Five Common Questions about Starting a Baby on Solid Food

Five Common Questions about Starting a Baby on Solid Food

1. How do you know when the right time is to start my baby on solids?

Your baby shows you they are ready for solid foods. This is usually around six months.

Signs that your baby is ready for solid food:

  • they can hold their head up without support
  • they can sit up with support, such as in a high chair
  • they can control their tongue and do not stick it out when given food.

It’s good to remember every baby is different. Some babies take to solids with gusto while others progress more slowly. It’s important that you don’t offer your baby solid food before 4 months. This is because they cannot digest food very well at this age, and breastfeeding or infant formula is all they need.

Read more about starting solids and signs of readiness

2. How can I prevent my baby from getting a food allergy?

From what we know about food allergies, these might help prevent allergies:

  • If possible, breastfeed your baby and keep breastfeeding when they start solid food.
  • Continue to breastfeed for the first year if possible.
  • Do not delay starting solid food. Offer solid food at around six months of age, but not before four months.
  • Including allergic foods in baby’s first year we now know is helpful in actually preventing allergy.

Read more about allergy and family history

Find out more about the national allergy prevention guidelines and advice for parents

If you have questions about your baby the best approach is to talk to your child health nurse or GP.

3. What is baby led weaning, and should I be doing it with my baby?

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is a method to introduce solid food to your baby that allows your baby to feed themselves. In its most true form only the baby puts food in his or her mouth. A baby who is able to do this is developmentally ready for solids. BLW is offering your baby food from your family meals cut up into finger sized foods.

Some babies love to be fed using BLW, while others prefer some spoon feeding. Lots of families use a mixture of both methods. This means they offer their babies some foods that they can feed themselves (e.g. avocado, soft banana) and some foods from the spoon (e.g. puree vegetables). You may change the way you feed your baby over time, depending on what suits you both best at that time. Stay flexible and be guided by your baby. Read more about baby led weaning and if it is a right fit for your family

4. How do I know how many meals to offer my baby?

Most children are born knowing when they are hungry and when they are full. The first year is when babies move from having mostly liquid food (in the form of breast milk or infant formula) to family foods. When you first start solids, your baby will still be having milk feeds. Over time your baby will take more solid food and have their milk feeds between meals, along with morning and night feeds. As a general rule of thumb:

  • at around 6 months, you can offer breastmilk or infant formula first, followed by food
  • at around 9 months, you can offer food first, followed by breastmilk or infant formula.
  • By around 12 months most babies will be managing three meals a day with snacks between. Milk feeds have usually reduced in frequency and amount. This means you can offer your baby foods every 2-3 hours for these meals and snacks:
    • breakfast
    • morning tea
    • lunch
    • afternoon tea
    • dinner.

Talk to your child health nurse if you need more help on what’s the best approach for your baby.  Remember all babies are different. Please ask your child health nurse for a copy of Start Them Right a parent’s guide to eating for under 5s or view on electronic copy of Start Them Right online

5. I’m scared my baby will choke on food. What can I do to prevent this?

It’s important to be clear on what choking is – and to know the difference between choking and gagging.

Gagging is what your baby does naturally to stop themselves from choking. Your baby might gag when they push food out with their tongue, or retch where they look like they might be sick. Their skin might go red but they are still breathing. This is totally normal. Most babies are usually able to sort this out for themselves, so all you need to do is stay calm.

Choking on the other hand is when an object or food becomes stuck in the throat or airway. This will affect your child’s breathing and is life-threatening. At first a baby may cough to try to dislodge it. If a baby is choking, they are not usually making any sounds, they may lose colour and cannot breathe. This requires immediate first aid and you would need to call 000 straight away.

The best ways to prevent choking are to:

  • make hard foods safer by cooking (eg stew), mashing (eg mashed potato) or grating (eg carrot)
  • cut round foods like grapes and cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise
  • remove gristle, tough skin and small bones from meat
  • grind up hard foods like nuts or offer nut pastes (eg smooth peanut butter).

See our visual guide on how to make foods safe to eat

Always stay with children while they are eating. Offer food to your baby when they are happy and relaxed.

Read more about knowing the difference between choking and gagging

Please ask your child health nurse for a copy of Start Them Right a parent’s guide to eating for under 5s or check it out online on the home page. Remember your child health nurse is there to support you with infant feeding.