When should I introduce solid foods to my baby?
Your baby only needs breast milk or infant formula for their first 6 months.
At around 6 months old, most babies — whether they are breast or formula fed — need more iron.
A baby's iron stores build up while they are in the uterus (womb). These iron levels become low by 6 months of age.
At this time, babies also start to need food that has a high amount of other nutrients like zinc and protein. These are found in solid foods.
Babies still need breast milk or formula at this time.
Your growing baby needs more kilojoules (calories). This is important to satisfy your baby's hunger. More kilojoules are also needed to meet your baby's extra growth needs.
The current recommendation is to start giving solid foods at around 6 months of age. Solid food should not be given before 4 months. Each baby is an individual and will show when they are ready for solid foods. All babies benefit from having some solid foods by 7 months of age.
Why can't I give my baby solid foods before 6 months?
Babies need to be ready to eat solid foods. It takes time and practice for your baby to be able to move food around in their mouth. They have to be able to move food from the front of the tongue to the back of their mouth. Then they need to know how to swallow the food in their mouth.
Until they're old enough, babies only know how to suck and swallow milk. They don't know how to move solid textures to the back of their mouth to be swallowed.
Until 4 to 6 months of age, babies have a 'tongue extrusion reflex'. This means they push food out of their mouth with their tongue. Giving solids before 4 to 6 months can also risk your baby choking.
Giving solids before your baby is ready can mean they fill up on solids. This can mean that your baby won't drink the milk they need to grow and be healthy.
How will I know my baby is ready for solids?
Your baby is ready for solids when they:
- can sit upright in a highchair with their head and back unsupported
- are not as satisfied with their milk and seem hungry after they've been breast or bottle fed
- show an interest in the food you're eating and reach out to eat some
- show excitement about food
- open their mouth as you offer them a spoon
Start with small amounts of soft, iron-rich, pureed foods. Your baby can be offered any food in any order. The food needs to be nutritious. It also needs to be the right texture (see below).
How long should I keep breastfeeding or bottle feeding?
Your baby should have breast milk or formula until 12 months of age. After that, water and cow's milk served in a cup should be your baby's main drinks.
Breastfeeding can continue for as long as you and your baby are happy to keep going. Infant formula is not needed after 12 months.
Do not give more than 500ml (two cooking cups) of cow's milk a day. Some babies can have an intolerance or allergy to cow's milk. These babies may need an alternative, such as soy. Follow your doctor's or allergy specialist's advice. Always read food labels carefully.
Read more about balancing solids with milk feeds.
Can I give my baby 'allergy foods'?
Allergy foods are foods or drink that can give your baby an allergic reaction. Common allergy foods are:
- peanut butter
- cow's milk
- fish and shellfish
- tree nuts (such as almonds and hazelnuts)
The best time to introduce allergy foods is when you are starting to give your baby some solids. It's recommended that you start giving allergy foods before your baby reaches 12 months old. Leaving it until they are older may increase the chance of your baby developing an allergy.
If you're concerned that your baby could have a food allergy, speak to your doctor or child health nurse.
Learn more here about how to introduce allergy foods.
How should I start introducing solids?
Solid foods can be introduced in any order as long as they are iron-rich. The food also needs to be the right texture. Look for signs that your baby is ready for solids.
There is no clear recommendation about the best time of day to offer first solids. It can be helpful to give your baby solids after a milk feed in the mid-morning. If they become unsettled, it's less likely to disrupt their night-time sleep.
You may find your baby loves solid foods so much that they're cutting back on their breastfeeds or bottle feeds. If this happens, give a smaller amount of the solid food. Breastmilk or infant formula is still an important source of nutrition for their first 9 to 12 months of life.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a way to offer solids where your baby chooses to feed themself. You can offer small amounts of food on a tray or plate. Your baby can pick up the food themself and put it in their mouth. The food still needs to be soft enough to eat.
You don't have to stick to one way of feeding. Your baby can be given food on a spoon as well as giving them food to pick up themself. It's important that your baby gets the right amount of iron and other nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.
What are the best foods and textures to start with?
Offer your baby healthy, nutritious foods which will support their growth and development.
You can try feeding your baby:
- iron-fortified cereals
- pureed or minced red or white meat, including fish
- cooked vegetables. Aim to give your baby some white, orange, green and yellow vegetables each day.
