The information in this brochure will give you guidance on how to introduce solids. You may be breastfeeding, expressing breast milk or formula feeding which you have decided with your health care professional. The brochure will refer to your baby’s usual milk and will depend on your individual situation.
Weaning, or introducing solids, is an exciting stage in your baby’s development. This period signifies the transition from baby’s dependence on their usual milk to the gradual introduction of small amounts of other types of food or ‘solids’. Your baby’s usual milk should be continued during this period as it is still a major source of nutrition for your baby. Full cream cow’s milk can be introduced as a main milk drink from 12 months of age.
Introducing solids to your baby is an opportunity to help support healthy eating habits. Rapid growth in childhood requires good nourishment, and a well-balanced diet may help reduce the risk of many diet-related diseases. Like adults, older babies need to have food from several food groups to ensure adequate intake of nutrients. By starting with a healthy and balanced diet, your baby will benefit at each stage of their development.
This brochure offers guidance on when and how to introduce solids, as well as provides some delicious recipes for you to try at home. Enjoy this time with your baby, and remember that you can always seek advice from your child health nurse or doctor if you have any questions.
Knowing when to introduce solids is important. Australian guidelines recommend introducing solids at approximately 6 months of age. Introducing solids too soon is not recommended, and introducing solids later than 6 months could mean your child is missing out on vital nutrients, such as iron and zinc.
Signs of Readiness for Solids
Every baby is unique and will develop in their own time. However, there are some signs that may indicate a baby is ready to eat solid food, such as when they:
- Suck their fingers or fists
- Can hold their head steady
- Can sit with some support
- Have lost their “tongue thrust” reflex
- Show signs of appetite changes
- Become more interested in your food
- Seem less satisfied with milk feeds alone
What About Allergies?
Current guidelines do not support the theory that delaying the introduction to solid food helps to reduce the risk of allergy. For the majority of infants, cow’s milk, egg whites and wheat are not highly allergenic. Although, they are the foods most likely to cause an allergic reaction in susceptible infants.
Signs of a reaction may include skin rash, swelling, vomiting, eczema, breathing difficulty or tongue swelling, and becoming pale and floppy. Seek immediate medical assistance if your baby shows these or any other signs. For babies with a family history of allergy, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional before introducing solids.
Apart from introducing iron-rich foods first, there are no other recommendations for the order in which foods should be introduced, or the number of new foods that can be introduced at a time. As your baby shows signs of enjoying and tolerating what you are offering, you can extend the variety of solid foods.
How much your baby accepts will depend on how ready they are. Babies who are not developmentally ready will need practice to deal with new textures. Your baby’s developmental stage will be a guide for you to offer foods of an appropriate texture and consistency. Some babies accept a lot when they first taste solid food, and others just a little. Allow your baby to set their own pace; there is no hurry.
Some babies quickly progress to 3 meals a day, while others take many weeks. Be guided by their usual milk intake – if they are still taking the required daily amount and enjoying solids as well, provide as much of their usual milk as desired. If they are at this stage, solids should be offered after your baby has had their usual milk feed. It is important to continue their usual milk feeds until at least 12 months of age.
Iron-rich foods are best to start with. The order and number of new foods being introduced is not as important as their nutritional content and texture. Food consistency should range from puréed to lumpy.
Introducing Solids Example Schedule
Once your child has been introduced to puréed foods, you may progress to mashed foods, followed by minced and chopped foods. As your child grows, you can introduce foods with different textures and consistencies that are appropriate for their developmental age.
|From Around 6 Months - Puréed & Mashed Foods||Around 8 Months - Minced & Chopped Foods||Around 12 Months|
|Start with...||Iron-rich foods such as:
||Minced foods: this is a good test of whether your baby is ready to move on to the foods below.||Your baby should be eating a wide variety of foods, and can eat healthy foods eaten by the rest of the family.|
|You can also try...||Some fruits such as mashed banana or avocado
Cooked and puréed apple, pear, apricot or peach
Cooked vegetables such as puréed pumpkin, potato, zucchini and sweet potato
Dairy products such as full-fat yoghurt and custard (be mindful that commercially produced yoghurt and custard may be high in sugar - read the nutritional information on the pack if you are unsure)
|Pieces of food or finger foods such as:
Small slices of toast
Soft pieces of fruit
Small pieces of full-fat cheese
Small pieces of cooked pasta
- DO freeze freshly prepared foods in ice cube trays to use at a later date, and thaw only the amount you need.
- DO store foods in air-tight plastic bags or small containers.
- DON’T offer your baby tea (including herbal tea), coffee, carbonated drinks or cordial. These have no nutritional benefits and may be harmful.
- DON’T give honey to infants aged less than 12 months. It can contain harmful spores of Clostridium Botulinum.
- DON’T add salt or sugar to your baby’s food. Babies have very sensitive taste buds and adding unnecessary seasoning can set up poor eating habits later in life.
Caution: Using Microwaves
Take special care when using a microwave oven to warm your baby’s food. Microwaves can heat unevenly. While food may feel cold in the middle, it can become very hot on the outside edges of the bowl.
