3 day wait rule – why you don’t need to wait between introducing new foods

This blog has been contributed to by Dr. Julie Sweeney. Dr. Sweeney is a pediatrician and mom of 3 boys with multiple food allergies. Learn more about Dr. Sweeney and Allergy Mom MD.

Ever hear about that “rule” that you have to wait 3 days before introducing a new food to your baby? 

It’s typically called the “3 day wait rule”. 

And we think you should ditch it. 

Even though many doctors (and regulatory bodies) are still doling out this advice…we know that, as a team of registered pediatric dietitians, speech-language pathologists, a pediatrician, and moms…this “rule” is founded mainly on fear-based assumptions about allergies, lack of research, failure to update guidelines, and general old wives tales.

Baby in a high chair eating, baby led weaning style, zucchini, ground beef, mashed potatoes, and peas.

In this blog, we’re going to cover whether or not you need to wait between introducing new foods, why this is an outdated rule, and how many new foods you can introduce at once.

Let’s take you through the ins and outs so you can understand the history, research, and guidelines to best prevent picky eating, safely feed your baby, and raise a healthy eater!

To find all the in-depth, research backed info for starting solids in one place, and to get access to our signature Texture Timeline™ that has been tried and tested by thousands of parents, sign up for our Baby Led Feeding online course! Learn all about introducing solid foods the way that you and your baby want to start, and about how to advance your baby in textures from there.

Baby Led Feeding online course by My Little Eater.

Table of Contents

Where did the 3 day wait rule for baby food come from?

The original idea for this recommendation was to be able to rule out allergic reactions to different foods your baby was eating. 

Let’s directly address the current recommendations from the CDC, AAP, and the AAAAI to paint a picture of their stance on and adaptation of this rule.

Baby being fed baby food, possibly yogurt, on a spoon.


As per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, this cautionary waiting period is to evaluate for adverse reactions while introducing new foods, with a goal of identifying foods that cause an allergic reaction (1).


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises to “let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food” (2).


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving your baby “one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting” (3).

However, the most recent research points to exposing babies to a wide variety of foods early on, including highly allergenic foods. Let’s get into all the nitty-gritty details!

Why we don't recommend the 3-day wait rule

Safe solid food introduction is key, baby is eating various finger shaped foods such as pepper and rotini pasta for baby led weaning.

1. Babies NEED exposure to a variety of solid foods early on

⁠If we were to wait 3-5 days between introducing each and every new food, your baby would be off to an extremely slow start to experiencing as many new foods as possible within the first year of life.

Rather than having the potential to experience over 100 different foods by 1 year of age, waiting 3 days between introducing any new food means babies are only getting 5-7 new foods a month (or 15-21 new foods by 9 months of age).

We need to introduce as many different foods (flavors and textures) as possible during the critical period between 6-9 months of age while baby is developing taste and texture preferences (4). The more exposure a baby has to different foods during this period of time, the more likely they’ll accept these foods long term and more easily learn the skills to eat them.

Including a variety of foods in baby's diet such as broccoli, pasta, chicken, etc.; foods separated into small portions and arranged in a circle.

In addition, following the protocol of a 3 day waiting period can actually have a negative impact by limiting food diversity for your baby early on. This is something that researchers have confirmed to be associated with an increased risk of allergies (5). 

In fact, research has shown that introducing a diverse diet in the first year of life has been shown to reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis, asthma, and food allergies until up to 6 years of age (5). 

Finally, when 10 months+ hits and many babies-turning-toddlers start to drop previously liked foods and enter a picky eating phase, you now have a much smaller pool of foods to work with. If you have a broader number of foods introduced and accepted in babyhood, this will give you more to work with on your menu in toddlerhood.

Introducing foods to baby on a bamboo plate, including pasta, cucumber, and toast.

With all of this in mind, the repetition of foods is absolutely not necessary in the short term (meaning multiple days in a row)!⁠ ⁠⁠Waiting 3-5 days between introducing new foods eliminates the ability for your baby to experience more variety.

2. Allergic reactions don’t take 3 days to show up

As mentioned, the original concept for the recommendation of waiting 3-5 days between new foods was to be able to rule out any allergic reactions to different foods your baby was eating. However, we know that a 3-day waiting period doesn’t match the clinical timeframe of most allergic reactions (5).

Baby eats an orange in a high chair.

