Introducing Solids to Infants in the CACFP
This web page provides guidance on assessing an infant's developmental readiness for solid foods, engaging communications with parents or guardians about offering solids, and understanding infant eating habits for all Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Operators. Additional guidance is available in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memorandum CACFP 02-2018, Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern (MP) Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP); Questions and Answers, USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Infant Developmental Skills Job Aid, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Starting Solid Foods web page.
Introducing Solids to Infants in the CACFP
According to the AAP, six to eight months of age is referred to as a critical window for introducing solid foods to infants. In addition, by seven to eight months of age, infants can be consuming solid foods from all food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods, and dairy). All CACFP Operators serving infants should recognize the signs of developmental readiness, communicate with parents and guardians about the introduction of solids, and be aware of the unique feeding habits of infants.
Developmental Readiness Signs
There is no single, direct sign to determine when an infant is developmentally ready to accept solid foods. An infant’s readiness depends on the infant’s rate of development. Some infants may be ready to consume solid foods before six months of age, and others may be ready after six months of age.
Below are signs that an infant may be ready to accept solid foods:
The infant sits in a high chair, feeding seat, or infant seat with good head control.
The infant opens their mouth when food comes their way. The infant may watch others eat, reach for food, and seem eager to be fed.
The infant moves food from a spoon into the infant’s throat.
- The infant has doubled their birth weight and weighs about 13 pounds or more.
The USDA Infant Meal Pattern lists solid food quantities as a range starting with 0 to allow for the introduction of solid foods when the infant is ready to accept them. For example, a 6-month old infant may be developmentally ready for 0, 1, or 2 tablespoons of pureed vegetable. A meal is still reimbursable if the infant is not developmentally ready, as long as the minimum required amount of breastmilk or iron-fortified infant formula is offered.
Conversations with Parents (or Guardians) About Starting Solids
CACFP Operators are strongly encouraged to start conversations early with the infant’s parents to determine when and what types of solid food to serve and have parents provide this information in writing to the CACFP Operator. It is important to always respect the parent’s decision; however, there may be times when you notice that an infant displays or does not display developmental readiness signs to start eating solids, but the parent disagrees. Below are some ideas on how to tackle those situations:
Educate the parent on the signs of developmental readiness and express whether their infant shows or does not show some of these signs.
Provide the parent with resources such as the USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC Infant Developmental Skills Job Aid.
For developmentally ready infants, explain the benefits of adding solids to an infant’s diet, such as introducing new flavors and textures.
- Recommend that the parent speak with the infant’s pediatrician about the appropriate time to introduce solid foods.
: If a parent does not want the developmentally ready infant to eat solids, the CACFP Operator can still claim the meal or snack without offering solid foods, provided that the minimum required amount of breastmilk or iron-fortified infant formula is offered.
Infant Eating Habits
It is normal for infants to refuse new foods and consume various quantities of food from one feeding to another or from one day to the next. Infants may want to eat less food when teething or not feeling well and more food on days when they have a better appetite. Additionally, the AAP states that it can take over 10 tastes of a new food before the infant accepts it.
: Meals and snacks are reimbursable even if the infant refuses the offered food.
Solid foods are introduced gradually, which means that it may be appropriate to offer the solid food only once per day and then gradually increase the number of feedings per day. It is important to remember that infants develop at different rates. Not all infants will be eating solids at six months of age, nor will all infants be eating solid foods from each food group by seven or eight months of age.
If a parent requests that the CACFP Operator does not offer the infant one or more of the components in the meal pattern for any reason, the meals and snacks are still reimbursable as long as the CACFP Operator serves the infant the required amount of breastmilk or iron-fortified infant formula.
: For infants who are eating solids, meals and snacks are reimbursable even if all of the required components are not offered at the same time, as long as all of the required food components are offered during a span of time that is consistent with the infant’s eating habits.
CACFP Operators must document the types and quantities of solid foods offered. (Family child care home providers are exempt from documenting quantities of solid foods offered.)
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