Here's everything you need to know to feed your 6-month-old baby, including best first foods as well as a sample meal plan and feeding schedule.
How to Introduce Baby Food
Before you start serving solid food to your baby, it is very important to make sure your baby is actually ready for it!
As a registered dietitian specializing in infant nutrition, I've seen so many families introducing food to their babies too early for various reasons, including to help with sleep, growth, and to calm a fussy baby.
Note starting solids earlier won't help with any of these.
Starting solids when your baby is not ready can actually be quite dangerous. It can lead to increased risk of choking, obesity and diabetes later in life, and premature reduction in breastmilk or formula intake, to highlight a few.
So how can you tell if your baby is ready for solids?
Here are some of the signs of readiness to look for:
- Able to sit with minimal support for at least 20-30 seconds
- Has good trunk, head, and neck control
- Shows interest in food
- Fading tongue thrust reflex (causes the tongue to stick out when touched)
For more detailed information, be sure to grab my FREE starter guide (click below) that will help make sure you start introducing solids at the most optimal time. As a bonus, you will also receive a USDA approved guide on starting solids that you can print out and easily refer to.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Milk, whether it's breast milk or formula, is and will continue to be the most important part of your child's diet up until they turn one.
At this age, daily milk intake should be around 25-32 ounces and if you are nursing, about 4-6 times a day. But keep in mind, every baby is unique. The best thing you can do is use these recommendations as a guide, but follow your baby's lead first and foremost.
It becomes a bit more challenging to do so when giving milk in a bottle because you can see exactly how much your baby drinks. It's so easy to get caught up with the numbers. If your baby is turning away, don't force them to finish the bottle.
Trust their innate ability to self-regulate. Just like how you eat different amounts of food each day, it's NORMAL for your baby to drink different amounts at each feeding.
Start with one meal per day, moving to two meals only if your baby seems interested and ready. Even if your baby doesn't eat much, which is most likely to happen, simply being at the table and exploring the food by seeing, touching, smelling, sucking counts as a meal.
Once your baby is around 8-9 months, you can gradually move to 2-3 meals and perhaps a snack by 10-11 months.
The recommendation is about 1-2 ounces of protein-rich foods and grain products and 2-4 ounces of fruits and vegetables per day.
But remember - every baby is different. While we as parents or caregivers want our babies to eat with enthusiasm right away, remember that it takes time for them to learn this completely new skill. Food at this age is mostly for exploration and learning.
So don't come to the table with an agenda and expectation that your baby should eat a specific amount of food. Regardless of which feeding method you've decided to take (purees, baby-led weaning, or both), give them plenty of space to explore in a way that feels comfortable to them.
This is so important in setting them up for success. And give yourself plenty of grace! Remember, breast milk and/or formula will continue to be their primary source of nutrition. Therefore, do not decrease the amount this time.
If your baby is maintaining their growth curve, it’s most likely they’re getting enough. Here's everything you need to know about "normal" growth.
Breast milk or formula and sips of water.
Avoid fruit juice or any sweet drinks with added sugars. Cow's milk should not be offered as a drink until 1 year of age, but it's fine to use it in cooking or to mix with food.
Nope, unless it's what you feel most comfortable serving initially.
What is most important is that you prioritize iron-rich foods.
Infant cereal is a convenient and reliable source of iron, but if you are able to serve other iron-rich foods at every single meal, then you are on the right track!
For years, it was recommended to delay introducing highly allergenic foods until around 2-3 years of age as protection against food allergies. This is outdated advice. In fact, research shows that delaying these foods could actually promote the development of food allergies.
The current recommendation is to introduce highly allergenic foods EARLY and OFTEN. By doing so, you can dramatically reduce the risk or actually help prevent the development of food allergies.
Some babies are considered high risk if at least one parent or sibling has an atopic condition (such as eczema, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, or asthma) or if baby has any of these conditions themselves.
If this is the case for you, I highly advise you to work with a pediatric allergist early on to develop a course of action, as research suggests that introducing the allergens as early as 4 months may be beneficial for high risk babies.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease control still recommend introducing one single-ingredient food at a time and waiting 3-5 days before introducing a new food, this is based more on tradition rather than medical evidence.
In fact, recent research suggests that waiting for days between each new food introduction not only limits food diversity, which can promote picky eating later on, but can also increase the risk for developing allergic diseases.
Given the evidence, it is best to offer a wide variety of foods from early on.
One exception to this is to introduce one allergen at a time so if your baby does have a reaction, you'll know which food is responsible.
Feeding Schedule for 6 Month Old Baby
In addition to exploring new foods, this stage is also for building structure and routine around mealtimes along with breast milk or formula.
