Up until around 6 months, breast milk (or infant formula) meets the complete nutritional needs of a healthy baby and is all your baby needs.
Introduce solids or complementary foods at around 6 months of age, when baby is showing developmental signs of readiness. This is because at this point it becomes difficult for baby’s energy and nutrient requirements to be met by milk alone, so solid foods along with breastmilk are required.
Babies will be ready for solid foods at some time around 6 months, but not before 4 months as their digestive and renal systems are still too immature. Every baby is different so the right time to move onto solids will vary. It’s best not to leave introducing solids much later than six months, as your baby could miss out on some of those very important nutrients like iron and zinc that they need from solid foods. You should also seek advice if your baby was born prematurely as their timeline will be different.
Signs baby is ready for solids:
Stronger head and neck – your baby can hold their head up well and can sit up with support in a highchair.
Is interested in watching you eat - they’ll start showing an interest in what you’re eating, leaning forward or even reaching out for the food on your plate.
Milk isn’t enough - if they still seem hungry after a full milk feed, that might be a sign. They might also demand more at each feed, or start to have really frequent feeds. If your baby is showing these signs before 4 months, it is too early to introduce solids, so baby may need more frequent or larger milk feeds.
Open wide –They’ll open their mouths easily if you put a spoon up to their lips. They’ll also often put their hands in their mouths.
Extrusion reflex disappears – The extrusion reflex is when they'll push any food placed on their tongue out the front of their mouth. Somewhere between four and six months the extrusion reflex should disappear, and the tongue no longer protrudes from the mouth so baby can take food from a spoon.
Swallowing food - They have the co-ordination to move food from the spoon to the back of the mouth and swallow, rather than spitting the food out.
Chewing movements: They might also be making biting and chewing movements with their mouth.
If your baby is showing these signs before 4 months, talk to your health professional. They won’t be ready for food yet, but may need more milk.
Ministry of Health. 2021. Healthy Eating Guidelines for New Zealand Babies and Toddlers (0–2 years old). Wellington: Ministry of Health.
The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.