Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.3 Requirements for Special Groups or Ages of Children

4.3.1 Nutrition for Infants Introduction of Age-Appropriate Solid Foods to Infants

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/31/2018 and 2/9/2023.

A plan to introduce complementary, age-appropriate solid foods to infants should be made in consultation with the child’s parent/guardian and primary health care provider. Complementary foods are nutritious foods and beverages other than human breast milk or infant formula.6 Age-appropriate solid foods may be introduced by 6 months, or sooner or later based on the child’s developmental level.1,5-6 Caregivers/teachers should watch for signs to decide when the infant is ready for solid foods. These signs include sitting up with only a little support, proper head control, the ability to chew well, or grabbing food from the plate. Also, infants will lose the tongue-thrusting reflex and begin acting hungry after formula feeding or breastfeeding.4,6 Recommendations on the introduction of complementary should take into account:6

  • The infant’s developmental level
  • Nutritional needs
  • Coexisting medical conditions
  • Social factors
  • Cultural, ethnic, and religious food preferences of the family
  • Financial considerations
  • Other related factors found through the nutrition assessment

For infants who are exclusively breastfed, the amount of certain nutrients in the body ¾ such as iron and zinc ¾ begins to get lower after the age of 6 months. So, gradually introduce puréed meats or meat substitutes and iron-fortified cereals.5-6 Iron-fortified cereals, puréed meats, and puréed fruits and vegetables are all appropriate foods to introduce. The first food introduced should have just one ingredient that is served in a small portion for 3 to 5 days before introducing another food.6 Watch the infant closely for potential reactions to the foods being introduced. Gradually increase the variety and portion, one at a time, depending on how the infant reacts .8 

Caregivers/teachers should use or develop a take-home sheet for parents/guardians in which the caregiver/teacher records the food consumed, how much, and other important notes on the infant, each day. Caregivers/teachers should also continue to talk with each infant’s parents/guardians about which foods they have introduced and are feeding. When appropriate, changes to basic food patterns should be given in writing by the infant’s primary health care provider.

If caregivers/teachers will give nutritional supplements/medications, written orders from the prescribing health care provider should specify the medical need; medication or supplement; dosage; and how long to give the medication or supplement.

The ideal time to introduce complementary foods to infants may vary because infants develop at different rates. Early introduction of age-appropriate solid food and fruit juice interferes with the intake of human milk or iron-fortified formula that the infant needs for growth. Solid foods given before an infant is developmentally ready may be related to extra weight gain, a higher risk of choking, and consuming less than the right amount of breast milk or formula.1,4,6 Age-appropriate solid foods, such as meat and fortified cereals, are needed beginning at 6 months to make up for any losses in zinc and iron from breastfeeding exclusively.5-6 Typically, low levels of vitamin D are transferred to infants via breast milk, so it is recommended that breastfed or partially breastfed infants receive at least 400 IU of vitamin D supplements every day beginning soon after birth.2,3,6 Parents/guardians give these supplements at home, unless the primary health care provider has different instructions.

Many caregivers/teachers and parents/guardians believe that infants sleep better when they start to eat age-appropriate solid foods, but research shows that longer sleeping periods are developmental -not nutritionally- determined in mid-infancy, and so this shouldn’t be the only reason for deciding when to introduce solid foods.4,6 Also, for infants who are exclusively formula fed or fed a combination of formula and human milk, evidence for introducing complementary foods in a specific order has not been proven.

Good communication between the caregiver/teacher and the parents/guardians cannot be overemphasized and is needed for successful feeding in general, including when and how to introduce age-appropriate solid foods.



American Academy of Pediatrics

Starting Solid Foods -

Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Medication Administration 100% Fruit Juice Written Menus and Introduction of New Foods Care for Children with Food Allergies Vegetarian/Vegan Diets Adult Supervision of Children Who Are Learning to Feed Themselves Experience with Familiar and New Foods
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant food and feeding. Web site. Published July 6, 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Where we stand: vitamin D & iron supplements for babies. Updated May 24, 2022. Healthy Web site. Accessed November 20, 2022

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vitamin D supplementation CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Web site. Last Reviewed July 2, 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022

  4. U.S Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. Feeding infants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Web site. Published July 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022

  5. U.S Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. Q&As: Feeding infants and meal pattern requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Published January 17, 2017. Accessed November 20, 2022

  6. U.S Department of Agriculture. WIC Works Resource System. WIC infant nutrition and feeding guide. Chapter 5: Complementary foods. Web site. Published April 2019. Accessed November 20, 2022

  7. Vadiveloo M, Tovar A, Østbye T, Benjamin-Neelon SE. Associations between timing and quality of solid food introduction with infant weight-for-length z-scores at 12 months: findings from the Nurture cohort. Appetite, 141, p.104299. Published October 1, 2019. Accessed November 20, 2022

  8. World Health Organization. Infant and young child feeding: key facts. Web site. Published June 9, 2021. Accessed November 20, 2022


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 5/31/2018 and 2/9/2023.