Healthy Eating Guideline

Introduce suitable solids at around six months.

When to introduce solids

Introducing solids earlier than four months of age is not recommended, as a baby’s system is still developing. Most babies are ready for solids to be introduced into their diet at around six months of age. There are many benefits to introducing new foods whilst still continuing to breastfeed, and breastfeeding should continue for at least the first 12 months of a baby’s life. Breastfeeding can continue beyond 12 months if the mother and baby wish. Babies who have infant formula should also continue to have formula while solids are being introduced, and up until they are 12 months of age.

Preparing first foods for babies

When you prepare first foods for babies, keep these points in mind:
  • There is no need to add salt, sugar or other flavours.
  • Plain water can be added if extra liquid is needed.
  • Breastmilk or infant formula can be added, but only when individual meals are being made for each child. Remember that breastmilk provided by a mother is only to be given to her own baby.
  • For most babies, first foods should be smooth, lumpfree and similar thickness to custard.
  • Babies should be fed only smooth foods at first. Their eating skills will quickly develop and they can thenprogress to mashed, minced or finely shredded foods.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time and wait two to three days between offering each new food. This allows babies to become familiar with new foods, and enjoy their flavour and texture.
  • Any food served to babies but not eaten should be discarded.
Age Types of food and consistency Example of foods that can be consumed
Birth-around 6 months Liquids

Breastmilk

Infant formula (if partially or no longer breastfeeding)

6-7 months Finely mashed or pureed foods (no salt, sugar, fat or other flavour added)
  • Breastmilk
  • Infant formula (if partially or no longer breastfeeding)
  • Infant cereals (iron-enriched)
  • Smooth, mashed pumpkin, potato or zucchini
  • Soft, cooked apple or pear
  • Well-cooked, pureed liver and meat
8-12 months Mashed or chopped foods, then finger foods (no salt, sugar, fat or other flavour added)
  • Breastmilk
  • Infant formula (if partially or no longer breastfeeding)
  • Infant cereals
  • Well-cooked and mashed or minced fish, minced liver and minced or finely shredded meat, chicken and egg
  • Variety of mashed, cooked vegetables, including beans and lentils
  • Mashed, cooked fruit
  • Chopped soft raw fruit such as melon and banana
  • Cereals such as rice, wheat, oats, bread, rice, pasta and noodles
9-12 months  

In addition to foods for 8-12 months:

  • Cheese, custards and yoghurt
12 months + Family foods
  • Breastmilk and/or plain pasteurised full-cream milk
  • Variety of foods from all food groups, with varying textures and flavours

Caution must be taken with hard foods, as choking is still a risk.

Progressing to feeding from a cup

Babies can learn to use a cup from an early age, and are usually ready to try from around seven months. For some babies, this will be a progression from bottle-feeding to cup-feeding, while breastfed babies may skip using a bottle completely and start using a cup, often while continuing to breastfeed.

Breastmilk can be offered to babies from a cup if the mother has expressed milk and has chosen not to bottlefeed. Cooled boiled water can be offered as an additional drink in a bottle or cup after six months of age.

Although water is sometimes offered in a bottle after six months, it is best to use a cup. By around 12 to 15 months of age most babies can manage a cup well enough to satisfy their own thirst, and the bottle can be stopped. Babies who continue to drink from the bottle well into the second year may drink a lot of milk and have a reduced appetite for other foods – which increases the likelihood of a baby becoming iron-deficient.

Babies do not need sweet drinks such as cordial, soft drink and fruit juice. These should never be offered, especially not from a bottle. Sweet drinks can reduce a baby’s appetite for nutritious foods and increase the risk of dental decay. Until 12 months of age, breastmilk or formula should be the main drink for babies.

Choking risks for babies

Babies must be supervised at all times when eating, because choking can easily occur. Babies should never be put in a cot or bed with a bottle. Propping up a bottle for a young baby or leaving a baby unsupervised when feeding puts them at risk of choking.

It is common for children to ‘gag’, with coughing or spluttering, while they are learning to eat. This is different to choking and is not a cause for concern. However, choking that prevents
breathing is a medical emergency.

To reduce the risk of choking:
  • Supervise babies whenever they are feeding.
  • Offer foods that are suitable for the child’s eating abilities. Start with smooth and soft food, then progress to family food.
  • Grate, cook or mash apple, carrots and other hard fruits or vegetables before offering them to young children.
  • Do not serve young children pieces of hard, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, popcorn, corn chips or other hard foods.
  • Never force a baby to eat.

Special feeding needs

Introducing solids for some children may be delayed, and their acceptance of solids and progression with different textures may be slower. It is important to discuss issues related to children's eating with parents, and work out a shared plan that meets the child's needs.