Trying New Foods
You can start to offer your baby solid foods at around 6 months. At this time breastmilk or formula will no longer provide all the nutrition he/she requires. For the first 6 months of their life, your baby uses iron stored in their body and some iron from breastmilk or formula. By 6 months you need to introduce more sources of iron to help keep up with demand.
It is important to wait until your baby is 6 months old before offering solids, as this will make sure your baby’s digestive system is ready for new foods. Your baby will also need to be strong enough to sit up unsupported and hold their head steady to take food from the spoon. Showing interest in food and an increased appetite are also signs that your baby is ready for solid foods.
How to get started
- Start by offering a few teaspoons of food at one meal a day and gradually increase
- Continue to breastfeed (or bottle feed), offering milk first before offering other foods
- The first food should have a smooth consistency. This can be progressed to lumpier foods as they practice more
- Choose a food rich in iron such as fortified rice cereal, cooked and pureed meat, tofu or legumes
- You may choose to introduce foods one at a time and allow a couple of days between new foods to identify any sensitivities or allergies to foods, however the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating advises that foods can be introduced in any order and at a rate that suits your baby as long as they are iron-rich foods
If you baby is pushing food out if his/her mouth he/she may not be ready to have their first foods just yet – maybe try again in a few days.
It is important to offer increasingly lumpy texture of food in the first few months. This is how your baby learns to chew. Continue to choose a variety of different foods as your baby gets used to lumpier textures including:
- Cooked and minced meat
- Hard boiled eggs
- Coarsely mashed vegetables
- Cooked pasta or noodles, breads and breakfast cereals
- Full fat cheese, yoghurt and custard
You should offer vegetables before starting on fruit or other sweeter foods as babies will prefer sweeter foods and may not accept vegetables. You may have to try a new food several times before your baby accepts it.
Babies grow at different rates and their appetite can vary from day to day. Your baby will let you know how much they will need. When they are hungry, they will get excited when they see food, lean towards you and open their mouth. When they have had enough, you will notice that they turn away, lose interest or push the spoon away.
By 8 months most babies will be able to eat ‘finger foods’ such as toast fingers or rusks. At 12 months your baby should be having 3 meals per day and will be able to eat the same range of healthy foods as the rest of the family.
What to avoid
There is no need to add salt, sugar or flavours to infant food. Plain water, breastmilk or infant formula can be added to puree food if liquid is needed. Salt in particular should not be added to food as an infant’s kidneys are immature and unable to excrete excess salt. Other things to consider or avoid:
- Small hard pieces of food such as whole nuts, seeds, raw carrot, and chunks of apple, because they can cause choking. Nut pastes can be introduced from 6 months of age
- Foods with skins
- Foods high in fat
- Uncooked eggs or meat
- Honey should be avoided before 12 months. Honey contains botulism which can cause food poisoning
- Don’t force your baby to eat all of their food. Babies know when they are full. Watch out for their cues.
- Don’t limit the foods you offer your baby based on personal preferences. Your eating habits will strongly influence your baby, so you may need to consider making changes to the family's eating habits if you want your baby eating healthier foods as they grow up.
You do not need to delay the introduction of eggs, peanuts and wheat. If, however, you have concerns about allergies, talk to your Child and Family Nurse.
For more information on starting solids see the Pregnancy Birth and Baby website.
Preparing homemade baby foods
Preparing your own food can be a cheaper option to purchasing pre-prepared foods from the supermarket. Home-made foods also taste better and have less added salt.
- Use meat and vegetables you are using to prepare the family meal
- Avoid using gravy, stock, seasonings or any other salt containing flavourings. You can add some cooking water, plain water or breastmilk to help puree the food.
- Remove skin and bones from meat
- Cook food until it is soft. Mash food with a fork. Push the food through a sieve or use a blender to make it extra smooth.
- After cooking food wait until it has stopped steaming before transferring the food to the fridge and store in a sealed container
- You can keep food in the fridge for 2 days and up to a month in the freezer
- Be sure to label food clearly with the date
- You can freeze pureed baby food in ice cube trays to make portioning easier, simply spoon into the tray and cover with plastic wrap
- To serve simply heat in the microwave or stove (test temperature before using)
- Discard any left overs – do no refreeze
- Tips and sample meal plans (Queensland Health)
- Baby food recipes (Queensland Health)
- Flip chart (Queensland Health)
- Video – Baby’s first food (Queensland Health)