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Introducing solid food

Your baby will show signs they’re ready for food around 6 months old. This is an exciting new stage for you and your baby. You get to prepare meals for your little one, and they’ll have the fun of exploring new tastes and textures. You’ll also discover your baby’s food preferences, which may be different to others.

Signs that your baby is ready for solid food

Your baby may be ready for solid food if they:

  • Seem hungry after breast or formula feeds.

  • Can hold their head up well

  • Are interested in watching you eat - they reach out, open their mouth when you’re eating, and put their hands and toys in their mouth.

  • Make chewing movements.

  • Easily open their mouth when you touch their lip with a spoon or bring food to their mouth, and their tongue doesn’t protrude and push the food out.

  • Move food to the back of their mouth and swallow.

If your baby was born prematurely

They may not be ready for solid food at around 6 months. Your Plunket nurse can help you work out when to start offering your baby solid food, and will give you the information you need.

Helpful resources

Check out some useful resources about baby's first foods, your Thriving Under Five book foldout on solids: Plunket’s guide to introducing your to baby solids foods (page 65) or Wattie’s ForBaby Guide to Baby Feeding DVD and Guide to Baby Feeding Info Sheets to help with your baby’s meal planning.

Why you shouldn’t start solids too early

It’s important not to introduce solid food too early because:

  • Your baby’s body won’t be ready for it.

  • They can’t swallow well enough until 4-6 months old. 

  • Their kidneys and digestion are not developed enough to cope with solid foods. 

  • They may not get all the milk (and the iron in it) they need to grow well

  • They may also be more likely to get eczema, asthma, food allergies or respiratory infections.

Starting your baby on solid food will not necessarily help them to sleep better at night.

Your baby may start putting their hands or toys in their mouth, or have a growth spurt wanting to feed more at around 3 months. This is normal.

Why you shouldn’t leave starting solids too late

From around 6 months of age, your baby needs the vitamins and minerals (especially iron) in solid foods to grow and learn. The nutrients in solid food help to build your baby’s developing brain and body.

Your baby’s food preferences

Every baby is different, and it’s fun getting to know what sort of food your baby likes. Some babies will devour solid foods as soon as they’re given them, while others prefer to have just breast milk or formula for longer. Some babies eat everything offered, and others have clear likes and dislikes.

Don’t worry too much about your baby’s food preferences. Keep offering a range of nutritious foods so they can learn to enjoy a variety of food tastes and textures.

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