Young children need enough nutritious food every day to grow healthy, strong and intelligent. At around six months old, your baby is increasing and requires more energy and nutrients than at any other time in her life. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
At six months of age, breastmilk continues to be a vital source of nutrition; but it’s not enough by itself. You need to now introduce your baby to solid food, in addition to breastmilk, to keep up with her growing needs. Be sure you give your baby her first foods after she has breastfed or between nursing sessions so that your baby continues to breastfeed as much as possible. When you start to feed your baby solid food, take extra care to become sick. As she crawls about and explores, germs can spread from her hands to her mouth. Protect your baby from getting sick by washing your and her hands with soap before preparing food and before every feeding.
Your Baby’s First Foods
When your baby is six months old, she is just learning to chew. Her first foods need to be soft, so they’re straightforward to swallow, such as porridge or well-mashed fruits and vegetables. Did you know that when the porridge is too watery, it doesn’t have as many nutrients? To make it more nutritious, cook it until it’s thick enough not to run off the spoon.
Feed your baby when you see her give signs that she’s hungry – such as putting her hands to her mouth. After washing hands, start by giving your baby just two to three spoonfuls of soft food twice a day. At this age, her stomach is small, so she can only eat small amounts at each meal.
The taste of new food may surprise your baby. Give her time to get used to these fresh foods and flavours. Be patient, and don’t force your baby to eat. Watch for signs that she is whole and stop feeding her then.
As your baby grows, her stomach also increases, and she can eat more food with each meal.
6-Month-Old Feeding Schedule
If your 6-month-old is ready to start solid foods, you may be wondering how to do it. We explain the what, the when, and the how for feeding your 6-month-old.
What Do I Feed My Baby?
First of all, remember that breast milk or formula is still the prime source of nutrition for your infant at that age. Solid food is just a supplement at that age, and you should still feed your baby plenty of breast milk or formula. Often, the first food is baby cereal, like rice or oatmeal. Some babies won’t take grain, and that’s OK.
There’s no harm in your baby skipping the cereal stage and going straight to pureed foods, but we do suggest trying cereal first. It has added iron, which your baby needs at this age. Plus, it’s a nice bridge from the pure liquid diet of breast milk or formula to more solid food. Don’t put cereal in the bottle. Mix it with formula or water and give it with a spoon.
If you’re breastfeeding, don’t mix your breast milk with the cereal for the first few attempts at eating. Until your baby shows that they really will eat it, most of the grain will wind up somewhere besides their stomach, like on the floor, head, or tray. Your breast milk is too valuable to throw away, so mix the cereal with a bit of water at first. When your infant is taking it well, then you can mix it with your breast milk. Make the cereal a little runny at first, closer to the consistency of a liquid. If your baby is taking this well, gradually thicken it to the thickness of oatmeal. Start by offering just a few spoonfuls at a time. When your baby has gotten the hang of it and seems to want more, work up to about 3 to 4 tablespoons per feeding.
Once your baby has been taking cereal reliably once a day for a week or two, try twice a day feedings. Once they’ve done that reliably for a week or two, then you can start pureed foods. When your baby’s ready, start them on pureed baby foods like these. Traditionally, orange and yellow vegetables have been the first foods to give a baby, but other good foods to try first are bananas or avocado. When giving a food your baby hasn’t had before, give it at least three days in a row before trying another new food. This is to help identify which foods your baby may be allergic or intolerant to.
Also, be aware that many of your child’s later dietary habits often have their beginning in infancy. One study in 2014 found that babies who didn’t eat many fruits or vegetables in the 6- to 12-month period probably wouldn’t eat as many fruits or vegetables as older children.
From Around Six Months
To start with, your baby only needs a small amount of solid food, once a day, at a time that suits you both.
You can start weaning with single vegetables and fruits – try blended, mashed, or soft-cooked sticks of a parsnip, broccoli, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear. You could also try baby rice mixed with your baby’s usual milk. Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby.
