It is recommended that you start your baby on solids at around six months of age while continuing to breastfeed until twelve months or longer. At this age small amounts of cooled boiled water may also be offered in a cup.
Signs my baby is ready for solids?
- From six months of age it is recommended to introduce your baby to solids.
- Your baby should be sitting up straight and have good head, neck and shoulder control by this time.
- Signs of readiness: an increased appetite; your baby is asking for more frequent milk feeds, showing more hand to mouth behaviour, showing interest in food, including the food on your plate.
Some babies will prefer to start with soft foods (mashed or grated) from a spoon and others will prefer to start with soft finger food. There is no set order for the best baby food to be introduced but it is strongly recommended that foods which include iron are included in the healthy diet.
Start with offering mashed foods that are easily digested which may include:
- vegetables (eg pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, taro) fruits (eg cooked pears/apple, ripe banana)
- well cooked rice or iron enriched rice cereal.
- coarsely mashed fruit and vegetables,
- well cooked: minced, stewed or grated meat (cook, freeze then grate)
- fish – bones removed
- legumes (eg lentils)
- pasta and bread (e.g. toast fingers and rusks)
Many babies will only eat a tiny amount to start with (less than ½ teaspoon) while other babies may surprise you by wanting more. Let your baby tell you when they are hungry and full. For example as they get full they don't show as much interest and may look away more. You can find great baby food recipes here.
What if my baby refuses solid food?
Not all babies are ready to start eating solid foods. Remember the food offered during the first couple of months is about helping your baby to learn new tastes, textures and smells. If baby is continuing to refuse food, try offering solids before giving the milk feed, when you are both relaxed and your baby is calm and alert, showing obvious signs of hunger. Eating is a social event and the more times you and or your family eat together the more your baby learns to eat & enjoy what the family is eating.
What about allergic reactions?
If allergy is a problem in your family seek advice from your child and family health nurses or doctor about baby allergies before starting solids.
Preparing food for baby
When preparing foods, food safety is important. Always wash your hands before you begin and ensure the area you are using to prepare the food is clean. You can also use different coloured boards for food types: one each for chopping meats, fruits and vegetables. If you’re using a microwave oven to heat baby’s food, always stir food thoroughly before serving, and check the temperature.
Be prepared for mess!
- Playing with food is your baby’s way of exploring new textures and learning to eat family foods
- To help your baby learn to eat different tastes and textures it is important for your baby to practice by offering a variety of foods in different sizes and texture
- Babies very quickly like to help feed themselves, so give them a spoon to hold from the start
How to prevent your baby from choking
- Always remaining with your baby while they are eating
- Using a safety harness when your baby is in a high chair or low chair to prevent your baby from moving around whilst eating
- Avoiding giving nuts, small hard foods (such as raw or undercooked pieces of hard fruit and vegetables, popcorn, rice cakes and cocktail frankfurts) and small slippery foods (such as whole grapes and whole cherry tomatoes)
- Until twelve months cow’s milk should only be used in small amounts to mix with family foods and in cooking
- Avoid nutrient poor foods with high levels of saturated fat, sugar, or salt (e.g. cakes, biscuits, confectionery and potato chips).
- If possible try and feed your baby with the rest of the family. Your baby will soon learn that meal times are not just about food but also about social interaction.