Sometime around 6 months when your baby is showing the developmental signs of readiness, they can start on the exciting journey of learning how to eat. This section gives practical baby feeding information on introducing complementary foods and what to start with and how to start!
Starting out: Choose a time to start solid foods when both you and baby are relaxed. Late morning can be a good time. Start by offering around ½ to 2 teaspoons of food after a usual milk feed. Breastmilk (or formula) is still the most important source of nutrition for the first year of life.
How many meals per day: Begin with one small meal a day as a top up after a milk feed, and slowly increase the amount of food you offer as baby’s appetite increases.
Feeding time: Place baby in a supportive high chair or hold them upright in your lap and offer puréed food on a small soft spoon. Put a small amount up to baby’s mouth, when baby opens their mouth, place onto the middle of their tongue and let them taste and suck the food. Even if your baby just tastes the food on the first days it is a step in the right direction. The most important thing as you start solids is not quantity, but more so getting your baby used to taking food from a spoon and adjusting to new tastes and textures.
Smooth pureed texture: Start with spoon-fed smooth puréed foods. Once baby can swallow puréed foods you can progress over the next few weeks to thick pureed, mashed and soft foods.
First foods: Start with iron-rich foods, vegetables and fruit. You can try:
- Iron fortified baby cereal
- Cooked puréed meat, chicken, fish and legumes
- Cooked and puréed vegetables e.g. pumpkin, potato, kumara, cassava, taro or carrot
- Cooked and puréed fruit e.g. apple, pear, peach or apricot
- Smoothly mashed ripe avocado or banana
- Steamed puréed vegetables e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, puha, watercress, bok choy
- Wattie’s blue stage 1 baby foods
As a very first food, it's common to use baby rice cereal like Farex mixed with breastmilk or formula to give a familiar taste and a smooth, runny texture. Iron rich foods are important at this stage, because your baby's iron stores start to run low around 6 months.
Wattie’s stage 1 baby foods in the blue label pouches and cans are all suitable first foods and can give you a good idea of the correct consistency to aim for.
Introduce foods at a rate that suits baby: Introduce a variety of new foods to introduce new flavours and help establish healthy taste preferences. Once a new food is introduced you can mix it with other foods your baby has already tried. Unless a common allergy-causing food, there is no need to introduce foods individually and slowly.
Look for signs that baby is full and had enough, such as turning their head away and closing their mouth and respond to these cues. This is called responsive feeding and helps baby learn to form healthy eating habits from an early age.
Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the amount of food you offer your baby, still keeping solid meals to after a milk feed. When your baby is comfortably eating between 2 tablespoons to half a cup of food at one meal, you could add in a second meal, say after the mid-afternoon milk feed.
Taste: Your baby has a lot more taste buds than you do, so even bland food can be a flavour sensation! Remember, up until now your little one has just been used to the taste and liquidness of milk, so getting used to the texture and taste of solid foods will be quite an adjustment for them. You don’t need to add sugar, salt, butter, cream or other condiments to baby food. Be patient, expect a few messy mishaps, and be calm and persistent. It can take babies 10 or more tastes of a new food to get used to it and accept it.
Check out the Wattie's Guide to Baby Feeding chart – a helpful guide with feeding tips, food examples and textures for each age stage.
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.