It is best to offer milk 30-40 minutes prior to the meal so your baby isn't overly hungry and get frustrated at the table. You can also offer more milk 15-20 minutes after the meal if your baby still seems hungry.
I am sharing our schedule to give you an idea of how to fit in a meal along with milk and nap times. You will notice this pattern - eat, play, sleep.
Note that having a schedule doesn't mean you have to be super rigid with it. There's always room for flexibility. But having a predictable routine can be really helpful for your baby and you as you will be able to plan your day accordingly.
- 7 am - wake up and milk
- 9-10:15 am - Nap 1
- 10:20 am - Milk
- 11 am - Solid food
- 12:15-1:30pm - Nap 2
- 1:35 pm - Milk
- 3:30-4:30 pm - Nap 3
- 4:35 pm - Milk
- 6:30 pm - Milk
- 7 pm - bedtime
- 3 am - Milk ( we dropped this at around 6.5 months)
Best Foods for 6 Month Old Baby
Regardless of whether your are doing purees, baby-led weaning, or both, here are the top foods to introduce to your baby.
They all meet the criteria of being nutrient-dense to make every bite count. They are also great for flavor and texture exposure and can easily be incorporated into your baby's diet.
I've dedicated a whole post to this along with recipes! I believe you will find it extremely helpful.
Fat is an essential nutrient at this age for optimal brain development and growth. And these calorically dense foods are a great way to make every bite count.
- Nuts and Seeds
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), smashed
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Mashed peas
When cooking vegetables, don't forget to season with herbs and spices!
- Number one tip - Follow the division of responsibility! It is SO important in raising competent, joyous eaters!
- Eat together - SHOW them how to pick up food, use a spoon, chew, swallow, sip from a cup, etc.
- Make sure your baby is sitting upright before you begin.
- Make sure your baby is comfortable. Full diapers, pain due to teething or other illnesses (e.g. sore throat or ear pain, constipation, etc.) can all hinder your child from eating.
- Sit on your hands! This is what I had to do to stop myself from trying to clean up or prevent the mess from happening.
- Let your child get messy! Playing, smearing, smushing...they are a HUGE part of learning to self-feed.
6 Month Baby Food Menu/Meal Plan
It doesn't matter which meal you want to start with. Pick a time of day when you and your baby are both relaxed and not on a time crunch.
You may want to experiment with different times of the day to find when your baby seems most interested in food. With both of my kids that was lunch time as you can see above.
Here are some meal ideas to help get you started. While I have them categorized, there's no reason why you can't serve any of these meals at any time of the day.
And here is a master list of baby led weaning recipes
- Avocado spear rolled in hemp seeds (or mashed) + oatmeal + steam roasted zucchini
- Spinach pancakes + yogurt
- Overnight oats with carrots and yogurt
- Blueberry chia pudding with peanut butter
- Banana french toast + avocado + steam roasted carrot
- Avocado + chickpea cookie
- Quinoa baby cereal
- Baby cereal - here are my top picks for store-bought infant cereals as well as ways to add more variety and nutrition
- White beans and sweet potato mash + steamed red bell pepper
- Quinoa with avocado + mango rolled in hemp seeds
- Beet muffin + red lentils
- hummus toast with frozen strawberries
- Salmon quiche + steam roasted broccoli
- beetroot pesto + tofu + beet
- Steak strip (or puree) + Broccoli and Zucchini cooked in olive oil
- Slow cooker chicken curry (from my one pot meals cookbook)
- Meatball + zucchini
- Chickpea pasta in bolognese
- Spaghetti squash with iron-rich pasta sauce
- Hulk pasta + mashed white beans + carrot
Foods to Avoid
- Hard or crunchy texture - raw fruits and vegetables, whole nuts, crackers, popcorn, etc.
- Sticky texture - a glob of peanut or nut butter
- Honey until 1 year as it can lead to botulism - it’s unsafe even if it’s uncooked. Be sure to read the labels as it’s an ingredient in a lot of unexpected foods.
- Unpasteurized milk, yogurt, cheese, or juice (which should be avoid until 2)
- Milk for drinking (can be used in recipes)
- High mercury fish
Favorite Feeding Tools
Here are the essentials that I know will save you time and your sanity! I know it’s tempting to buy all the adorable products that are out there. But truly, these are really all you need!
3 Month Meal Plan Program
If you are struggling to move beyond purees or feeling overwhelmed trying to give your baby the best, here's a complete roadmap that would show you through daily videos and photos of what foods and how to serve them to your baby AND the rest of the family at the same time!
I actually filmed EVERYTHING I made for her as well as my toddler, husband, and me from Day 1 to Day 84 (so 3 months) in real time and turned them into an easy to access and follow program!
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen