Breast milk is the natural food for babies. Babies need only breast milk for the first six months. At six months, babies will show signs that they are ready for solid foods. It is important to watch for these signs, introduce solids when ready and continue to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond.
Introducing Solid Food
Your baby is ready to start solid foods at six months. By six months, babies need extra iron and other nutrients from solid food for healthy growth and development. Solid foods also provide a variety of flavours and textures for your baby.
Watch for signs that your baby is ready for solid foods. Starting solid foods too early or too late can cause problems for your baby. Your baby is ready for solids when she:
- Holds her head up
- Sits up in a high chair
- Opens her mouth wide when you offer a spoon
- Turns her face away when she doesn’t want the food
- Closes her lips over the spoon
- Keeps food in her mouth and swallows it instead of pushing it out.
Make sure your baby shows all these signs of readiness before you start solid foods.
Your baby may not accept new foods right away. If your baby shows you that they do not want to keep trying a new food by turning their head away, stop feeding them that food. Try it again another day. Keep feeding time pleasant. Do not pressure your baby to eat.
Baby’s First Foods
Iron-rich foods should be baby’s first foods. Iron-rich foods for babies include: iron fortified infant cereal, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs (yolk and white), tofu, and legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Feeding Tips for Starting Solids
- After your baby is eating a few iron-rich foods, offer other foods like vegetables, fruit, yogurt, cheese and whole grains. Continue giving iron-rich food every day while offering new foods.
- Start a new food when baby is happy and hungry. Sit him up straight in his high chair and pull him up to the table to be included in family meals.
- Help your baby learn to eat a variety of textures. Offer soft textures such as lumpy, and tender-cooked and finely minced, pureed, mashed or ground.
- Offer finger foods when your baby reaches for food or wants to feed himself. Some finger foods are pieces of soft-cooked vegetables and fruits, grated cheese, bread crusts or toasts, finely minced, ground or mashed cooked meat, poultry and deboned fish. Expect a mess! Babies learn about their food by touching it and eating with their hands.
Let Your Baby Decide How Much to Eat
Your baby will let you know when he is hungry and full. Pay attention to his signs. Never pressure your baby to eat or stop feeding him when he still wants more.
Signs your baby is hungry also known as hunger cues:
- Opens mouth when offered food on a spoon
- Leans towards food or spoon
- Shows interest in eating
Signs your baby is full
- Pushes spoon with food away
- Keeps mouth closed
- Turns head away
- Spits food out
Food Allergies and Your Baby
Common food allergens are eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sesame, soy, sulphites, tree nuts and wheat. You can introduce common food allergens as part of your baby’s first foods at six months. There is no evidence that the order in which foods are introduced to a baby affects their risk of developing a food allergy. When you introduce a common food allergen for the first time, only offer one per day and wait two days before introducing another food allergen. Watch for signs of an allergic reaction in those two days. Signs of an allergic reaction are rash, vomiting, diarrhea or breathing problems. Stop feeding a food if you notice any of these symptoms.
Once you know your baby can eat a common food allergen, feed it regularly to your baby to maintain his tolerance to the food. Talk to your health care provider if there is a family history of food allergy and you are concerned about introducing food to your baby.