Your guide to starting solids

  • Fortified infant cereal provides a blend of nutrients growing babies need with a texture appropriate for their age.
  • Developmental milestones, such as head and neck control and smooth tongue movements, indicate your baby may be ready for cereal.
  • Not before four months of age unless directed by your baby’s doctor.
  • Fortified infant cereals are an important source of Iron, which needs to be replenished around the middle of the first year.
  • Begin feedings with breastmilk or infant formula before offering solid food.
  • Start with single-grain cereals first—typically rice followed by oatmeal—and look for sensitivities.

Congratulations on reaching this exciting milestone and have fun feeding your baby his first foods. Starting cereal is a new and exciting step in your baby’s eating development, but it often comes with many questions. You may be wondering why cereal is often recommended as the first solid food, how to know when your baby is ready, and how to really get started. The guidelines that follow will help you through this next phase of his big move to solid foods.

Big nutrition for tiny tummies
Fortified infant cereal provides big nutrition for tiny tummies. They are designed to provide essential nutrients in a small serving, perfect for a small tummy that can’t hold much food at one time. Infant cereals are easy to digest and perfect for first tastes of solid food.  Because you are mixing it, change the consistency by mixing it thinly, then moving to a thicker texture as your baby gets older. This lets you keep pace with his developing eating skills. Introducing new textures and flavors at the appropriate time is an important part of establishing lifelong healthy eating habits.

How do I know he’s ready?

Before four months of age, babies have yet to develop the skills needed to move solid foods around in their mouth and successfully swallow, and his little digestive tract is still developing and not ready for anything but breastmilk or infant formula. If your little guy is at least four months old and has reached the milestones of a Supported Sitter, he may be ready for his first cereal experience!

Look for these milestones:
  • Pushes himself up with elbows straight while lying on his tummy.
  • Sits with very little help because he’s gained more control over his head and neck.
  • Turns his head to the left or right.
  • Moves his tongue backward and forward in a smooth rhythm when you put a small spoon to his lips. This allows him to draw food in and swallow it. If he’s pushing the spoon and food out, this is his body’s reflex telling you he may not be ready. Keep trying in a few more days, though, as your baby’s oral skills are always developing.

Good to know

Not all babies reach these milestones at the same time, so be sure not to start too soon. It is always smart to speak with your pediatrician around your baby’s 4-month visit about when to start cereal.

Before starting cereal, he should be taking at least 24 oz. of breastmilk or formula on a daily basis.


Spooning up good nutrition

Babies in the first two years are rapidly growing and have specific nutritional requirements. Fortified infant cereals provide a blend of B vitamins, Zinc, Calcium, Iron and Vitamin E, all key for his rapid growth. The nutrition of Iron-rich cereal can be an important part of baby’s diet until the age of two.

Setting the stage for cereal

Here are a few tips for getting your baby ready to take that first spoonful of cereal.

  • Breastfeed or offer him formula so he won’t be fussy or too hungry.
  • He is wide awake and mildly hungry. Choose a time of day you do not have to rush.
  • Get the appropriate spoon. Use a small baby-sized spoon that’s coated to protect your baby’s tender gums.
  • Sit him in an upright infant seat or high chair, making sure his head is in an upright position, not tilted back.
  • Let him explore. Place a dab of cereal on her high chair tray so he can "finger paint" with it and become familiar with its texture. Let him explore the feel and smell of the cereal. This is both fun and messy! Keep your sense of humor and keep the camera handy for pictures.
  • First Bite! Sit facing your baby and hold the half-spoonful of cereal about 12 inches from her face. Get her attention and put the spoon up to her mouth. For the first bite, try putting a dab of cereal on her lip. If she's agreeable to that first taste, put the next bite into her mouth when she opens it. Feed your baby as slowly or as rapidly as she wants and always look for his fullness cues. It’s all about the experience!
  • Try, try again. Don’t be surprised if your baby’s first taste pops right back out. It’s a natural reflex. If your baby seems unhappy about this experience, give it up for now and try again later.

Good to know

Breastmilk or formula is still your baby’s main source of nutrition. This is a time of introducing new flavors and textures to your baby, a time of exploration.

More tips for introducing cereals

  • Start with infant rice or oatmeal cereal. Wait several days, and if there are no reactions, try infant oatmeal cereal. Offering only single-grain cereals at first lets you pinpoint any possible food sensitivities or reactions—such as a rash, diarrhea or vomiting—your baby may have to a new food.
  • Prepared cereal should never be fed from a bottle—only from a spoon—unless directed by your pediatrician.
  • When first starting cereal, mixing with breastmilk or formula is recommended. Move to a thicker consistency once you feel your baby is mastering the thin texture.
  • Prepare only as much as you think he will eat. Don’t save cereal that’s been prepared, as it can grow bacteria very easily.

Top Tip

Waiting three days before introducing another food lets you watch for any signs of any intolerance or sensitivity—such as rash, diarrhea, runny nose or vomiting. If you suspect a reaction, stop feeding your baby the new food and speak to your pediatrician.

We’re here to help

For questions or advice on how and when to start your baby on cereals, schedule a free session to talk with one of Gerber’s Registered Dietitians.
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