- fruit, either cooked or mashed
- cooked and mashed egg
- dairy foods — for example, unsweetened yoghurt and full-fat cheese
- wholegrain bread, cereal and pasta
When they first start on solid foods, they won't need much. One to 2 teaspoons is plenty. It will take the baby some time to learn what is involved in the whole process of opening their mouth, chewing and swallowing.
Start by offering your baby pureed foods that have a smooth and easy-to-swallow texture. Even though your baby won't have teeth to chew and grind their food, they will still use their gums to 'chew'.
As they get older, they can eat foods with more texture. Chewing also helps with jaw and speech development.
As your baby grows, move them from purees to mashed foods with lumps and textures. You can also serve minced or chopped food, then 'finger foods'. Finger foods are foods that are cut into small pieces which your baby can pick up and eat themself.
How important is variety?
Aim for variety when it comes to your baby's foods. Colour, texture and taste are all important features of first foods.
Where possible, cook and prepare your baby's foods yourself. This means you will know what's in your baby's food. Aim for fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked with a small amount of water. The food should be soft enough to chew. Freeze small containers (or ice-cube trays) containing freshly cooked food.
Most babies show some hesitation when they are given new foods and textures. It's worth trying the food a few times to see if they show interest later on.
Get into the habit of offering your baby different tastes. You can share soft food from your own plate. Avoid adding salt, strong flavours or spices to your baby's food. Their taste buds are very sensitive. They can detect even the most subtle flavours.
By around 12 months old, most babies should be eating the same type of food as the rest of your family.
Tips for introducing solid foods
- Until your baby is 9 months, offer them breast milk or formula feeds before solids. After 9 months, they can have breast milk or formula after their solids.
- Be sensitive to your baby's cues or signals that they are hungry or full. Don't force them to eat or keep offering food if they're turning away, closing their mouth or not swallowing.
- Give your baby plenty of time to practise their new eating skills. At first, they'll spit the food out, may seem unsure or pull faces at the taste of certain foods. Remember, eating solids is as much about learning as it is about nutrition.
- Let your baby make a mess. As soon as they are ready, offer them finger foods and the opportunity to pick up food and put it in their mouth.
- Always supervise your baby when they are eating solid foods. Small, hard foods can be a choking hazard — although babies can choke on any food of any texture.
- Make sure you cook and store your baby's food safely. Never reheat food that has been reheated previously, or that has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Are there any foods my baby shouldn't eat?
There are some foods that are not suitable for infants, including:
- cow's milk as their main milk drink before 12 months of age
- reduced-fat milk and unpasteurized milk or dairy foods
- avoid small hard foods such as whole grapes, uncooked vegetables, or other hard fruit and vegetables due to the risk of choking
- honey — this can contain botulism spores and should not be given to babies under 12 months
- whole nuts, popcorn, and hard sweets
- fruit juice, cordial, soft drink or sweet drinks
- tea, coffee or energy drinks
- raw egg
- processed food with fat, sugar or salt (such as cakes, biscuits, chips, fried foods)
Do not add salt, sugar or other additives to your baby’s food.
When can my baby have water to drink?
If a breastfed or bottle-fed baby is offered plenty of milk, they don't need extra water to drink.
Once your baby has reached 6 months of age, they're old enough to be offered water to drink. Cooled, boiled water can be offered in a sippy cup at mealtimes and in-between.
Learning how to drink from a cup is useful. Giving small amount of water this way can help your baby learn this skill.
Is a vegetarian or vegan diet safe for my baby?
Babies and toddlers fed a vegetarian or vegan diet can thrive as long as their food contains sufficient energy (kilojoules) and nutrients for growth.
Iron is especially important from 6 months. Great options are:
- nut pastes — such as peanut butter
- healthy fats and oils
Iron-fortified cereal and green leafy vegetables are also essential.
If you are planning to offer your baby a vegan or vegetarian diet, speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian before getting started.
Which is better — bought or homemade food?
Many babies eat a combination of homemade and bought food. Store-bought food is convenient and easy to prepare. It's also handy for when you are not at home or travelling. When buying store-bought food for your baby, read the labels. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and salt.
Although making your own food might be a bit time-consuming, the advantage is you know what's in it. Making one big batch and freezing portions can save time.
Homemade food will help your baby get used to family cooked meals. You can serve small portions of meals made for the rest of the family before adding strong flavours or spices. Making your own baby food is also more affordable.
Resources and support
For more information on how to introduce solid foods, check with your child health nurse, or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to talk to a maternal child health nurse.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: August 2023