At what age should a premature baby begin to eat complementary foods?

Updated on: Jan 11, 2021

It is recommended to introduce foods when the child shows all signs that they are ready, whether they are born at or before full term. This most often occurs when the baby is at around the corrected age of six months. At this age, the physiological functions are usually sufficiently developed to eat complementary foods.  

Corrected age 

A premature baby is not able to fully develop in the mother’s womb and therefore does not have the same ability to feed as a full-term baby. At six months of age, a baby born prematurely is not as developed as a full-term baby. Thus, the corrected age is used to assess the developmental stage of a preterm baby more accurately.  

The corrected age of an infant born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is calculated based on the expected due date rather than the actual date of birth. As a general rule, if a child is born a month premature, they may only be ready to eat a month later than a child born at full-term. 

Development of the premature child  

It is important to monitor the motor, oral and cognitive development of the premature baby, considering the causes and degree of prematurity, health status, complications and treatments received by the child. 

It is important that the premature baby shows all signs of readiness to eat before being offered any food other than breast milk or commercial infant formula. A child who does not show all of these signs is not physically ready to eat solid foods. In addition, the baby’s kidneys and immune system may not be sufficiently developed, and there may be insufficient saliva and digestive enzyme production. 

Because preterm babies have special needs and are more vulnerable, close monitoring of their growth and health during the first few years of life is necessary. Such monitoring is particularly important when complementary foods are introduced. 


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2004). Age Terminology during the Perinatal Period. Pediatrics, 114(5), 1362-1364.

Centre de pédagogie appliquée aux sciences de la santé de l'Université de Montréal. (2012). L'ABCdaire du suivi périodique de l'enfant de 0 à 5 ans.

Liotto N, Cresi F, Beghetti I, Roggero P, Menis C, Corvaglia L, Mosca F, Aceti A. (2020). Complementary Feeding in Preterm Infants: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 12(6): 1843


Healthychildren. (2009). Corrected Age for Preemies.

Institut national de santé publique du Québec. (2020). Mieux vivre avec notre enfant de la grossesse à deux ans : Alimentation.

Soins de nos enfants. (2014). L'alimentation de votre bébé jusqu'à un an.


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