If you do plan to use a microwave, take the following precautions:
- Make sure the bowl is labelled “microwave oven safe”
- Heat the food in short bursts of 5 to 10 seconds; it is very easy to overheat small volumes of food
- Mix the food thoroughly after heating and check the temperature before feeding
- Take extra care when using a microwave you are not familiar with (e.g. when heating food at a friend’s home)
Australian guidelines do not recommend regular cow’s milk as the primary milk drink until your baby is at least 1 year of age. However, small quantities of regular, full-cream cow’s milk may be used in cooking or when mixing cereal for your baby.
Regular cow’s milk contains very little iron, an essential mineral for babies in the first year. Iron carries oxygen in the bloodstream and is essential for supporting growth. By 6 months of age, the iron that was stored before birth begins to deplete. That’s why it is important to include iron-rich foods in your child’s diet, to minimise the risk of iron deficiency.
Regular cow’s milk is also low in other important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C and essential fatty acids. It also contains too much sodium (salt) for babies.
On the following pages are some recipes appropriate for different stages of your baby’s development. The earlier recipes can still be used when your baby is older, simply by eliminating the final purée step so that the consistency is more suitable. This will ensure that your baby has an increasing variety of foods.
Your child’s usual milk can be used when preparing these recipes.
Solids should be introduced in very small amounts when starting. The sensation of the spoon and the tastes and textures of solid food may seem strange to your baby. Make sure your baby is sitting comfortably, either on your lap or strapped into a high chair. Avoid offering them solid food when they are very hungry or distressed.
Don’t force feed if your baby spits the food out or gets upset. Simply try again the next day. Be sensitive to your baby’s cues and signals, and let them control how much they eat. If a rash, tummy upset or wheezing occurs after trying a new food, remove it from your baby’s diet and seek medical advice.
The volume of your child’s usual milk required to create a purée of the correct consistency will vary with different foods, depending on the size of the portion. All early solids need to be very moist. Try these baby purée recipes.
BANANA RICE CEREAL
180 mL usual milk
2 tbsp iron-fortified rice cereal
1 medium ripe banana, puréed few drops of lemon juice
Pour milk into a saucepan. Add rice cereal and heat until thickened. Purée banana with a little lemon juice. Add to the mixture, stir through and serve immediately.
Substitute bananas with other fruits, such as puréed peach, pear or apple.
PEAR RICE PURÉE
180 mL usual milk
2 tbsp iron-fortified rice cereal
100 g canned pear, drained or
1 pc ripe pear, cooked and puréed
Pour milk into a saucepan. Add rice cereal and heat until thickened. Stir through puréed pear and serve.
BEEF AND VEGETABLE PURÉE
¼ cup carrot, peeled and diced
¼ cup sweet potato, peeled and diced
¼ cup peas, frozen
¼ cup corn kernels
½ cup lean beef, cooked
In a saucepan with simmering water, add carrot, sweet potato, peas and corn. Cook until vegetables are tender, and reserve the liquid. Put beef and vegetables into a food processor and pulse until puréed.
If required, add some of the reserved liquid to the purée.
As your baby develops and becomes more accustomed to eating solids, you can introduce new textures such as lumpy and minced foods. This is also a good time to include a wider variety of foods. Although many of the foods you offer at this stage may seem bland, avoid the temptation to add sugar or salt.
Aim to make food look attractive by serving it in colourful dishes to keep babies interested. Most babies at this age will want to try feeding themselves. Share this experience with your baby by offering them another spoon to practice eating with. Although this can be quite messy, it’s an important part of their learning process and needs encouragement. It may be a good idea to put a plastic sheet under your baby’s high chair to protect your floor from spilled or flying food.
You may choose to cook your own, or feed your baby commercially produced food. Many parents use a combination of both.
PUMPKIN, SWEET POTATO AND COUSCOUS SOUP
125 g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2 cm cubes
100 g sweet potato, peeled and diced into 2 cm cubes
½ small onion, peeled and diced
1 medium tomato, diced or 2 tsp tomato paste
185 mL diluted chicken or vegetable stock
¼ tsp ground cumin (optional)
65 mL usual milk or natural yoghurt
2 tbsp cooked couscous
Put pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, tomato, stock and cumin in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Purée mixture in a food processor until you achieve appropriate consistency. Stir in milk or yoghurt and couscous, let stand for 5 minutes to thicken.
VEGGIE PURÉE WITH CHEESE
½ cup vegetable purée (see page 13,leaving out beef)
1 tbsp cheese (mozzarella, cottage, ricotta or mild grated cheddar)
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
While the purée is warm, stir through cheese and parsley.
FISH & PARSLEY PURÉE
250 g fish fillet, boneless and skin removed
120 mL usual milk
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
Place fish fillet in a pan. Combine milk with parsley and pour over fish. Simmer until soft cooked. Blend to appropriate consistency.
CREAMY CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI
100 g chicken breast
1 cup diluted chicken stock (or just water, if you prefer)
½ cup broccoli, cut into
For cheese sauce:
2 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp plain flour
300 mL usual milk
5 tbsp cheese, grated
Cut chicken into chunks and poach in the liquid for about 6 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until tender (about 5 minutes).
