Starting solids is an exciting milestone in your baby’s development. With all the advice on introducing solid foods, knowing where to start can be a bit confusing.
At Karitane, we follow the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Infant Feeding Guidelines. That’s why we’ve broken down our most frequently asked questions on the topic.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should my baby start solids?
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends introducing solids at six months – an age at which your baby begins to require more iron and zinc. If you elect to begin prior to this period, only do so under the instruction and guidance of a health care professional like your family doctor or paediatrician.
When determining whether your baby is ready for solids, look for the following developmental signs:
- Your baby shows interest in food
- Your baby watches you eat
- Your baby opens their mouth towards your food
- Your baby can sit upright when supported
- With good head and neck control
- Your baby’s tongue extrusion reflex has disappeared
- This reflex pushes food out of the mouth
- Your baby is no longer nutritionally sustained by breast milk or formula alone
If your baby is showing you these cues and is around six months of age, it’s time for solids! Start slow, and progress through foods. Keep in mind that milk is still the priority for your baby’s nutrition. Solids shouldn’t replace breastfeeding or infant formula until nine months. At nine months, offer solids first, then milk. Continue to offer your child breast milk or formula until they turn one.
Safety Alert: Use a 5-point harness chair at meal times. Do not leave your baby unsupervised.
Which foods should I give my baby?
Food can be introduced in any order and amount that suits your baby. Continue introducing different foods until they are eating a variety of foods from the five food groups. Culturally appropriate foods and preparation are encouraged if they are nutritionally suitable (no added salt and/or sugar). When introducing new foods, it is okay to introduce more than one at a time.
If your baby is under nine months, offer milk first. Approximately 30 minutes after they’ve finished their milk, you can offer solids. After nine months, offer milk second.
Karitane Tip: Between six and nine months is a crucial window of opportunity to introduce textured foods. If you miss this opening, you may increase the chance of feeding difficulties later. A variety of tastes, choices and textures are key!
- Start with iron rich food like fortified cereals, puree, meat, poultry, fish, legumes and tofu
- Progress to mash
- Progress to minced and finely chopped foods
- Progress to finger foods
- Progress to smaller pieces of family food
Karitane Tip: It’s very normal for children to have particular food preferences. Some like vegetables, some prefer fruit, some like only puree, and some like white foods (rice, breads, pasta, dairy). It is important that you encourage your child to try a wide variety of tastes and textures to ensure you’re meeting their nutritional and developmental needs.
Foods to avoid:
- Whole nuts, seeds, raw carrot, celery sticks, apple chunks
- Homemade ice cream, mayonnaise or any other product that contains raw eggs
- Animal milk
- Fruit juice and fruit drinks
- Tea, caffeinated drinks, sugar sweetened drinks
Safety Alert: Choking is a potential hazard at any age. We recommend staying with your child whilst they are eating. You may also find completing a first aid course helpful in addition to keeping a first aid chart and manual within reach of the kitchen and living areas.
How much and often should I feed my baby?
When you first introduce solids, your baby may only accept one or two teaspoons of food at each meal. This is very normal. Always let your baby decide how much food to eat.
Begin with one solid meal a day until your baby shows cues they’re ready for the next. In the early weeks of introducing solids, it takes around six weeks for a baby to graduate to half a cup of solids a day.
Your baby may have had enough if they:
- Turn their head or look away
- Push food out of their mouth
- Close their mouth when food is offered
- Shake their head (no)
- Slow their eating pace
All babies’ energy needs are different. On average a baby eats half to one cup of food at each main meal by the time they’re one year old.
Karitane Tip: Always allow infants to satisfy their appetite. Do not push your child to overeat, or force them to finish the bowl. Apply the rule ‘you provide the food, your child decides how much’ at mealtimes.
For more detailed information on appropriate solid foods, you can consult the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Infant Feeding Guidelines.
Are there common challenges with solid food?
Yes – but don’t worry. Most of these are very minor, and can be easily managed.
1. Messy meals:
Learning to eat solid foods can be a messy business! If you’re prepared for a messy situation, it’s often a lot easier to handle.
- Allow your baby to experiment with tastes and textures
- Expect spit and grubby hands
- Place a plastic mat under the highchair
- Use a bib to protect clothing
- Avoid wiping your baby’s face
- Leave clean up to the end
2. Encouraging variety:
As a parent or carer, you may worry your baby isn’t receiving enough variety. Because you’re the parent, you have ultimate control over the food offered. Sometimes your choices will influence what your child eats over the day, and whether they will or won’t try diverse food.
Things to consider:
- High fat and sugary foods fill babies up quicker
- Your baby may want to feed themselves at 6-7 months
- Soft foods can sometimes hinder progress
- Weight gain slows after six months
- Only offer the recommended amount of milk for their age
- If your baby is tired, they’ll be less interested in eating
- Your baby may need to retry food
- Your baby watches and learns from you
Karitane Tip: Your child chooses how much to eat. There is never a good reason to force feed a baby.
Is my toddler gaining enough weight?
The majority of babies triple their birth weight by one year of age. Weight gain usually slows to 2-3 kilos in the second year, then to 2 kilograms a year, up to the age of five. If your child seems to be growing at a different rate, don’t be alarmed – these figures are indicative only. If you have any concerns discuss this with your health care professional.
Factors that may influence weight gain:
- Poor sleep habits
- Medical conditions
- Role modelling from parents and family
- Activity levels
Karitane Tip: If you have concerns about your baby’s weight, please consult your family doctor or child and family health nurse.
How do I promote healthy eating habits?
There are many simple ways to promote your child’s healthy eating habits.
- Make positive changes
- Keep healthy snacks on hand
- Eat meals together
- Read food labels
- Make ‘junk’ food sometimes food
- Add sliced fruit to water
- Offer a glass of water towards the end of a meal
- Don’t use sweets as rewards
- After one year, offer drinks from a cup
- Include your toddler in food preparation
- Limit TV time
- Plan ahead where possible
- Praise specific healthy food behaviours
How do I make mealtime a positive experience?
- Have everything ready
- Include your toddler in food preparation
- Reduce distractions
- Sit together when eating
- Eat new and healthy foods yourself
- Offer new foods regularly
- Praise your toddler for positive mealtime behaviour
- Expect mess
- Don’t let your toddler fill up on fluids
- Do not force feed
Karitane Tip: Your child chooses how much to eat. There is never a good reason to force feed a toddler.
At Karitane, we recognise and appreciate the unique and special differences of every family. Your parenting choices should always be respected. Feeding can be an enjoyable, shared family experience, and a great form of bonding. In the early stages of feeding, you and your baby will both learn a lot from one another. Be patient – enjoy the experience together.Learn More