Research has shown that allergy symptoms resulting from the body’s immune system making antibodies (AKA IgE-mediated food reactions) typically occur immediately or within 2 hours of ingestion of the offending food (5).

Two. Hours.

A far cry from 3 days, that’s for sure!

Signs of allergy or anaphylaxis in infants include skin rash (hives), vomiting, scratching/fussiness/crying, and increased drooling, which may reflect difficulty swallowing. Also be on the lookout for swelling of lips, a cough, wheeze, or high-pitched sound, and difficulty breathing. Just because they don’t have a rash doesn’t mean it is not an allergic reaction. Call emergency services if you have any doubt about a severe allergic reaction.

Baby showing signs of a reaction to an allergen, with a rash spreading across their face.

When it comes to food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), the symptoms are quite different. This type of allergy is common among children between the ages of 0-3 years old and causes a “severe gastrointestinal reaction” (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration) that “generally occurs two to six hours after consuming milk, soy, certain grains and some other solid foods” (6).

This is one example of an allergic reaction that does not involve antibodies (AKA non-IgE-mediated reactions). Typically, with these types of allergic reactions, symptoms can occur 1-4 hours after ingestion of the suspect food (5).

All in all, when you’re looking for symptoms of any type of allergic reaction, you should reliably see these within the first 24 hours.

In fact, sometimes reactions are so quick that if you’re an anxious parent and you have a high risk infant, just give the amount on the tip of the spoon, wait 10 minutes to watch for a reaction, and then go ahead and give the rest of the spoonful.

Baby being fed a small amount of solid food on a spoon.

Note: Allergic reactions can be much worse the second time around. For the top allergenic foods only, we recommend introducing the same allergen for a second time to rule it out completely and make sure there were no symptoms that may have been missed the first time. Use the weekends or a 2 day stretch when you will be available to feed your baby and observe them for a reaction, rather than letting daycare be responsible for this. You know your baby best!

3. The chance of being allergic to non-highly allergenic foods is very low

We know with much more certainty that the risk of developing a food allergy or reaction to a particular food that is not on the highly allergenic food list is extremely low. In fact, the repercussions of waiting 3-5 days between introducing new foods can be much worse than the very minimal risk of developing a food allergy to – let’s say – steak or green pepper.

Baby eats various fruits cut up and served in a bowl.

6-7% of children develop a food allergy, and of those allergies, less than 10% come from beef, chicken, or other non-highly allergenic foods. And of those, only 0.3% of the entire population have an allergy to beef, for example (7). Compared to more than 90% of food allergies that are caused by the same 10 foods (what we call highly allergenic foods or top allergens).

Within the 6-7% of children who develop a food allergy, the prevalence of having an allergy to each of those foods is shown below (8,9,10). These are the foods that are most likely to cause an allergic reaction. Not food like cereal, fruits, vegetables, and meat which are all great foods we recommend introducing early and freely (5).

The top highly allergenic foods to be aware of when planning baby's meals.

By waiting multiple days between introducing non-highly allergenic foods, we are unnecessarily preventing baby from experiencing a variety of solid foods during their critical period of 6-9 months of age, which we know is a big part of preventing picky eating. 

Overall, the benefits associated with your baby experiencing enough variety during this critical period far outweighs the extremely minimal risk of reaction to a non-allergenic food (like chicken).

When waiting between foods is required

The only exceptions that require a waiting period between introducing them are the highly allergenic foods, as mentioned above.

Egg omelet for baby, a top allergen, which requires a 2 day rule for waiting before serving another top allergen.

You can start serving highly allergenic foods regularly to your baby around 6 months (or sooner if they’re high risk). For these foods only, you do have to wait a 2 day stretch before you pick another highly allergenic food to introduce.⁠

Note: This doesn’t mean you can’t introduce other non-highly allergenic foods during those 2 days. 

And remember, as you rule out top allergens, it’s important to keep offering them alongside other foods as well. If there is no reaction, continue to feed the top allergenic foods at least 2-3x a week as you continue to introduce other foods.

Baby hands holding whole peanuts in the shell.

Can you offer more than one new food per day?

Yes, you can and you absolutely should! 

There is no need to “ease” babies into solids and flavors by only offering one food at a time or just sticking with bland foods and flavors in the beginning. 

Offering a new food daily is a great practice to ensure your baby is getting exposed to a wide variety of textures and flavors early on (during that critical period of 6-9 months of age). Keep in mind that spices are an excellent way to add variety and broaden the types of food your baby will accept over time, as well.

