Your baby is ready to start solid foods at about six months old. Solid foods provide the extra iron and the added nutrients your baby needs for their healthy growth and development.
It is a new experience for you and your baby and may take time to learn. Your baby will use all their senses by seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and tasting the foods you prepare.
Let your baby decide how much to eat and whether or not to eat. Pay attention to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues. Do not force-feed or refuse to give food to your infant.
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You can continue to breastfeed throughout the day as your baby needs it. Breastfeeding six months and beyond has information you may want to consider as you continue breastfeeding your baby.
The first solid foods offered are foods rich in iron. These foods include iron-fortified infant cereals, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, pork, eggs, tofu and well-cooked legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Iron-rich foods are important for proper growth and development of your baby. Between six and twelve months, infants should be offered iron-rich foods two or more times a day.
Common foods that can cause allergic reactions such as peanuts, fish, eggs, wheat and milk products can be introduced from about six months of age. When introducing a food that is among the list of common food allergies, avoid offering more than one of these per day and wait two days before introducing another one. This makes it easier to identify a food that may have caused a reaction.
When any new food is offered, it is important that parents and caregivers watch for signs of an allergic reaction.
At six months of age, it is important to provide a variety of soft textures in food (such as lumpy, and tender-cooked and finely minced, pureed, mashed or ground) and finger foods. Offering finger foods encourages your child to feed himself.
Examples of safe finger foods are:
It’s important for baby’s foods to progress quickly to a lumpier texture. Delaying the introduction of lumpy textures beyond nine months can cause feeding difficulties as your baby gets older and eat less amounts of nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruit.
By twelve months, your child should be offered a variety of family foods with modified textures.
These foods may cause choking for children less than 4 years of age
Honey may cause infant botulism. See Health Canada’s website for more information about honey and infant botulism.
Your baby doesn’t need juice. However, if you decide to give juice, wait until your baby is eating fruit and other foods. Limit the amount of juice your baby drinks to ½ to ¾ cup (125 to 175 ml) of 100 per cent pasteurized fruit juice. Offer the juice in an open cup. You do not need to dilute the juice.
Breast milk and other fluids can be offered in an open cup. At first, your baby will need help from the parent or caregiver so assist them by holding the cup against their mouths. Although it’s common practice to use “sippy cups”, they don’t support the development of mature drinking skills. The use of an open cup is much better for encouraging skill development. The use of an open cup also prevents prolonged bottle-feeding and drinking too much sugary beverages.
Babies can choke easily when they are learning to eat so it’s important to supervise and engage your baby when eating. Your baby should be sitting upright and not lying down, walking, running or be distracted when eating. For proper supervision, include your baby in family meals. Parents should be able to tell the difference between gagging and actual choking, and that gagging is a natural reflex that helps older infants avoid choking.
Mealtimes are more than just about eating. They are a time to get together with family, build strong and positive relationships and create lifelong memories. You can enjoy mealtimes without distractions (toys, TV, electronic devices) Keep meal times pleasant and don’t bribe or force your child to eat.
Set a regular time for meals and snacks every day and avoid frequent snacking throughout the day. Eating every two to three hours a day gives your child time to feel hungry and be interested in eating. Set a good example by sitting down and eating with your baby whenever possible.
Limit the amount of time for meals and snacks to about ½ hour to ensure there is enough time between meals and snacks. Once a meal or snack is over, do not offer food or drinks in-between set times, offer only water.
Let your baby explore food and allow them to eat with their hands. By playing with food, your baby will learn about textures, tastes, colours and what foods they like and dislike.