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The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital

The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital
At Maine Medical Center

22 Bramhall Street
Portland, Maine 04102-3175
www.bbch.org


Formula Feeding FAQs: Starting Solids and Milk

Whether you've decided to formula feed your baby from the start, are supplementing your breast milk with formula, or are switching from breast milk to formula, you're bound to have questions. Here are answers to some common queries about formula feeding.

When Can My Baby Try Solid Foods?

Doctors recommend waiting until your baby is about 6 months old to start solid foods. Some babies may be ready for solids sooner than 6 months, but wait until your baby is at least 4 months old. 

Babies who are ready to eat solids foods:

  • are interested in foods (for example, they may watch others eat, reach for food, and open their mouths when food is near)
  • hold up their heads well, and sit up with little or no help
  • don't push food of their mouth (which is a natural tongue reflex that disappears when babies are 4–6 months old)
  • usually weigh twice their birth weight, or close to it

Talk to your doctor about the right time to start solid foods.

How Do I Introduce Solid Foods?

When the time is right, start with a single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal. Start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of cereal mixed with breast milk, formula, or water. Feed your baby with a small baby spoon. Don’t add cereal to a baby's bottle unless your doctor recommends it.

When your baby gets the hang of eating the first food, introduce other foods from all food groups, such as puréed meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and yogurt. Wait a few days between introducing new foods to make sure your baby doesn't have an allergic reaction.

You can include foods that are more likely to cause allergies — such as peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk, seafood, nuts, wheat, and soy — among the foods you introduce to your infant. Waiting to start these foods does not prevent food allergies.

Talk to your doctor before giving foods that contain peanuts if your baby has severe eczema or an egg allergy, as these conditions make an allergy to peanuts more likely. Eating peanut-containing foods early on may lower a child’s chances of developing a peanut allergy. But your doctor will need to decide if you can give peanuts to your baby, and the safest way to do it. Usually, this requires allergy tests.

Should We Avoid Some Foods?

Yes, don’t give your baby:

  • foods with added sugars or no-calorie sweeteners
  • high-sodium foods
  • honey until after the first birthday. It can cause botulism in babies.
  • unpasteurized juice, milk, yogurt, or cheese
  • regular cow's milk or soy beverages instead of breast milk or formula before 12 months. It’s OK to offer pasteurized yogurt and cheese.
  • foods that may cause choking, such as hot dogs, raw carrots, grapes, popcorn, and nuts

Always supervise your child when eating. Make sure your child is sitting up in high chair or other safe place.

When Can My Baby Have Cow's Milk?

Before their first birthday, babies still need the nutrients in breast milk or formula. But after that, they’re ready to switch to cow's milk.

Most kids under age 2 should drink whole milk. If a toddler is overweight or there is a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or heart problems, your doctor might recommend switching to reduced fat (2%) milk.

If your child can’t drink cow’s milk, choose an unsweetened soy beverage fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Other milk alternatives, like almond, oat, rice, or coconut milk, have less protein and may not be fortified.

How Do We Switch to Cow’s Milk?

You can switch your baby from formula to whole milk by replace bottles of formula with bottles — or sippy cups — of milk. By 1 year old, your baby should be eating a variety of solid foods and drinking about 16 to 24 ounces (480–720 milliliters) of milk per day.

When Can I Start Giving My Baby Water and Other Drinks?

In their first 6 months, healthy babies drinking enough formula usually don't need extra water. Once your baby is eating solid foods, you can offer a small amount of water between feedings, up to 4–8 ounces a day. 

Water that has fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. If your water does not have fluoride, talk to your doctor or dentist about fluoride drops.

Do not give juice to babies younger than 12 months. After your child’s first birthday, limit 100% fruit juice to no more than 4 ounces a day. Always serve juice in a cup, not in a bottle. Don’t give your child sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda, juice drinks, sports drinks, and flavored milks.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2021