A common point of confusion for parents and carers is when to introduce first foods (or solids) to infants. In this article, we are going to clear up some of the myths by introducing you to the latest Infant Feeding Guidelines.
These national guidelines look at all the latest research and use it to create clear evidence-based guidelines which provide consistent advice for the public and promoting optimum nutrition to infants.
For infants, breast milk or infant formula, provides all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed for healthy physical growth and development until around six months of age. After this age, in addition to breast milk or formula, infants need solid foods to meet their increased nutrient requirements.
When can baby’s first foods or solids be started?
First foods can be introduced at around 6 months of age as long as the infant shows signs of readiness. These signs include:
- Good head and neck control
- The ability to sit up almost on their own
- They are able to move food from the front to the back of the mouth and swallow
- They have a chewing action
- They are interested in food and the environment
It is important that you do not introduce first foods to your baby before four months of age, as your baby’s digestive system won’t yet be fully developed and isn’t ready for food.
What order should baby’s first foods be introduced?
It is recommended that we start with iron-containing foods, including iron-enriched infant cereals, pureed meat, poultry and fish, or cooked tofu and legumes. After the introduction of iron containing foods, there are no recommendations on an order that foods should be introduced. It is up to you which foods you decide to introduce to your infant (e.g. fruit, vegetables, grains and/or dairy).
How quickly can new foods be introduced?
The current guidelines suggest that foods can be introduced at a rate that suits your infant. There are no recommendations on the number of new foods that can be introduced at one time.
What foods and drinks are not suitable for babies?
Foods with added sugar, salt and honey as well as foods that are a choking risk including whole nuts, hard pieces of fruit and vegetables and popcorn should be avoided.
To keep tap water safe, it needs to be boiled and then cooled when giving to infants under 12 months of age. Small amounts of cow’s milk can be used in the preparation of solid foods but not given as a main drink to children until 12 months of age.
When can allergen containing foods be introduced?
Allergen containing foods, including cooked egg, fish and nut pastes, can be introduced at the same time as other foods – around 6 months. However, if parents are concerned they should seek advice from a dietitian or appropriate health professional.
Progressing through textures
It is recommended that you start your baby on puree foods, which are smooth with no lumps. You can make puree foods yourself with a blender by pureeing up a wide variety of foods from the food groups. If you are breastfeeding, you can use breastmilk as the liquid to help achieve a puree consistency. As your baby tolerates puree foods, they can progress onto mashed/lumpy foods and then onto finger foods. Generally, baby can have ‘family foods’ from around 12 months of age. Progressing through textures of foods with your baby is important in helping them ‘learn’ how to eat and use their tongue and muscles in their mouth.
We love these ideas for baby led weaning too!
Check out this video!
Don’t forget to check out this video on infant feeding if you haven’t already – click here!
*Baby’s First Foods | Introducing Solids is a guest post written by Nicole Bentley – Nutrition Services Manager and Accredited Practicing Dietitian – Nutrition Australia Qld. It appeared in our print issue 39, April/May 2020.