SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Start to introduce solids at around six months of age.
- First solids should be finely mashed and smooth, then graded to coarsely mashed quickly.
- Your baby may only take a spoonful at first, but this will increase with time and practice.
- Continue to feed your baby breast milk or infant formula until they are at least 12 months.
Babies grow quickly in their first year, so they need plenty of energy (kilojoules) and nutrients.
Your child’s growth isn’t always steady and even, which means their appetite and hunger can be unpredictable.
The amount of food eaten by your baby and their interest in food may vary from day to day. This is normal and shouldn’t cause any concerns if your baby is growing well.
Start solid foods around 6 months
By about 6 months, a baby’s iron stores are low and extra foods will be needed to maintain healthy growth and prevent nutritional problems (such as ). Start to introduce solid foods (solids) around 6 months – when your baby shows an interest in food.
Breast milk and formula is important for 12 months
Continue to feed your baby breast milk or infant formula even when solids are being introduced.
If you are feeding your baby infant formula, this is important until 12 months.
Signs your baby is ready for solids
Babies show signs when they are ready to try solid foods. These include:
- Good head control and able to sit up with support
- Watching and leaning forwards when food is around
- Reaching out to grab food or spoons to put in their mouth
Babies' physical changes at 4 to 6 months
Babies’ organs and body grow and develop certain physical traits between 4 and 6 months. Certain changes occur to the:
- Digestive system – the body develops enzymes to digest food.
- Immune system – immune gut defence mechanism is fully developed.
- Mouth and tongue – your baby can move food to the back of their mouth and swallow safely.
- Head and neck – your baby can hold their head up – head control helps them to sit up straight and swallow.
- Kidneys – your baby’s kidneys can now handle the increased load produced by solids.
Knowing when to introduce solids
Hungry babies should be offered more breast or formula feeds until they are ready for solids.
Some parents may be tempted to start solids early to help their baby grow, sleep or settle better. However, introducing solids too early may lead to problems such as:
- Poor growth – especially where solid food replaces breast milk or formula.
- Loose bowel actions or diarrhoea because a baby is unable to digest solid food.
Although you may find introducing solids tricky, don’t be put off by your first attempts or your baby’s lack of interest. You will eventually learn their cues and when they are ready.
Starting solids too late may also lead to health problems such as:
- Delayed growth due to low energy intake.
- Iron deficiency anaemia.
- Feeding problems – particularly if solids have not started before 7 to 9 months.
Be guided by your baby and if you have any concerns, speak to a maternal and child health nurse or doctor.
Signs your baby is not interested in solids
Signs that your baby is not interested in solids or is full may include:
- Closing their mouth tightly.
- Turning their head away when food is offered.
- Crying when food is offered.
- Pushing the spoon away.
What if my baby is not interested in solids?
If your baby is not interested in solids during your first attempts, relax and try again in a few days.
While most babies naturally spit food out when first given solids, they soon learn to accept foods if you continue.
Eventually you will learn when your baby is hungry or full so you can enjoy mealtimes as a family.
Remember, they are also picking up cues from you – this includes learning how to socialise and eating healthy foods.
How to introduce solids
Try these simple tips when introducing solid foods to your baby:
- Be calm and relaxed when you begin.
- Make sure they sit comfortably and are not too hungry.
- Be patient. They may only take a spoonful at first, but this will increase with time and practice.
- Be prepared for a mess – all babies will do this when they learn to eat.
- Stay with your baby while eating to encourage social interaction and to avoid any accidents (such as ).
- Try again in a day or so if your baby refuses the first time.
- Offer foods on a small, infant-sized spoon.
Baby's first foods
When starting out, foods should be mashed and smooth, but you can quickly move on to coarsely mashed foods and coarser textures.
General suggestions include:
- Start with a single food rather than a mixture.
- Start with iron-fortified cereal (mixed to a smooth texture with expressed breast milk or formula) and/or an iron-rich food (such as pureed meat, chicken, fish, egg, cooked plain tofu or legumes).
- As long as iron-rich foods are the first foods, other nutritious foods (such as pureed fruit and vegetables) can be introduced in any order at a rate that suits your baby.
- Offer coarsely pureed or mashed foods, progressing to lumpy and finely chopped options by 8 months.
- Always sit with your baby while they are eating.
- Encourage drinking water from a cup.
Food suggestions from 8 to 9 months
While a baby’s first solids should be mashed and smooth, they soon need variety in textures and different types of food.
Food suggestions for babies from 8 to 9 months include:
- Chopped and finger foods – such as pieces of tender meats, cooked vegetables, soft diced fruit and bread crusts, to encourage chewing and self-feeding.
- Give baby a small spoon to encourage self-feeding, even while you continue to give most of the food.
- Offer more variety of fruit, vegetables, meats, chicken and well-cooked fish.
- Introduce pasta, rice and bread.
- Small amounts of cow’s milk on cereals, as custard, cheese and yoghurt.
- The main milk for babies (less than 12 months) should be breast milk or infant formula. However, it’s okay to introduce cow’s milk in custard, yoghurt or on cereal from 7 to 8 months.
Stay with your baby when they are eating. Let them sit with the family to watch and learn.
Around 9 months, your baby will develop other feeding skills. These include:
- Showing an interest in self-feeding.
- Ability to chew lumps in food.
- Independent eating with some assistance.
By the end of 12 months, your baby should be ready to eat a wide variety of family food.
Safety suggestions when introducing cows milk
- Cow’s milk is a poor source of iron and is never a substitute for breast milk or formula for babies under 12 months.
- Continue breastfeeding or use infant formula until your baby is at least 1 year old.
- Cow’s milk contains higher levels of protein, salt, potassium and calcium than breast milk or formula. (This can increase the load on the kidneys.)
- Cow’s milk may be included from about 8 months in small amounts as custard, yoghurt or on cereal.
- Never give your baby unpasteurised (raw) milk.
- Milk should not be the main drink until after 1 year of age or until a range of food is eaten each day.
Allergies and vegetarian diets
Extra care may be required when introducing solids to babies where:
Seek advice from your doctor, maternal and child health nurse or an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
Foods to avoid for children under 12 months
Some foods are not suitable for babies under 12 months. These include:
- Honey and any food containing raw egg – may contain harmful bacteria.
- Caffeinated drinks (such as tea and coffee) – contain tannins that can restrict .
- Whole nuts and hard uncooked vegetables – should be avoided due to the risk of choking.
- – have no nutritional value and usually contain high amounts of added sugar and are linked to weight gain and poor oral health.
- Reduced fat milk – is not suitable for children under 2.
- Certain milks – such as goat’s, soy, rice, oat.
- due to the risk of serious .
Where to get help
- Dietary guidelines for children and adolescents in Australia, 2003, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Commonwealth of Australia.
- Foote, KD & Marriott, LD, 2003, ‘Weaning of infants’, Archives of Diseases in Childhood, vol. 88, pp. 488-492. BMJ Publishing Group & Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, UK.
- Nutrition, WHO Child and Adolescent Health and Development, World Health Organization.
- Puelz, H, Sinden, N & Hendricks 1993, ‘Developmental aspects of weaning’, International Seminars in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, vol. 2, no. 3.
- Weaning of infants, Archives of Diseases in Childhood.
- Hendricks, KM & Badruddin, SH 1992, ‘Weaning recommendations: The scientific basis’, Nutrition Review, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 125-33.
- Baby’s first foods, Nutrition Food Services, Royal Children’s Hospital.
- Infant feeding advice. 2010, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.
- Baby nutrition: in a nutshell, Raising Children Network (Australia) Limited.