Is there a recommended order for introducing new foods?

There’s still a common misconception out there that babies may not be able to handle certain foods early on. But the truth is, there’s no specific order that solid foods need to be introduced to your baby.

Many websites incorrectly claim that vegetables should be offered before fruit, that meat or grains shouldn’t be offered until a couple of months into starting solids, or that mixed meals need to be introduced after single ingredient foods. We now know after many years of experience and research, this isn’t true at all!

Baby being spoon-fed a homemade food or store-bought puree.

There’s no set order required for introducing solids. Having to introduce veggies before fruit isn’t a thing. Waiting to introduce grains isn’t a thing. Babies can eat grains and starches, fruits and vegetables, meat, beans and pulses, soy, dairy, and more, from day 1 when they begin eating solid foods. You can mix them all in one meal or have multiple foods over multiple meals (as long as they aren’t a top allergen). 

And for those of you who aren’t sure what to serve or what foods to start out with – we’ve got you covered! We’ve created the perfect baby led feeding meal plan to guide you through the first months of starting solids. This isn’t just a regular meal plan with a list of recipes, we’ve also included grocery lists, tips for serving food safely, and you’ll get our food checklist with over 115 foods you can check off as you serve them to your baby. It’s perfect for keeping track of all that variety and allergy introductions!

See it in action by following our realistic example of the first week of starting solids.

Key Takeaways

  1. Introduce your baby to as many different foods as possible during the critical period of 6-9 months of age. Introduce different textures of food, flavors, and spices daily.
  2. There is absolutely NO need for babies to have to wait 3 to 5 days in between the introduction of new solid foods.
  3. Introduce top allergens early and often, following updated guidelines.

Want to learn everything you can about feeding your baby from 6-12 months of age? Join the Baby Led Feeding online course! You’ll get access to all the in-depth, research-backed info for starting solids in one place, and get access to our signature Texture Timeline™ which has been tried and tested by thousands of parents. Learn all about introducing solid foods the way that you and your baby want to start, and about how to advance your baby in textures from there.

Baby led feeding online course for starting solids.

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Why you don't need to follow the 3 day rule when starting solids.


  1. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Prevention of Allergies and Asthma in Children. https://www.aaaai.org/Tools-for-the-Public/Conditions-Library/Allergies/prevention-of-allergies-and-asthma-in-children
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html 
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/When-can-I-start-giving-my-baby-peanut-butter.aspx 
  4. Harris, G., Mason, S. Are There Sensitive Periods for Food Acceptance in Infancy?. Curr Nutr Rep 6, 190–196, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-017-0203-0
  5. Samady, W., Campbell, E., Aktas, O. N., Jiang, J., Bozen, A., Fierstein, J. L., … & Gupta, R. S. Recommendations on complementary food introduction among pediatric practitioners. JAMA network open, 3(8), e2013070-e2013070, 2020.
  6. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Food Allergy. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/
  7. Wilson, J. M., & Platts-Mills, T. A. Red meat allergy in children and adults. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology, 19(3), 229, 2019.
  8. Messina, Mark PhD, MS; Venter, Carina PhD, RD. Recent Surveys on Food Allergy Prevalence. Nutrition Today 55(1):p 22-29, 1/2 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000389 
  9. Allergy, Genes and Environment Network. https://allergen.ca/wp-content/uploads/Canadian-food-allergy-prevalence-Jul-2017.pdf
  10. Sharma, A., Verma, A.K., Gupta, R.K. et al. A Comprehensive Review on Mustard-Induced Allergy and Implications for Human Health.Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol 57, 39–54 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12016-017-8651-2
Picture of Chelsey Landry, RD

Chelsey Landry, RD

Community Dietitian at My Little Eater Inc., and bunny-mom to Hickory. Chelsey offers one-on-one counselling to parents of babies and toddlers that need more customized support. Learn more by booking a free discovery call with her today!

Picture of Chelsey Landry, RD

Chelsey Landry, RD

Community Dietitian at My Little Eater Inc., and bunny-mom to Hickory. Chelsey offers one-on-one counselling to parents of babies and toddlers that need more customized support. Learn more by booking a free discovery call with her today!

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meet edwena

Registered pediatric dietitian, mom of two picky-turned-adventurous eater, and the creator of the Texture Timeline™ – an exclusive tool to help move your baby through easy to more advanced purees and finger foods to prevent picky eating.

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