At around six months your baby might be ready to learn how to eat. Up until now your baby has been fed by breastmilk or formula, and it’s now time to introduce solid foods to encourage healthy growth and development.
When and how to start eating solid foods
Wait until your baby is ready for solids to make sure they have developed swallowing skills. However, don't wait too long or your baby might develop nutrient deficiencies.
All babies are different. Some are ready to eat solids earlier than others. If you need help determining if your baby is ready, ask your Maternal and Child Health nurse.
If your baby is not ready for food they might stick out their tongue, close their mouth tightly and turn away, cry or push the spoon away. If your baby rejects your first attempts at food, don’t panic. Stop and try again in a few days. It takes time and patience for babies to learn to eat.
Signs they're ready for solids
Signs your baby might be ready for solids:
- your baby can sit supported and has good head control
- watches when others eat, leans forward when food is around
- opens their mouth when food is offered
- reaches out to grab food and spoons.
Start introducing solids at around six months but not before four months, by giving your baby a taste of smooth foods once a day after a breastfeed or formula feed.
As your baby becomes more used to solids, increase to two or three times a day, with slightly larger servings. It’s best to start with foods that have a smooth consistency and gradually introduce thicker, lumpier foods.
Introducing lumpier foods
At around seven to nine months of age, your baby should be a little expert at eating smooth textures. When your baby can sit without support, you can introduce lumpier foods to encourage chewing.
The chewing motion helps to develop your baby’s muscles for eating and talking, even if they don't have teeth yet.
When introducing thicker foods for the first time, your baby may spit the food out or even gag. It’s completely normal and you both just need to keep practising.
Babies feeding themselves
Around eight to nine months of age, babies might like to feed themselves. By giving them finger foods such as cut-up fruit or small pieces of toast, your baby can practise holding, biting and chewing on their own. You can encourage them by:
- showing the bite and chew action
- saying the movements aloud to your baby.
Watch your baby while they eat in case they start choking. Small foods can get stuck in your baby’s throat and restrict their breathing. It's important to keep small toys away during mealtimes.
Prepare for mess as your baby explores feeding himself or herself. You may want to put a placemat down to catch the fallen food. Be patient with your baby as they develop their self-feeding skills.