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Balancing introducing solids with milk feeds

10-minute read

At around 6 months of age babies need to start having solid foods as well as breastmilk or formula. Find out how to get started with solid foods and what are the best foods to start with.

When to introduce solids?

At 6 months, your baby will still be getting most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula.

As you introduce solid foods, continue feeding with breastmilk or formula until at least 12 months of age.

Start to introduce solid foods at around 6 months of age when:

  • your baby can sit up with support and has good head control
  • your baby starts to show interest in food such as watching and reaching out when they see food

Even though some babies show these signs from an earlier age, continue to offer your baby breastmilk or formula if they appear hungry. This is usually all they need until around 6 months. It’s recommended that you don’t introduce solids before 4 months.

How to introduce solid foods into your baby’s diet

Start feeding your baby solids once a day. Your baby will take only small amounts of solid foods at first. Try one teaspoon at first of pureed vegetable, fruit, or rice cereal in between milk feeds.

From 6 to 9 months continue to give your baby breastmilk or formula first, then try solids after the milk.

From 9 months you can try to give solids first, then breastmilk or formula. This allows for your baby to naturally transition to solids by around 12 months.

At around 8 to 9 months try giving your baby solids as part of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Continue breastmilk or formula through the first year of life while foods are being introduced. From around 6 months you can try small amounts of cooled boiled water out of a sippy cup.

Which foods first?

From 6 months of age baby’s first foods should contain iron. Foods that have iron, include:

  • iron-fortified baby cereals
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • legumes - lentils, beans, or chickpeas

Guidelines recommend that you can introduce foods in any order and at a pace that suits your baby, family, and cultural backgrounds, as long as some foods servings contain iron.

Your baby’s first foods can be smooth, mashed or have soft lumps.

Choose from the 5 food groups.

Vegetables and legumes

Give your baby cooked and pureed:

  • pumpkin
  • sweet potato
  • carrots
  • potato
  • peas
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • zucchini

Over time puree them less so the texture gets lumpier.

Then introduce vegetables that are cooked but not pureed.

Fruit

Give your baby stewed and pureed:

  • apples
  • pears
  • peaches
  • apricots
  • berries

Your baby might also like to try mashed ripe banana.

Gradually introduce pieces of cooked fruit, banana, peach and grated raw apple.

Avoid larger pieces of raw apple; babies can choke on them.

Grains and cereals

Give your baby fortified infant cereals (e.g. rice cereal) to start.

Move to cooked rolled oats, wholegrain breakfast biscuits (Weetbix, Vita Brits) or thick infant cereals.

Don’t add sugar or honey or offer cereals with chocolate or added sugar.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, tofu

Meat, fish, poultry eggs, legumes, tofu should always be pureed when you start introducing solids.

When your baby accepts this, offer them bite size pieces of:

  • chicken
  • minced meat
  • flaked fresh or canned fish (in spring water)
  • mashed tofu
  • mashed legumes
  • scrambled or mashed boiled eggs

Don’t add salt. Also avoid processed meats as they have a lot of salt.

Milk, cheese, yoghurt

Formula should be used only until your baby is 12 months old. Then small amounts of milk can be added to foods like porridge. Breast feeding is recommended to continue until the age of 2 or longer.

Grated cheese is good in mashed vegetables.

Choose yoghurt without added sugar. Add fruit for extra flavour

What drinks should I be giving my baby?

After 12 months of age breastmilk, water (clean tap water or bottled water) and full fat cow’s milk should be the main drinks you offer your baby.

Keep breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby like.

Switch from formula to full fat ordinary cow’s milk after 12 months. Your child doesn’t need toddler milk products. Offer your baby a cup to drink from rather than a bottle. Your one-year-old should be exclusively drinking from a toddler cup.

From about 12 months, you can try rice milk and oat milk (fortified with at least 100mg calcium/100mL) if you want. But these drinks don’t have enough protein and vitamin B12. Your baby will need to have plenty of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, yoghurt, or cheese to make up for what they’re not getting from cow’s milk.

How much should I feed my baby?

Your baby will grow at different rates at different times. Their appetite can vary, even from day to day.

Babies don’t know what to eat but they know how much. Provide wholesome, healthy unprocessed food choices. Take your cue from your baby. Babies tend to turn away or lose interest when they’ve had enough to eat.

Finger foods and self-feeding

By 9 to 12 months, most babies like finger foods. Finger foods are foods they can hold themselves.

Some also like to hold their own spoon at that age. It will be messy! But learning to feed themselves is important.

By 12 months, your baby can eat the same healthy food you serve your family.

Foods to limit or avoid when introducing solids

There are some foods and drinks you should limit or avoid:

  • coffee and tea, herbal drinks are not recommended
  • fruit juice
  • honey until 12 months (to prevent botulism)
  • processed foods
  • raw or runny eggs (bacteria in raw eggs can be harmful to babies)
  • sugar sweetened drinks
  • unpasteurised milks

Low-fat milks are not recommended in the first 2 years of life. Goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk should also be avoided before the age of 2 unless your doctor recommends them.

Avoid small hard foods such as whole nuts and uncooked vegetables until 3 years. These can be choking hazards.

If your family doesn’t use animal products, your baby may need a vitamin B12 supplement. Discuss this with your doctor.

Seek help from your health care professional if you are worried about your baby’s eating or development.

Fruit — give your baby stewed and pureed apples, pears, peaches, apricots and berries, or mashed ripe banana. Gradually introduce pieces of cooked fruit, banana, peach and grated raw apple. Avoid larger pieces of raw apple; babies can choke on them.

Grains and cereals — give your baby fortified infant cereals (e.g. rice cereal) to start. Move to cooked rolled oats, wholegrain breakfast biscuits (Weetbix, Vita Brits) or thick infant cereals. Don’t add sugar or honey and don’t use cereals with chocolate or added sugar.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, tofu — make them pureed at the start. When your baby accepts this, offer them pieces of chicken, minced meat, flaked fresh or canned fish (in spring water), mashed tofu, mashed legumes, scrambled or mashed boiled eggs. Don’t add salt and avoid processed meats as they also have a lot of salts.

Milk, cheese, yoghurt — breast milk or formula should be used for up to 12 months, then small amounts of milk can be added to foods like porridge. Grated cheese is good in mashed vegetables. Choose yoghurt without added sugar. Add fruit for extra flavour.

How much?

Babies grow at different rates at different times. Their appetite can vary even from day to day.

Babies don’t know what to eat but they know how much. Take your cue from your baby. Healthy babies turn away or lose interest when they’ve had enough.

Finger foods and self-feeding

By 9 to 12 months, most babies like finger foods.

Some also like their own spoon at that age. It will be messy, but learning to feed themselves is important.

By 12 months, serve the same healthy food you serve your family, but without hot spices.

Encourage infants to feed themselves.

If you have stopped breastfeeding, switch to ordinary cow’s milk after 12 months. Use a cup rather than a bottle. Limit the amount of cow’s milk to around 500ml per day. Under health professional supervision, you can use full fat rice milk or oat milk with at least 100mg calcium per 100mL if you want, as long as other sources of protein are included (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes or nut butters).

Your child doesn’t need toddler milk products.

If your family doesn’t use animal products, your baby may need a vitamin B12 supplement. Discuss this with your doctor.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022


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