.

Remember that this is a general overview of feeding your baby. Be sure to keep your child’s wellness visits at their pediatrician’s office to ensure their proper growth and development. You can also use that time to discuss their diets and ask any questions you may have. It’s a good idea to make a list of your questions before the appointment.


A Conway native, Katelin Whiddon is a nurse practitioner at the Conway wound clinic for Arkansas Heart Hospital. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A University of Central Arkansas graduate, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and has worked previously in pediatrics.