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PLAYING: When to start solid food for babies

When to start solid food for babies

Starting solid foods is a new and exciting step in your baby’s eating development, but it often comes with many questions.

7 mins to read Nov 4, 2016

Congratulations on reaching this exciting milestone and have fun feeding your baby his first foods. Starting solid foods is a new and exciting step in your baby’s eating development, but it often comes with many questions.

You may be wondering what foods are recommended as the first solid food, how to know when your baby is ready, and how to really get started. The guidelines that follow will help you through this next phase of his big move to solid foods.

Big nutrition for small tummies

Around 6 months of age, babies need additional foods along with breast milk to support their growth and development. As their stomachs are still small, those foods need to contain a lot of nutrition.  Iron is one important nutrient babies will need at this age so the first foods introduced should be rich in iron. Puréed meat is a great source of iron and recommended as one of your child's first foods.

Iron-fortified infant cereals also provide big nutrition for small tummies. They are designed to provide essential nutrients in a small serving, perfect for a small tummy that can’t hold much food at one time. Infant cereals are soft and easy to swallow, and fortified with iron which makes them another good option for first tastes of solid food. Start with a thinner consistency, and move to a thicker texture as your baby gets used to eating from a spoon. This lets you keep pace with his developing eating skills. Introducing new textures and flavours at the appropriate time is important for establishing healthy eating habits.

How do I know he’s ready?

Young babies have yet to develop the skills needed to move solid foods around in their mouth and successfully swallow. By around 6 months of age, your baby will have developed the motor skills needed to sit up during feeding, draw food off a spoon, and turn his head away when full. 

Look for these milestones:

  • Sits with no help because he’s gained control over his upper body.
  • Turns his head to the left or right.
  • Moves his tongue backward and forward in a smooth rhythm when you put a small spoon to his lips. This allows him to draw food in and swallow it. It may take a few days to get used to eating from a spoon, but he will learn quickly!


It is always a great idea to speak with your healthcare professional around your baby’s 6-month visit about how to start solid foods.

Setting the stage for their first taste

Here are a few tips for getting your baby ready to take that first spoonful of baby food.

  • Feed breast milk or formula so he won’t be fussy or too hungry.
  • Take your time. Choose a time of day you do not have to rush.
  • Choose the appropriate spoon. Use a small baby-sized spoon that’s coated to protect your baby’s tender gums.
  • Sit him in an upright infant seat or high chair, making sure his head is in an upright position, not tilted back.
  • Let him explore. Place a dab of purée or cereal on his high chair tray so he can "finger paint" with it and become familiar with its texture. Let your baby explore the feel and smell of the food. This is both fun and messy! Keep your sense of humour and keep the camera handy for pictures.
  • First bite! Sit facing your baby and hold the half-spoonful of food about 30cm from her face. Get her attention and put the spoon up to her mouth. For the first bite, try putting a dab of food on her lip. If she's agreeable to that first taste, put the next bite into her mouth when she opens it. Feed your baby as slowly or as rapidly as she wants and always look for her fullness cues. It’s all about the experience!
  • Try, try again. Don’t be surprised if your baby’s first taste pops right back out. It’s a natural reflex. If your baby seems unhappy about this experience, give it up for now and try again later.


Breast milk or formula is still your baby’s main source of nutrition. This is a time of introducing new flavours and textures to your baby, a time of exploration.

Tips for introducing iron-fortified infant cereals

  • Start with infant rice cereal. Baby can then progress to other grains as you offer more variety. Offering only single-grain cereals at first lets you pinpoint any possible food sensitivities or reactions—such as a rash, diarrhea or vomiting—your baby may have to a new food.
  • Prepared cereal should never be fed from a bottle—only from a spoon.
  • When first starting cereal, mixing with breast milk is recommended. Move to a thicker consistency once you feel your baby is mastering the thin texture.
  • Prepare only as much as you think he will eat. Don’t save cereal that’s been prepared, as it can grow bacteria very easily.


Introducing single foods one at a time will help avoid confusion and rule out food allergy and sensitivity. Based on current knowledge, experts have advised that there is insufficient evidence to delay or avoid the introduction of potentially allergenic foods. If you suspect a reaction, stop feeding your baby the new food and speak to your healthcare professional.

A day in your 6-8 month old’s diet

This sample day was created by registered dietitians to help meet the nutrition goals for your 6 to 8 month old baby. Your child may eat more or less, so always follow his hunger and fullness cues.

Morning feeding

  • Breast milk or formula (cow’s milk should not be offered to babies younger than 9-12 months)


  • 1-2 tablespoons iron-fortified infant cereal
  • 1-2 tablespoons puréed fruit, such as peaches or pears

Mid-morning snack

  • Breast milk or formula


  • Breast milk or formula
  • 1-4 tablespoons puréed meat
  • 1-4 tablespoons puréed vegetables, such as carrots

Afternoon snack

  • Breast milk or formula


  • 1-2 tablespoons iron-fortified cereal
  • 1-2 tablespoons puréed fruit

Evening feeding

  • Breast milk or formula
menu planner

Foods to wait on

It is best to avoid certain foods, such as sweetened beverages, chips or cookies, they may seem like a treat for your little one, but nutritionally these don’t offer much. Babies need nutrient-dense foods that deliver important nutrients relative to the amount of calories suitable for their age.

Limit sugar and salt

For infants 6 months and older, you can begin to introduce some of the same nutritious foods enjoyed by the whole family. To build healthy habits, ensure that you are preparing meals that have little or no added salt or sugar.

Do not offer sweetened beverages

Sweetened drinks, including fruit juice, should not be part of the infant's diet because of their relatively high sugar content. Children over 12 months can have diluted fruit juice as part of their healthy diet, but should be limited to 120-180mL per day.

Waiting on cow’s milk

Breast milk or infant formula is still your baby's main source of nutrition during the first year. This is to ensure a good supply of important nutrients in your baby’s diet. Whole cow's milk is not an appropriate beverage for your baby before 9 to 12 months of age.

Consult your doctor

Talk with your healthcare professional to see which milk option is right for your child once he’s reached his 1 year old birthday.

Hold off on the honey

Honey can contain botulinum spores and cause serious health problems. Even in small amounts, honey can be dangerous for a baby younger than 12 months.

Prevent choking

Your baby will start out with thinly puréed foods, work up to thicker textures, then move to tender pieces of food. You might think he’s ready to handle more, but avoid giving your baby foods known choking hazards for the first 3 years or more.

Some foods that may be choking hazards:

  • Raisins and whole grapes.
  • Popcorn, nuts and seeds.
  • Hot dogs, chunks of meat or poultry.
  • Spoonfuls of peanut butter.
  • Hard, raw or chunky fruits and vegetables such as whole peas, raw carrots, celery sticks or apples.
  • Gum, chewy or hard candy.


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