Healthy Eating GuidelineIntroduce suitable solids at around six months.
When to introduce solidsBreastmilk or formula provides all the nutrients babies need from birth to six months. When babies reach around six months of age, breastmilk and formula can no longer meet their nutritional requirements, and so other foods should be added to their diet. At this age, babies are also ready to start learning the skills needed for eating solid foods, and to experience new tastes and textures.
Signs that a baby is ready to begin solids include showing interest in food and an increased appetite. Babies also need to be able to sit upright with limited support and control their head and neck. Babies will usually begin to show these signs around six months of age.
Introducing solids earlier than four months of age is not recommended, as a baby’s digestive system, immune system, kidneys and ability to swallow and chew are not yet fully developed or ready for solids.
Ideally, solids should be introduced while a baby is still breastfeeding. When a baby starts on solids, there is often a reduction in breastfeeding. Introducing solids early increases the likelihood that a mother will be unable to maintain lactation, and therefore breastfeeding will be unable to continue.
It is important that while babies are starting on solids, breastfeeding or formula also continue. Breastmilk and/or an age-appropriate formula should continue to be the main milk drink for babies up to 12 months of age. Breastfeeding can continue beyond the first year of life if the mother and baby wish.
How should solid foods be introduced?Introduce new foods one at a time, starting with small amounts after a feed of breastmilk or formula. Wait several days between introducing each new food, to allow time to identify or rule out any sensitivities or allergies to particular foods.
The first solid food offered to babies is often iron-fortified infant cereal, which is smooth and easy to mix in small amounts. Mix a small amount of the cereal with water and stir until it is a smooth consistency. When food is being prepared separately for each child, either in home or family day care, breastmilk from the mother or infant formula provided by the parents can be added to the child’s meal. Other suitable first foods include smooth vegetables or fruit which have been cooked and then either mashed or pureed. There is no need to add salt, sugar, fat or other flavours to food for babies.
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What foods should be introduced and when?
|Age||Types of food and consistency||Examples of foods that can be consumed|
|Birth-around 6 months||Liquids||
|6-7 months||Finely mashed or pureed foods (no salt, sugar, fat or other flavour added)||
Mashed or shopped foods, then finger foods (no salt, sugar, fat or other flavour added)
See page 43 for information regarding food allergies.
In addition to foods for 8-12 months:
|12 months +||Family foods||
Caution must be taken with hard foods, as choking is still a risk.
Progressing to feeding from a cupBabies can learn to use a cup from an early age, and are usually ready to develop this skill from around seven months. For some babies, the progression will be from bottle-feeding to cup-feeding – although breastfed babies may move straight to cup-feeding (often while continuing to breastfeed), bypassing the bottle.
Breastmilk can be offered to babies in a cup, if the mother has expressed milk and has chosen not to bottle-feed. Pre-boiled, cooled water can be offered as an additional drink in a bottle or cup after six months of age.
Although water is sometimes offered in a bottle after six months, it is best to use a cup. By around 12 to 15 months of age most babies can manage a cup well enough to satisfy their own thirst, and the bottle can be stopped. Babies who continue to drink from the bottle well into the second year may drink a lot of milk and have a reduced appetite for other foods – which increases the likelihood of a baby becoming iron deficient. Stopping the bottle is often difficult for parents, so discuss this with them and offer some suggestions for further advice.
Choking risks for babiesBabies must always be supervised when feeding, because choking may occur. Babies should never be put into a cot or bed with a bottle, and propping a bottle up for a baby places the baby at risk of choking.
It is common for young children to ‘gag’ at times, with coughing or spluttering, while they are learning to eat. This is different to choking and is not a cause for concern. However, choking that prevents breathing is a medical emergency.
To reduce the risk of choking:
- Supervise young children whenever they are feeding.
- Never put babies in a cot or bed with a bottle, or prop up a bottle.
- Make sure babies are developmentally ready to eat before offering solids.
- Feed children only when they are fully awake and alert.
- Never force a child to eat.
- Offer foods that are a suitable texture – start with smooth, soft foods and then progress to a wider range of family foods.
- Grate, cook or mash apples, carrots and other hard fruits or vegetables before offering them to young children.
- Do not serve pieces of hard, raw fruit or vegetables, nuts, popcorn or other hard foods to young children.