Starting solids

Baby eating solids off a spoon
If your baby is six months old, it’s time to start thinking about starting solid foods. Here’s how to get started and what to remember. 

Starting solids is an important milestone in your baby’s life. Not only are you introducing you little one to a world of tastes and textures, you’re also setting her up for a lifetime of good eating habits. As baby learns new skills and discovers interesting tastes and textures, you may find that starting your baby on solids is challenging and messy. To help you determine whether your baby is ready for solids, here are some tips that might help. 

How do I know my baby is ready for solids?

From around six months old, your baby will begin showing signs that she is ready for solids. Here are some of the signs to look out for: 

  • Baby will seem hungry even after you have fed her.
  • She’ll take a keen interest in any food you’re eating and may even reach out for your food and open her mouth. 
  • Baby is able to control her tongue and mouth, so will open her mouth when a spoon approaches and close it over the spoon. 
  • She will swallow any food rather than push it out with her tongue. 
  • She can sit up and hold her head and neck up on her own. 
  • Her birth weight has doubled. 

By the time baby reaches six months old, her digestive system will be able to handle solids. Her natural stores of iron will have begun to deplete by this stage, and she may not be getting enough iron in her breast milk or formula, so you’ll need to supplement her iron and zinc intake through the food she eats. 

How do I start my baby on solids?

When introducing baby to solids there are two methods you could try: Spoon-feeding purees or baby-led weaning. 

Spoon-feeding purees involves starting your baby off with smooth purees of fruits, vegetables, and baby cereals gradually progressing to more textured foods over a couple of months, with finger foods being introduced around seven to eight months old. 

With baby-led weaning, your baby determines when she is ready to start solids, typically around the six-month mark. Baby is fed the softer, well-mashed and easy-to-chew bits of the same meal the rest of the family eats, and missed out on the puree stage of introducing solids. 

You could also mix the two methods and introduce your baby to both purees and finger foods from the start. The key to any method of weaning or introduction to solids is allowing your baby to go at her own pace, giving her the opportunity to explore various tastes and textures, and discover her favourites. 

Introducing baby to solids

Here are a few steps to follow when introducing your baby to solids: 

  • Choose a time when both you and your baby are calm and relaxed
  • As milk is still the most important part of your baby’s diet, breastfeed her or give her a formula feed first. 
  • Sit baby in a highchair or on your lap.
  • Offer her one or two teaspoons of smooth, pureed fruit, veges, or cereal once a day, or let her sample a small spoon of well-mashed soft food that the rest of your family is eating. 
  • Let her taste the food by sucking it off the spoon.
  • If at first baby spits out the food, be patient and try again at another time or with a different food type. 
  • Introduce new foods slowly and allow her time to get used to a variety of tastes and textures. You’ll quickly discover which tastes she prefers over others.
  • Start with one food at a time and add a new food every two to four days.
  • Start with one to two teaspoons of food a day, gradually building up to about a quarter-cup of food. 
  • Follow her appetite; she’ll quickly let you know if she’s still hungry. 

What should I start with?

It’s important you continue to breastfeed to formula feed your baby when starting on solids, to keep her hydrated and ensure she gets the essential nutrients she needs. Breast or formula milk will still be her main source of food, at least for a few more months as she gradually increases her intake of solid foods. Breast or formula milk will still be her main source of food, at least for a few more months as she gradually increases her intake of solid foods. 

The most common first baby food is single-grain, iron-fortified cereal. These boost your baby’s iron intake and they’re easy for her to digest. You can also start her out with pureed fruits and vegetables like carrots, pears, prunes, kumara, avocado, bananas, and peaches. 

Feed her one new food at a time and wait two to four days before starting a new food. After each new food, watch for any signs of an allergic reaction such as diarrhoea, rash or vomiting. If your baby experiences any of these, consult your doctor immediately. 

Here are some solid foods to start with:
  • Baby cereals are a good first food as they contain the necessary iron essential for baby’s healthy development. Combine one teaspoon of cereal with four to five teaspoons of breast milk or formula, slowly thickening by adding more cereal as baby gets used to swallowing. 
  • Pureed vegetables and fruit including apples, pears, apricots, potato, kumara, and pumpkin. Start with a single fruit or vegetable, then gradually combine fruits and vegetables, then gradually combine fruits and vegetables to provide a more varied diet. 
  • Mashed or finger foods. Wait until baby is a little older, around the nine to 12 month mark, before introducing finely chopped or mashed finger foods like soft fruit and vegetables, ground meat and soft rice. 

What should I avoid?

There are a number of foods to avoid feeding baby early on. These included added salt, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Dairy products should be avoided until baby is at least nine months old while egg and cow’s milk should only be introduced when baby is over a year old. Honey, citrus, nuts, dried fruit, and peanut butter should all be excluded because of allergy risk or gastric problems. 

General guide

From six months:
  • Try a new food in the morning or afternoon so that if baby has any reaction to it, you’re able to deal with it during the day, rather than at night time. 
  • Once you know that baby is happy with certain foods, try offering her solids in the evening to fill her tummy before sleep. 
  • Introduce a new food every two to four days. 
  • If baby refuses or doesn’t like one food, try something else instead. It can take her a while to decide she likes a food, so don’t give up on the one she refused, but try her with it a few days later. 
From six to eight months:
  • Introduce baby to a variety of foods and a range of tastes and textures.
  • Mix any food she doesn’t like with foods that she does enjoy, to encourage her to eat a good range of foods. 
  • Work towards feeding her three meals a day.
From eight to nine months
  • Baby can hold her own food now and will try to feed herself, so prepare yourself for a mess!
  • Feed her pieces of fruit, vegetables, and even toast that she can hold herself.
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