To make cheese sauce, melt margarine in a saucepan, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, bring to the boil, and cook until the sauce has thickened and continue stirring. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.
Combine cooked chicken, broccoli and cheese sauce, and blend to desired consistency.
120 mL usual milk
2 tsp custard powder
Few drops of vanilla
1 medium ripe banana, with few drops of lemon juice
Mix milk, custard powder and vanilla together in a microwave-proof bowl. Cook on high for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway. Cool custard mixture. Mash banana with lemon juice. Stir through custard and serve immediately.
Substitute with other fruits, such as puréed peach, pear or apple.
BEEF AND VEGGIE BOLOGNESE
1 tsp margarine or canola oil
½ small baby eggplant, skin on and finely diced
¼ onion, finely diced
60 g lean beef mince
1 cup grated or finely diced vegetables (e.g. carrot, pumpkin, peas, chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets)
3 cup diluted beef stock or water
1½ tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil or
½ tsp dried basil
¼ cup small shaped pasta
2 tbsp usual milk
1–2 tbsp grated cheese
Melt margarine or oil in a non-stick pan over moderately high heat and cook eggplant and onion for 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mince and cook 3–4 minutes or until browned. Add vegetables, stock or water, tomato paste and basil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packet instructions until soft. Drain and stir through milk. Serve sauce over pasta or combine them. Sprinkle cheese on top before serving.
Put in a heatproof dish and grill to melt cheese.
¼ cup quick-cook oats
180 mL usual milk (more if necessary) puréed fruit
Cook oats and milk together over gentle heat, stirring until it thickens and looks creamy (about 5 minutes).
Add any combination of puréed fruit.
Around 8 months old, your baby should be fairly accustomed to eating solid foods. This is important because chewing different textures is an important step in their speech development. While your baby’s usual milk will remain an important part of their diet, more solids may be eaten at meal times, the amount of milk they drink will gradually reduce.
If your baby handles minced foods well, you can offer small pieces of food like fingers of toast, unsweetened rusks, crackers or savoury biscuits (low-salt variety). Slices of ripe banana or pieces of pear and orange (with membrane and pips removed) are also great finger food for babies. Your baby will become increasingly interested in foods and want to take part in family meals.
Caution: Choking Hazards
Never leave your baby alone while eating, or allow them to move around with finger foods. Also avoid offering small, hard pieces of food such as whole nuts, seeds or hard carrots unsupervised.
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp ricotta cheese (or feta cheese)
2 tbsp usual milk
Margarine or canola oil
Beat the egg slightly. Add the ricotta and break up with a fork. Add the milk and mix thoroughly. Heat a small amount of margarine or oil in a non-stick fry pan. Pour in egg mixture and cook on medium heat, stirring only as the base sets. Be careful not to overcook. The mixture will not set as firmly as regular eggs, but will be very creamy.
Serve with toast fingers.
CHEEKY CHICKEN SOUP
2 tsp margarine or canola oil
2 pcs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small leek, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cups diluted vegetable or chicken stock (preferably low-salt variety)
1 pc skinless chicken breast, cooked and finely chopped
½ cup barley
Heat margarine or oil in a fry pan or saucepan. Add vegetables and sauté until soft. Add stock, chicken and barley, and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.
VEGGIE RISOTTO BAKE
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
2 cups Arborio rice (risotto rice)
4 cups diluted vegetable stock
4 cups chopped vegetables (e.g. carrots, peas, squash and mushrooms)
½ cup usual milk
½ cup cheddar cheese
1 tbsp margarine
½ cup breadcrumbs
Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan and sauté onion and garlic for about 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add rice, stirring for 1 minute. Add stock and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Stir in vegetables and milk, and simmer for a further 5 minutes.Spoon mixture into an oven-proof dish, and top with cheddar cheese. Rub margarine into breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes, until lightly golden.
400 g chopped tomatoes, canned
500 g lean mince (beef, lamb or chicken)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped basil or ½ tsp dried basil
1 piece wholemeal bread, whizzed in the blender into breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
1 small onion, finely chopped
Canola or olive oil spray
Heat chopped tomatoes in a pan for 10 minutes until thickened, set aside. Using clean hands, mix all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. With wet hands, roll into little balls (about the size of walnuts). Spray a non-stick fry pan with oil spray. Add the meatballs and cook on all sides, until golden brown and cooked through. As long as the meatballs are quite small, they will cook in about 10–15 minutes. Cut one open and check to make sure before you take them off the heat. Once cooked, add tomatoes and heat through.
Serve meatballs and sauce on creamy mashed potato or cooked pasta.
Many dinner recipes for babies can be adapted to suit the whole family. For the rest of the family, shape the mixture into slightly larger meatballs and place in an oven-proof casserole dish. Pour over the chopped tomato sauce and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25–30 minutes.
Introducing solids is an exciting stage for both parents and their little ones. It is a perfect opportunity to introduce healthy eating habits while they are young.