Introduction to Solids

How to determine baby’s first foods

Key points:

  • Start offering solids between 4 and 6 months.
  • Begin with iron-rich foods, such as pureed meat and iron-fortified infant cereal.
  • Aim for your baby to be eating family foods by the time they are 12 months old.
  • Before 12 months, introduce all potentially allergenic foods, such as peanuts and cooked egg.
  • Breastmilk and/or formula is the only food and drink babies need until around 6 months.

As parents and carers, we often receive lots of advice about feeding our babies and young children. When it comes to introducing solids, the advice we get may not always be consistent, which makes it very difficult to sort out fact from fiction. Plus, science continues to uncover new things about what’s best for our babies, which can add to the confusion. But what does this mean and how does it change what we should be doing with starting solids? (see also: Expanding the menu for your baby). Below is a brief guide about what to feed your baby and when.

How to determine baby’s first foods_smaller

When?

At around 6 months, but not before 4 months, start to introduce solid foods.

Your baby is ready to start solids when they show the following signs:

  • Can sit up with support and have good head and neck control
  • Seems interested in food, for example, looking or reaching out for food
  • Has lost the reflex that automatically pushes food out of their mouth
  • Opens their mouth when you offer food.

To give your baby the best chance of developing good chewing skills and getting the nutrients they need for growth and development, introduce solids after 4 months and before 6 months. Starting solids earlier than 4 months or later than 6 months can affect healthy growth and development.

What?

At 6 months, babies need more iron than is available in breastmilk or formula.

Introduce iron-rich foods as the first foods while continuing breastmilk or formula. Soft, pureed red meat (beef or lamb) is the richest source of iron, along with iron-fortified cereals. Other iron-containing foods include: chicken, fish, pork, egg, wholegrains, tofu and legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans).

Aim for your baby to be eating family foods by 12 months old.

Following the introduction of iron-rich foods, start introducing foods that the rest of the family eats. Some meals will need adapting so that they are a suitable texture, but generally babies can eat what we’re eating, as long as they are unprocessed foods and don’t have added salt or sugar. There is no evidence for introducing solid foods in any specific sequence or at any specific rate.

How?

When you first start introducing solids, offer these after a feed of breastmilk or formula and at a time when you and your baby are relaxed. Try small amounts to begin with and increase according to your baby’s appetite. Your baby will only eat as much as they need, so it’s important to allow them to respond to their hunger and stop offering food once they show signs they don’t want more – such as turning their head away or clamping their mouth shut.

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Tips for starting solids

  • Start with 1-2 teaspoons after a morning feed.
  • Introduce new foods every 2-3 days according to what the family usually eats.
  • You may choose to offer foods one at a time to help identify the foods that cause any reactions.
  • If a food is tolerated, continue to offer it with other foods.
  • Always stay with your baby when they are eating, due to the risk of choking.
  • Continue with breast milk and/or formula as their main drink until 12 months (cow’s milk can be added to cooking or with other foods).

Gradually change the texture of food until your baby can manage family meals.

By changing the texture of food as your baby develops, your baby will gain chewing skills which help with speech development. It also helps to encourage self-feeding when possible to develop feeding skills as your baby grows.

Food Age Guidance
Offer smooth, pureed, iron-rich foods. Offer after breastmilk/formula. By 6 months Start with iron-rich foods such as iron-fortified infant cereals, pureed meat and legumes. Offer food after breastmilk or formula in the morning. Gradually add other foods such as smooth, cooked vegetables or fruit.
Move onto mashed foods and finger foods.
Offer solids three times a day before breastmilk or formula.
7-8 months Move onto mashed, grated, minced and finely chopped foods. Encourage soft finger foods that your baby can hold and chew, such as rusks, soft vegetables and fruit. Continue to increase the variety of vegetables, fruit, cereals and legumes. Also offer yoghurt, egg custard and nut pastes. Offer cooled, boiled tap water in a cup.
Move onto chopped textures 8-9 months Gradually add chopped or diced foods and introduce lumps such as rice. Babies’ coordination usually improves at this age, so they are better able to feed themselves. Continue to increase variety.
Modified family meals 9-12 months Offer family foods that are adapted for your baby to avoid hard lumps such as whole nuts, gristle on meat, lollies or hard fruits and vegetables. Continue to increase variety. Encourage cutlery practise from around 10 months.
Family meals with a variety of tastes and textures. 12 months onwards Healthy family meals are an important part of establishing healthy eating behaviours for children and adolescents. Until about 3 years of age, there may need to be some modifications to family meals to avoid hard lumps, such as whole nuts, and to minimise added sugar and salt.
Offer smooth, pureed, iron-rich foods.
Offer after breastmilk/formula.
By 6 months
Start with iron-rich foods such as iron-fortified infant cereals, pureed meat and legumes. Offer food after breastmilk or formula in the morning. Gradually add other foods such as smooth, cooked vegetables or fruit.
Move onto mashed foods and finger foods.
Offer solids three times a day before breastmilk or formula.
7-8 months
Move onto mashed, grated, minced and finely chopped foods. Encourage soft finger foods that your baby can hold and chew, such as rusks, soft vegetables and fruit. Continue to increase the variety of vegetables, fruit, cereals and legumes. Also offer yoghurt, egg custard and nut pastes. Offer cooled, boiled tap water in a cup.
Modified family meals 9-12 months
Offer family foods that are adapted for your baby to avoid hard lumps such as whole nuts, gristle on meat, lollies or hard fruits and vegetables. Continue to increase variety. Encourage cutlery practise from around 10 months.
Family meals with a variety of tastes and textures. 12 months onwards
Healthy family meals are an important part of establishing healthy eating behaviours for children and adolescents. Until about 3 years of age, there may need to be some modifications to family meals to avoid hard lumps, such as whole nuts, and to minimise added sugar and salt
Move onto chopped textures 8-9 months
Gradually add chopped or diced foods and introduce lumps such as rice. Babies’ coordination usually improves at this age, so they are better able to feed themselves. Continue to increase variety.

Introduce all potentially allergenic foods before 12 months to help prevent food allergy

Delayed introduction of allergenic foods has been shown to increase the chance of developing food allergy. Before 12 months of age, all babies should be given peanut butter, cooked egg, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame, tree nuts, dairy and wheat products (see ‘Expanding the menu for your baby and preventallergies.com.au for further information). If your baby has a reaction to food, discuss this with your GP. It is important that any food allergies are confirmed by a doctor.

 

Breastmilk and/or formula is the only food or drink your baby needs until around 6 months

From 6 months onwards, you can offer your baby cooled, boiled water in a bottle or a cup. Cow’s milk can be included in meals and snacks from around 6 months of age (such as with cereal) but wait until 12 months before offering cow’s milk as a drink. Calcium-fortified soy milk may also be offered from 12 months. Other animal milks (goat’s or sheep’s milk) or milk alternatives (almond, rice, coconut and other nut and cereal milks) are not recommended for babies or young children before 2 years unless advised by your GP, Child Health Nurse or Accredited Practising Dietitian. Fruit juice, cordial and soft drink are not recommended for babies or children of any age.

Would you like more support?

Click Get Support to provide your details to our Care Support Team who will match your needs with the appropriate level of support.

Further support

If you are concerned about your child’s food intake, eating behaviours, growth or nutrition-related health, contact a GP, paediatrician or Accredited Practising Dietitian who can provide a comprehensive assessment that considers your child’s medical history, eating patterns including mealtime experiences, physical activity and genetic factors.

Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian with experience in infant and child growth - https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/find-an-apd/