We introduce solids at around six months because breastmilk, or formula, is no longer providing 100% of your child’s nutritional needs. Breastmilk/formula continues to make an important contribution to your child’s diet, throughout the first year and beyond, but solid foods are introduced to help fill in the increasing gap.
When to start?
A baby as young as 3 months might show great interest in watching you eat, they might have even started putting toys in their mouth, but this doesn’t mean they’re ready for solids. It just means they’re an interested baby.
There are a couple of key signs to watch out for before you start:
Does your baby have good head and neck control?
Can they sit well, either on your lap or in a highchair?
Have they lost the tongue thrust reflex? (This often looks like your baby is spitting out their food or doesn’t like what you’ve given them…but it might be the tongue thrust reflex which indicates they’re not quite ready for solids)
If yes to the above, you also want to know:
Is baby interested in food?
Are they older than 17 weeks (at a minimum)?
At around 6 months, your baby needs key nutrients, like iron and zinc, in greater amounts than can be provided by breastmilk or formula.
We introduce solids to help fill in the gaps.
Exploring and playing with food is also a great step forward in your child’s development. The goal is for your baby to be eating family foods at around 12 months. This means they’re eating the same kinds of food as the rest of the family (you might just be modifying some ingredients so they’re safer for your child to eat.)
You can take a traditional approach and spoon-feed your child. This typically involves pureed fruit and veg as first foods, moving to mashed then lumpy textures, and introducing proteins and grains along the way.
A baby who is spoon-fed might start eating finger foods at around 7 months.
The other method is called baby-led weaning and doesn’t involve purees at all. You wait until your child is 6 months (and showing all the signs of readiness) and then you give them whole foods to munch on.
The key here is to always give foods that are not a choking hazard i.e. cooking raw fruit and vegetables so they’re soft, preparing food in a “chip shape” so it’s easier for your child to hold etc.
A couple of myths…
Your baby must be able to sit on their own before they’re ready
Some babies will be sitting unassisted at 6 months, but many aren’t. If you’re sitting your baby on your lap to feed them, they need to be able to sit well while you support them with one arm, and feed with the other.
In a highchair, they should be able to sit well while strapped in. If they’re slumping sideways or falling down, they might not be quite ready.
Food before 1 is just for fun
Mealtimes should be fun, calm and without any pressure. You can also use mealtimes as an opportunity for your child to “play” with their food and explore – let them get messy!
However, solid foods are also introduced to give your child much-needed nutrients. It’s a nice goal to work towards increasing the amount of food your child is eating; the number of meals and snacks they’re having each day; and the types and textures they’re being exposed to.
You can only do baby-led weaning OR spoon-feeding
You can do what you like! You can absolutely give your child whole pieces of food/finger foods and spoon-feed them. This won’t confuse your baby.
However, this is a traditional method and not strictly baby-led weaning.
Introducing solids isn’t messy
Okay, it really is but WaterWipes has you covered! Make sure you’ve got a packet next to you whenever you’re feeding baby and you can do a quick clean up after bub has finished their meal aka finished smearing pumpkin everywhere.
Information within this blog is based on Ministry of Health and World Health Organization guidelines.
World Health Organization. (2009). Infant and young child feeding. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infantfeeding/9789241597494.pdf
Ministry of Health. (2018). Feeding your baby. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/pregnancy-and-kids/first-year/6-12-months/feeding-your-baby