Starting Solids for Babies
Starting solids with your baby is an exciting milestone. Let Dr Cath Conlon (a mum first and feeding expert second) lead you from baby’s first foods to sharing family meals
5 min read
The most important part of this journey is for your baby to learn about different tastes and textures and to have fun!
When to start feeding solid food to your baby
In New Zealand we recommend that babies start solids around 6 months. Babies will show the following signs when they are developmentally ready to start solids:
- seem hungry after breast milk or formula feeds
- can hold their head up well
- are interested in watching you eat – they reach out, open their mouth when you’re eating, and put their hands and toys in their mouth
- make chewing movements
- easily open their mouth when you touch their lip with a spoon or bring food to their mouth, and don’t stick their tongue forward to push the food out
Here are some great first foods for babies
There are lots of foods that you can give your baby as first foods:
- Iron-fortified baby cereal
- Cooked and puréed meat (eg beef, lamb or pork, chicken, or fish) or cooked and puréed vegetarian alternatives (eg, legumes)
- Puréed plain rice, congee
- Cooked and puréed vegetables without skins, pips or seeds (eg, potato, kumara, pumpkin, cassava)
- Puréed fruit without skins, pips or seeds, cook to soften if necessary before puréeing (eg, apple, pear, mango)
- Age-appropriate commercial infant foods
Explore tastes and textures
Start your baby with a puréed texture (add expressed breast milk or infant formula to get the right texture and give your baby a familiar flavour). Once your baby gets use to this puréed texture you can start to make foods a bit thicker and then progress to mashed and finely chopped foods. Some foods such as ripe banana and avocado don’t need to be puréed making them easy options and ideal finger foods for your little one.
Encourage your baby to feed themselves
Treat your little explorer to a wide variety of different foods and textures. That way they learn to like a range of different foods and to develop feeding skills to deal with different textures. Encourage your baby to feed themselves – first with picking up foods and then with a spoon.
Introducing new foods to your baby
Try to give your baby a variety of foods – that’s how they will get all the nutrients they need to be healthy. Baby foods don’t need to be bland. Babies often like flavour but avoid adding salt or sugar as these are not recommended for babies.
Try new foods one at a time every couple of days.
Can you adapt the family meal for your baby?
Moving from first foods for babies to family foods takes a while. Think about how you can adapt the foods you eat as family to be suitable for your baby. Easy steps are cooking without adding salt, using herbs to add flavour, eating from the main food groups, including lots of healthy vegetables and fruits, using lean cuts of meat, offering fish and vegetarian alternatives such tofu and legumes.
Eating as a family is important – babies need good role models so that they develop healthy eating habits. Babies are easily distracted when they are eating so make sure the television is turned off.
Your common questions about starting solids
Q How do I know if my baby has had enough to eat?
A Babies are good at recognising their own satiety cues. They clamp their lips shut and turn their head away. When your baby shows these signs make sure you don’t try to override them by encouraging them to eat.
Q My baby doesn’t like banana should I stop offering it to her?
A No, keep offering. Babies like foods which are familiar and sometimes it takes a while for babies
to learn to like new foods.
Q I’ve been told to give my 6-month-old baby meat to raise his iron stores but I’m worried he’ll choke on it.
A Red meat is an excellent source of iron and babies need iron for brain development and growth. If you purée veggies with the meat you will find that your baby easily deals with the texture. To avoid choking, make sure he is seated when you feed
him and always stay with him.
Hey, all babies are different so don’t worry
The ideal is to wait until your baby is around six months of age to start solids, but every baby develops at their own pace so watch out for the signs that they are ready.