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.
- From six months of age it is recommended to start your baby on 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 demanding more frequent milk feeds, showing more hand to mouth behaviour i.e. putting toys in their mouth, showing interest in food, including the food on your plate.
At around six months most babies will be able to manage a variety of textures. Some babies will prefer to start with soft foods (mashed or grated) from a spoon and others will prefer to start with finger foods such as steak strips and cut up fruit. There is no set order for food to be introduced but it is strongly recommended that iron enriched foods 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 (fresh or tinned) – 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 lead the amount they are ready to try as this is a time of learning.
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 including copying what the family is eating.
If allergy is a problem in your family seek advice from your child and family health nurses or doctor before starting solids.
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.
- 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
- 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 as early as possible. Your baby will soon learn that meal times are not just about food but also about social interaction.