At around six months of age, your baby will be ready to try solid foods. It is around this time that he or she starts to need nutrients from other foods, in addition to those from breastmilk or formula. Don’t stop breastfeeding when your baby starts trying solids – in fact, it may help to protect against allergies if you start solids while still offering breastmilk.
You should continue to breastfeed until your baby is at least 12 months old, and for longer if you wish. A combination of breastmilk and solid foods is best for your baby during this time. If you are partially breastfeeding or feeding your baby formula, this should also continue as solid foods are introduced, and until around 12 months of age.
How will I know when to introduce solids?
- Some signs that your baby is ready to try solids include:
- showing an interest in food
- increased appetite
- the ability to sit upright with limited support good control of the head and neck
How often should I offer my baby a new food?
Introduce new foods one at a time, starting with small amounts of each food after a feed of breastmilk or formula. Wait several days before introducing another new food. This gives time to find out if your child has any sensitivities or allergies to particular foods.
What foods are suitable for my baby to eat?
Offer your baby a variety of foods, and include different tastes and textures. There is no need to add salt, sugar or other flavours to food for babies. If a food needs more liquid, you can add breastmilk, pre-boiled and cooled water or prepared infant formula.
Only offer your baby smooth foods at first, until he or she learns how to eat them without any trouble. Your baby’s eating skills will progress quickly, and soon you will be able to offer mashed foods. By about eight months, most babies can hold food in their fists and will probably want to feed themselves. Encourage your baby to use their hands and fingers – this will develop skills that will help not only with eating, but also with other areas of learning. Finger foods are good for babies – for example small pieces of cooked meat, cooked or soft fruit or vegetables, and bread.
Expect plenty of mess as babies explore food and eating, and as they learn to use a cup and spoon. Try to serve meals in places where some mess will not matter, or put paper towels or a tea towel underneath where the baby is sitting. Don’t worry about teaching table manners or enforcing ‘eating properly’ at this age – your baby will learn this over time.
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|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 chopped foods, then finger foods (no salt, sugar, fat or other flavour added)
See page 42 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 important skill from around seven months of age. Since breastmilk can be offered in a cup, some breastfed babies may bypass the bottle completely and move straight to cup-feeding, while also continuing to breastfeed. After six months of age, pre-boiled, cooled water can be offered in a bottle or cup as an additional drink.
Babies do not need sweet drinks such as cordial, soft drink and fruit juice. Sweet drinks can reduce the appetite for nutritious foods, and increase the risk of dental decay. Sweet drinks should not be offered, especially not from a bottle.
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 can be difficult, so be sure to ask for help or advice from the staff or carers at your early childhood setting, or your local child health nurse.
Some babies move smoothly from bottle-feeding to cup-feeding - but others may cling to the bottle for comfort. Let the staff and carers at the setting know if you are trying to stop bottle-feeding, so they can support your efforts.
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Tips for when you want to stop bottle-feeding:
- Start by offering drinks (milk or water) in a cup duringthe day.
- Once your baby drinks from a cup during the day, stop the ‘wake-up’ bottle. Offer water in a bottle or milk in a cup instead. It may take a few days to get used to this change.
- The bedtime bottle is often the hardest for babies to give up. Offer a drink in a cup, cuddle your baby and settle them with a song or a book. Offer water in a bottle if you like. Be patient – it may take some time.
Choking risks for babiesBabies and young children have an increased risk of choking on food or drinks. It is important that children sit down whenever they are eating, and that they are
supervised at all times.
It is common for young children to ‘gag’, 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.
- Do not put babies in a cot or to bed with a bottle, and do not prop bottles.
- Make sure babies are developmentally ready to eat before offering solids.
- Only feed children when they are awake and alert.
- Never force a child to eat.
- Offer foods with a suitable texture – start with smooth and soft food and then progress to family food.
- Grate, cook or mash apples, carrots and other hard fruits or vegetables before offering them to your baby.
- Do not offer pieces of hard, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, popcorn or other hard foods.