It’s important to introduce foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time, in tiny amounts, so that you can spot any response. These foods can be submitted from around six months as part of your baby’s diet, just like any other foods:
- cows’ milk (in cooking or mixed with food)
- eggs (eggs without a red lion stamp should not be eaten raw or lightly cooked)
- foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
- nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
- seeds (help them crushed or ground)
- shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
Once introduced and tolerated, keep offering those foods as part of your baby’s usual diet (to minimise the risk of allergy). Read more about food allergies and what signs to look out for.
Include vegetables that aren’t so sweet, such as broccoli, cauliflower and spinach – this will help your baby get used to a range of flavours (rather than just the sweeter ones like carrots and sweet potato). This can help prevent them from being fussy eaters as they grow up.
Remember, babies don’t need salt or sugar added to their food (or cooking water). Babies shouldn’t eat salty foods as it isn’t good for their kidneys, and sugar can cause tooth decay.
Smooth or Lumpy?
To help your baby get used to different textures and tastes quickly, try moving on to mashed and finger foods (from purées or blended) as soon as they’re ready. This helps them learn how to chew, move solid food around their mouth and swallow solid foods. Give your baby a spoon and let them try feeding themselves – you might need to stick a mat under the highchair, though!
Babies take different amounts of time to get used to lumps, but they need to learn it’s an essential skill. Just keep offering them lumpy textures from around 6 to 7 months, and stay with them so you can be sure they are swallowing it safely.
During meal times, offer your baby sips of water from an open or free-flow cup. Using an empty cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth.
If your baby is younger than six months, it’s important to sterilise the water by boiling it first and then letting it cool right down. Sweet drinks like squash, fizzy drinks, milkshakes and fruit juice can have lots of sugar, so avoid these to help prevent tooth decay – even baby and toddler drinks can be sugary. Cows’ milk is not a suitable drink until your baby is 12 months old, but it can be used in cooking or mixed with food from 6 months of age.
Here Are a Few Essential Nutrient Tips as You Get Started:
First food sources are often cereal, mashed fruits and veggies. While breastmilk or formula is providing your baby with all the essential nutrients they need at this time, keep in mind the following info on some essential nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium, DHA, folate and choline; why they are crucial and in what foods they can be found.
- Iron is essential for preventing iron deficiency anemia, which can affect growth and development if left untreated. Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells and is found most often in meat products, although it can also be found in foods like oatmeal, or fortified cereal, pureed beans, and spinach.
- Calcium is essential for bone and tooth health, blood clotting, neuron messaging, hormones, muscle contraction (including the heart!) and other processes. Good sources of calcium for your new feeder include breast milk, infant formula, yogurt, pureed leafy greens like kale, collard, and spinach, as well as pureed beans.
- DHA is critical for brain growth and healthy development. DHA is unsaturated omega-three fat found in oily fish (salmon, sardines, rainbow trout), Breast milk ( if you include DHA rich foods in your diet), enriched infant formulas and other enriched foods.
- Choline is essential for cell function and supports brain health. For your baby who is just starting the feeding process, pureed collards, spinach, cauliflower, and beans are good sources of choline. Pureed spinach and collards work best when combined with some other foods (apples, oats, avocados), and then you can introduce them softly cooked and chopped when the baby is ready to advance textures.
- Protein is an essential component of our skin, hair, nails, muscles, blood, and bones. While most of us eat plenty of protein, it is necessary to offer protein-rich foods. Breast milk and formula are sources of protein for now, but for first foods, you can try pureed meat and poultry; yogurt; pureed beans, pureed tofu, and quinoa. When ready to advance textures, softly cooked flaky fish is an excellent protein source.
Remember, while your baby is under one year, it’s all about introducing various flavours and textures and keeping it fun! Our exclusive range of baby nursery products will help create the perfect baby nursery for your baby.
What Shouldn’t I Feed My Baby?
