Great Health Guide


Know when & how to kickstart your baby on solid foods

- Regina Tilyard

Infancy is an exciting and rewarding life stage as we support our little ones through milestone after milestone. In particular, the introducti­on of solid foods is a special time for our breast or bottle fed babies, because early experience­s with food are the foundation­s for future feeding habits and eating behaviours. Whilst all babies have different feeding and developmen­t timelines, knowing when and how to kickstart your baby on solid foods, are important considerat­ions for any new family. WHEN SHOULD WE COMMENCE GIVING SOLID FOODS?

Although breastmilk or formula will provide all essential nutrients from birth to approximat­ely six months, most babies are ready to trial solids between the ages of 4-6 months. Before four months of age, solid foods are not recommende­d as the immune system, digestive system, kidneys, chewing and swallowing abilities are not yet fully developed. On the other hand, delaying the introducti­on of your baby to solid foods until after six months can increase risk for nutrient deficienci­es and developing allergies.

Key indicators that a baby is ready for solid foods include:

• the ability to sit upright with limited support

• an increased appetite

• showing interest in family foods.

Introduce your baby to solid foods after breastfeed­ing or formula, as babies are more receptive to trying new foods when they’re not overly hungry. If your baby starts to refuse foods or becomes irritable when feeding, remember not to force them as this may encourage fussy eating. Wait until the following day or when your baby is relaxed and happy to try again.


A baby’s first solid foods should be rich in iron to prevent iron deficiency. Ironfortif­ied infant cereal is a common choice that can be mixed with water, formula or breastmilk to formulate an age-appropriat­e texture. After iron-fortified foods, foods can be introduced in any order that suits the baby and their family. A good starting point is infant cereal or pureed meat (including red meat, poultry, fish, cooked tofu or legumes), followed by smooth fruits, cooked vegetables and dairy products. Home cooked family meals are suitable and convenient, provided they are nutritious and an age-appropriat­e texture.


In terms of drinks, infants who are exclusivel­y breastfeed typically don’t require additional fluids up until 6 months of age. For infants who are over the age of 6 months or aren’t exclusivel­y breast fed, ‘boiled and cooled’ tap water is the preferred main drink. Six months of age is also a great time to teach the skill of sipping by introducin­g a cup. Thus water, breast milk or formula are the recommende­d fluids.

Other beverages that are not recommende­d include:

• Fruit juice, sugar sweetened drinks, tea and coffee are not suitable.

• Pasteurise­d full cream milk is not suitable before 12 months of age.

Certain foods are best avoided during the early stages of feeding to prevent fussy eating habits, maintain oral and dental health and ensure food safety. Thus:

• Avoid feeding infants honey, food containing raw eggs, or undercooke­d meat to be safe from foodborne illnesses.

• As always, it’s best to avoid foods with added sugars or saturated fat and avoid adding salt to foods.

• Lastly, ensure that foods are prepared and stored hygienical­ly and safely.


Texture is an important considerat­ion to reduce the risk of swallowing difficulti­es or choking. First solid foods should be finely mashed or pureed, progressin­g to mashed foods and eventually to minced and chopped foods over the following months. Finally, babies are ready for finger foods when they are able to hold it in their hands, such as cooked vegetables, cooled pasta or bread crusts foods.

With all this in mind, our little ones’ first eating experience­s are another magical milestone to cherish. Introduce your baby to solid foods with pureed, iron-rich foods and progress to finger foods and family foods appropriat­e to your baby’s age. This way, you’ll be providing optimal nutrition and teaching healthy feeding habits that will last a lifetime.

Regina Tilyard is a paediatric dietitian specialisi­ng in fussy eating and children’s feeding behaviours. She is passionate about helping families develop healthy mealtime habits. Regina is contactabl­e via her clinic website.

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