Ask Amma

Introducing foods

In What on 17 October 2010 at 4:10 am

My baby is six months old. When should she start eating solids, and what should we start with?

If you can, as Michael Pollan might advise, find out what your great-grandmother, or better yet, someone of that generation living where you currently live, did. That should lead you to something that grows well in your region and climate, and that babies digest well.  And also ensure that you eat whole-grain and home-made rather than out of a box.

Before I start listing foods to offer, let me emphasize that the key word is offer.  Let the baby be the one to decide whether to eat and when to stop.  Does anyone really doubt that a six month old baby can put food in his mouth?  Hasn’t he been putting all kinds of random things in his mouth?   Babies explore with their mouths and when they are ready to explore food, they will find the way.  Your job is only to ensure that the food within reach is appropriate for baby’s age and to offer it in a pleasant, sociable environment.

When to offer solids: Is my baby ready for solid foods?
HowHow babies learn to eat
What to eat? Read on.

In many parts of India ragi, or millet is the first choice. It is easily digested, high in bio-available iron and calcium, particularly when sprouted, and a good source of protein as well. For better iron absorption, ragi should be in the tummy without any other source of iron (e.g. breastmilk) at the same time.  This is not something you need to stress over, but just remember not to mix the ragi with milk.

Make the ragi with plain water only – no milk, salt, spice or sweetener.  After age 1 or 1 1/2 you might start adding fruit or other combinations, just as you might with other hot cereals.

Eating Ragi

Eating with gusto

Ragi Porridge Recipe | Video | More on eating ragi. | Notes on importance of  ragi. and instructions for sprouting ragi at home.

Though there are different theories about why children get allergies, it is not difficult to delay foods that are considered more allergenic, like wheat, dairy, nuts, strawberries and other specific fruits and vegetables. If anything, it encourages us to diversify our own diets and explore the local. For our daughter I delayed dairy till age 2, so that the solids portion of her diet would comprise greater variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. By age 2 she could eat everything but nuts, which waited a bit longer. Foods with added sugar also waited, so that she could get familiar with the actual taste and texture of whole foods.  I should also mention that we ate together, and baby ate her food on her own, without being fed or told how much to eat.

Here are the foods our baby ate, starting at 6 months.  Note that this is merely a sharing of our experience and nothing more. We started with ragi and she continued to eat ragi every day for years.  The rest of the foods in this list came and went but ragi was a daily staple.

Actual photo of baby's first fingerful of ragi porridge.

Actual photo of baby’s first day eating ragi porridge.  Nanna offered ragi by hand; Papa grasped and ate.

Started at 6 months:

  • ragi porridge  -made with sprouted ragi flour and water only
  • very ripe kerala plaintain called “rajolu” or as per Wikipedia “rajeli kela” (राजेळी केळ)
  • sweet potato – called ratalu  (राताळू)
  • potato, carrot, beets, peas

We cooked all vegetables till they were soft and then sliced or cubed them, because our baby refused mashed foods.  We added no salt or oil to the vegetables until she was past 12 months of age.

  • సపోట  (चिक्कू or, as I just found out, sapodilla), very ripe banana

Added at 8 months:

  • rice.    In a spice grinder, we broke the rice grains into small pieces before cooking.  We just turned it on for 2-3 seconds to break it into small pieces without grinding too much, so that it would still look and feel like rice when cooked.  We used brown rice – i.e. unpolished rice.
  • idli – made with brown rice and unpeeled urad dal, and without salt.   Here was one “mashed food” that was not “baby food.”  Though we got the plates for making mini idlis, she usually took a regular sized one.  (Till she was no longer a baby  – now she likes both sizes.)

Added at 9 months:

  • mung and tur dal – without salt or oil.
  • oats – plain or with ripe banana, no salt or sugar
  • cucumber, పొట్లకాయ (snake gourd), most other vegetables except tomato,  cauliflower, cabbage.  I think we also waited a bit on leafy greens.
  • apple (cooked to soften), orange, guava, most other fruits except berries
  • flax oil and flax meal – as a dip for her idlis and dosas
Flax Seed aka  आल्सो  or అవిసె గింజలు are a good source of oil and fiber.  Eat raw and freshly ground for optimal nutritive value.

Flax Seed aka आल्सो or అవిసె గింజలు are a good source of oil and fiber. Eat raw for optimal nutritive value.

Added at 12-15 months:

  • introduced salt.
  • wheat – bread, chapati, pancake, pasta, etc
  • hummous
  • avacado, guacamole
  • dosa and pesarottu, once she could chew them well
  • dates – ground and mixed into banana bread until she could chew them.  Used ground dates in lieu of sugar or honey when baking.
  • tomato, onion, garlic
  • sambar, stir-fried vegetables with తిరగామూత (roasted spices)
  • tofu, vegan pizza

18 months:

  • cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, leafy greens

24 months:

  • cow’s milk, yogurt and other dairy
  • almonds and other nuts except for peanuts

30 months:

  • peanuts

48 months:

  • introduced foods with added sugar such as ice cream and kaju-barfi (nicknamed “rhombus surprise”), but without artificial colours, flavours, preservatives.

After age 5 even this restriction was lifted.   Not that we ate a lot of it but it was no longer off-limits.  With 5 years to get accustomed to the taste of real food, we were ready.  Avoiding packaged food helped me diversify my (very limited) cooking repertoire, and try to make more snacks at home.  So we only had to continue those good habits.  To quote Michael Pollan, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”


Further reading:  Suggested ages for introducing allergenic foods.
Solid Foods : KellyMom

Duncan Graham-Rowe, “Lifestyle:  When allergies go west,” in Nature (479), 24 November 2011,  pp. S2-S4.   View on Nature site |download pdf

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  1. Any suggestions on places to buy whole organic ragi in the US that I can sprout?

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    • Hi Sunita – I was hoping friends in the US might answer this question. Have you tried your local shops? Even if they don’t have it in stock they would probably be willing to order it for you. Arrowhead Mills sells it.

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  2. […] The only demand modern life places upon us is that in the first couple of years you (probably) should take care not to introduce highly allergenic foods.  There are different theories about allergies and some people don’t think you should worry much about them.  I did not find it difficult to delay allergenic foods, so I did.   So far,  things have turned out fine.   I have detailed our experience here:  Introducing Foods. […]

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  3. […] allergenic foods, so I did. So far, things have turned out fine. I have detailed our experience here: Introducing Foods. ▶ Commnet […]

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  4. […] Related Article:  Introducing Foods […]

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  5. […] as it would on the stove but if you like a softer porridge this is just right. Related Articles Introducing Foods |  How Children Learn to Eat Articles Cited: D & K, “How to sprout raagi (finger […]

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  6. […] reading on nurturing good eating habits: Introducing Foods How Children Learn to Eat My Breastfeeding Journey […]

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  7. […] month-old needs mama-milk, no other food or drink.   You are right to wait for six months before introducing foods.  Moreover, why would soup promote weight gain?  Breastmilk contains quality fat, protein, and […]

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  8. […] If your wife is breastfeeding, she is already introducing your son to the taste of solids, and by cooking you help to feed both of them. In fact, the foundation for healthy eating is breastfeeding. Not merely because it nourishes baby physically, emotionally and intellectually but because it serves as a safety net while growing children explore the world of solids and explore the world. Regarding how to offer solids, please see: How Children Learn to Eat and Introducing Foods. […]

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  9. […] I carried her (because we love babywearing in our fabulous ring sling!), why I hadn’t yet introduced solids, why once I did, I didn’t make her eat more, but let her feed herself as much or as little […]

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  10. thanks for this helpful information.

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