There are only a few foods you should not give your baby at this stage:
This can cause botulism in an infant. Wait until 12 months to give your child honey.
Babies shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk at six months. But once they’re a little more advanced with solids, they can have some yogurt or soft cheese. They may not be able to digest it properly, and it may cause microscopic bleeding into their stool.
You can give your baby pureed or soft, cooked carrots, but not a big, round chunk of carrot that they might choke on. This is true even if the food is not hard, such as whole grapes.
Certain Types of Fish in Excess
Avoid giving your baby certain types of fish that contain higher amounts of mercury more than once a month. This includes some forms of tuna and a few others. Whitefish, salmon, and light canned tuna are usually safe to give more often. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure of which kinds of fish are safe for your baby.
Unless there’s an excellent reason — sometimes there are medical reasons to do so — it’s best to avoid giving your child juice at this age. Even 100 per cent natural fruit juice has a lot of sugar in it. Excessive sugar intake at this age has been linked to problems later on in life. Intake of sugar-sweetened drinks in infancy has been associated with double the risk of obesity at six years old.
You will notice that there are very few foods to avoid. Notably absent from the list are foods like eggs, peanut products, and strawberries. Traditionally, pediatricians told parents to delay these foods in hopes of preventing food allergies. But new research has shown that early introduction of these foods may help prevent allergies. Remember, the foods need to be in a form that’s not a choking hazard. A tiny smidgen of creamy peanut butter on a banana, for example, is appropriate — but not a whole peanut. Talk with your doctor if you’re worried about potential allergies due to family history or if your child may be having an allergic reaction (signs include a rash, vomiting, or diarrhea).
When Do I Feed My Baby?
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends delaying solids until six months old. Starting on solids much earlier may cause your baby to breastfeed less, causing your breast milk to dry up sooner. Starting too early may also lead to a low diet in protein, fat, and other nutrients. On the other hand, don’t start solids much later than six months, as waiting too long can cause some problems with eating.
For some children, there’s a window of opportunity. If you wait too long to start solids, they don’t seem to “get it” and may need a speech or occupational therapist to help them learn how to eat solids. Remember that you’re slowly introducing solids to your baby, so there’s no need to move too fast.
Your infant is probably drinking breast milk or formula six to eight times a day at this stage. The goal, by age 1, is to get them to eat about six times a day:
- midmorning snack
- midafternoon snack
- pre-bedtime snack
Parents typically feed their child solids in the morning and then add solids to the evening meal a little later. But, of course, you can provide for your baby whenever you want.
We recommend that if you’re giving food for the first time, you give it earlier in the day so you can see any reaction the child may have. And don’t start the solids when the baby is hungry and crying. If they’re in that state, feed them the breast milk or formula, but maybe not a whole feeding. You want them to have some room for the cereal still. Then after the grain, give them the rest of the breast milk or formula. You can also try feeding them a little bit before their breast or bottle, at a time when they might be hungry enough to try solids but not too hungry to be fussy. There’s no wrong way to do this, so experiment, and see what your baby likes better.
How Do I Feed My Baby?
When giving your baby solids, make sure they’re sitting upright in the high chair, belted in place. Make sure the tray is secure.
When giving cereal or pureed foods, but a little on the spoon, and put the spoon to the baby’s mouth. Many babies will eagerly open their mouths and take the silverware. Some may need a little coaxing. If they don’t open their mouth, put the spoon to their lips and see if they respond. Don’t ever force the scoop into their mouth. Mealtimes should be pleasant, so don’t force your baby to eat if they don’t want to. If they refuse at first, it may be a sign that they’re not ready. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery.
If they’ve been eating solids for a while and then refuse something, it may be that they don’t like that food or aren’t interested. So follow their cues. Talk to your doctor if your baby does not have an interest in taking solids after trying for a few weeks or if they’re having problems with feeding, such as choking, gagging, or vomiting. Try to have the whole family eat together, as this has been shown to have positive effects on a child’s development and bonding with the family.