Big nutrition for small tummies
Around 6 months of age, babies need additional foods along with breastmilk 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. Pureed 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 their developing eating skills. Introducing new textures and flavours at the appropriate time is important in reducing the risk of later feeding difficulties and establishing healthy eating habits.
How do I know my baby is 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 their head away when full.
Look for these milestones:
- Sits with no help because they've gained control over their upper body.
- Turns their head to the left or right.
- Moves their tongue backward and forward in a smooth rhythm when you put a small spoon to their lips. This allows them to draw food in and swallow it. It may take a few days to get used to eating from a spoon, but they will learn quickly!
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.
- Breastfeed so they 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 them in an upright infant seat or high chair, making sure their head is in an upright position, not tilted back.
- Let them explore. Place a dab of puree or cereal on their high chair tray so they 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 their face. Get their attention and put the spoon up to their mouth. For the first bite, try putting a dab of food on their lip. If they're agreeable to that first taste, put the next bite into their mouth when they open it. Feed your baby as slowly or as rapidly as they want 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.
Tips for introducing iron fortified infant cereals
- Start with infant rice cereal. Baby can then progress to a wheat grain in a month or so. Offering only single-grain cereals at first lets you pinpoint any possible food sensitivities or reactions—such as a rash, diarrhoea 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 breastmilk is recommended. Move to a thicker consistency once you feel your baby is mastering the thin texture.
- Prepare only as much as you think they will eat. Don’t save cereal that’s been prepared, as it can grow bacteria very easily.
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 their hunger and fullness cues.
- Breastmilk (cow’s milk should not be offered to babies younger than 1 year old)
- 1-2 tablespoons pureed fruit, such as peaches or pears
- 1-2 tablespoons dry iron-fortified infant cereal mixed with breastmilk
- 1-4 tablespoons pureed vegetables, such as carrots
- 1-4 tablespoons pureed meat
- 1-2 tablespoons dry iron-fortified cereal mixed with breastmilk
- 1-2 tablespoons pureed fruit
Foods to wait on
Do not give your baby more adult 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 kilojoules suitable for their age.
Hold up on the sugar and salt
Some babies are being introduced to salty snacks, chips and soda as young as 7 to 8 months old. These foods are inappropriate for such young children and run the risk of filling them up before they can eat more nutritious foods. This also establishes poor eating habits at a very young age that may become harder to change as time goes on.
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
The World Health Organisation recommends that infants be fed breastmilk during the first year of life. This is to ensure a good supply of important nutrients in your baby’s diet. Cow's milk is not an appropriate beverage for your baby before 1 year of age.
Consult your doctor
Talk with your healthcare professional to see which milk option is right for your child once they've reached their 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.
Your baby will start out with thinly pureed foods, work up to thicker textures, then move to tender pieces of food. You might think they're 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.