When you become a first-time mother, you grow along with your child. The more milestones they achieve, the more you learn about them. During your baby’s development, he or she will eventually be ready to transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods.

Introducing your baby to new tastes and textures is an exciting experience that can be both rewarding and challenging for newbie moms like me. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to introduce solid foods to your baby, you’re not alone. I’ve definitely found it challenging to prepare meals, but introducing solids to Levi, who is 23 months old, has been a lot of fun. 

Levi was super excited to sit down and eat whole grain soup with chicken, carrots and cilantro.

It’s also important to note that The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about six months old.

The following are some signs that your baby may be ready to make the culinary leap: age, head control, interest in food, increase in appetite and loss of tongue-thrust reflex.


Between four and six months of age, most babies are ready to start eating solid foods. However, every baby is different, so it’s important to pay attention to your baby’s signs. 

Head control

As soon as your baby is able to hold their head up and sit upright without support, it’s safe to introduce solids. This is very important for safe swallowing.

Interest in food 

Another sign that your baby is ready to try solid foods is if they watch you eat, grab your food or seem curious about what you’re eating. When Levi was showing interest in food he would try grabbing my food or he would look at it with really intensive eyes. Sometimes he would even drool when he was looking at a food he wanted.

Increase in appetite

A baby who seems hungry more frequently or is not satisfied with their usual feedings may be ready for something more substantial. My son, Levi, at four months old started to increase his bottle intake during the day and at night. That’s when me and my partner decided to start feeding him Gerber baby cereal, as it’s one of the best cereals to start your baby with.

Loss of tongue-thrust reflex

At birth, babies have a natural reflex that pushes food out of their mouths with their tongues. When this reflex starts to go away, around four months of age, it may be a sign that your baby is ready to try swallowing solid foods because they are able to hold the food in their mouths to chew.


I recently spoke with Dr. Gloria Monsalve, who is a bilingual family physician and an advocate for patients in the San Fernando Valley. She’s been in practice for more than 15 years, helping those in low-income communities, specifically the Latino community.

After our talk on the importance of toddler nutrition, I am completely convinced that it’s vital for a mom to consider making appropriate food choices for their baby. Because choosing how to feed your baby has life-long effects for your baby and you. “Toddler nutrition is very important because it builds the toddler’s brain and body and it also helps strengthen the bones and immune system,” Monsalve said.

In addition, she said that choosing the right food for your toddler is crucial, as it can help prevent anemia. “About 20% of children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with anemia at some point. A child who has anemia doesn’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a type of protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to other cells in the body,” according to UCLA Health.

Monsalve explained that anemia is highly prevalent in children due to iron deficiency. In other words, it’s when the child doesn’t have enough iron in the blood.

“One of the reasons why the child may have iron deficiency is because they may be giving the child a lot of whole milk and that decreases their iron intake and puts them at higher risk of anemia,” Monsalve said.

I remember when I gave Levi his first banana he absolutely loved it and couldn’t stop smiling and kept asking for more. Surprisingly, he also loved tasting a lemon for the first time. This new adventure with your toddler does not have to be frightening, but I highly recommend that young parents do their research before introducing a toddler with solids. 

Toddler’s also learns how to feed himself, time really flies.

You must also be careful to stay away from certain foods in the beginning, such as hot dogs, nuts, grapes, raisins, chips, raw vegetables and even popcorn, as they can cause choking. Monsalve recommends starting with pure foods, such as bananas, strawberries, mangoes and peaches, because they do not typically become choking hazards. Also, she said that it’s important to give those pure foods and fruits in small portions, or smashed or pureed.

“As a parent, you have the control to make it fun and have a variety of fruits and vegetables for your child to try. One day it can be carrots, another day it can be a banana or even baby cereal,” Monsalve said.

Now that my son, Levi, is turning two, I have definitely seen an increase in his appetite and have tried many things at this point. At this age, I believe it’s really important to enforce a healthy diet as it can be crucial for the rest of his life. “As a child enters the toddler stage, maintaining a healthy diet is the most important thing,” Monsalve said. 

At Monsalves’s medical practice, many of the young adults she treats suffer from chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Since my son currently doesn’t have any diseases, it’s important that I keep it that way as I have a history of high blood pressure and diabetes in the family. There might be some diseases that I can prevent my son from developing if I start now with a healthy diet daily.  “You can start your toddler with a well-balanced diet, such as dividing his plate with half vegetables and fruits and the other half with protein. The protein can be like beans, smashed beans, small portions of beef, grains like oatmeal and brown rice,” Monsalve said.

Levi eating orange rice that includes tomatoes and onions.

As a Latina, I have witnessed too often how many diseases impact our Latino community. “Latino children in Spanish-speaking households are at greatest risk for obesity. About 25% of children living in the U.S. between the ages two and five years are overweight and young Latino children from immigrant families are disproportionately affected by overweight and obesity, putting them at a greater risk for health problems and diseases,” according to a recent UCLA study.

“Healthy eating starts by example at home. If your child sees that you enjoy eating vegetables and fruits, so will they,” Monsalve said. “Education is the most powerful tool needed to make a difference.”

If there is anything I can help young mothers and fathers with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at amairani@latinomedia.org. Follow my Mami & Me column here.

Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a staff multimedia journalist, who focuses on...