Introducing solid foods 6-12 months

Introduce solid foods when your baby is ready, around 6 months.  

It is recommended to wait until your baby is 6 months to introduce solid foods, but some health professionals may recommend introducing solids before 6 months (between 4 and 6 months). Babies will grow and develop at their own rate, and it’s possible that they would need to eat solids before six months. It is recommended to wait until your baby shows you signs that they are ready to eat before starting solids. Your baby is ready when they:   

  • Have good head control 

  • Can sit up and lean forward 

  • Can pick up food and try to put it in their mouth 

  • Can turn their head away to let you know they are full 

 Introducing solids if baby was born premature 
If your baby was born prematurely, you will need to calculate their corrected age to know when to introduce solids. You can calculate your baby’s corrected age by subtracting the number of weeks your baby was preterm from your baby’s actual age in weeks. (A pregnancy is considered “full term” at 39 weeks).  

For example: Baby is born 8 weeks early (at 31 weeks), so when they are 24 weeks old (6 months), their corrected age would be 16 weeks (4 months). This baby will be ready to start solid foods when they are closer to 8 months old (and their corrected age is 6 months).  

Current age in weeks - # of weeks born early = corrected age in weeks. 

 
Continue breastfeeding on demand as you introduce solids  

Parents may choose to offer complementary foods before, after or between breastfeeding, at their convenience and as per their child's cues. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that it does not matter if breastmilk is offered before or after complimentary foods. Parents can decide according to their convenience and the child’s cues which is offered first 

It is encouraged to continue nursing as you introduce new foods and for up to two years or beyond, as long as parent and child want to continue. As you continue nursing, you should continue to give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU up to 2 years of age. 

Introduce an open cup at around 6 months

  • From the age of 6 months, you can begin to help your baby drink from an open cup. Offer water at meals and snacks from an open cup starting around 6 months. Breastmilk/infant formula may also be offered in an open cup at this time, but these “practice sessions” should not replace nursing or bottle-feeding sessions since baby will only consume a small amount at first.  

  • Continue to breastfeed on demand as you introduce solid foods.  

  • Drinking from an open cup or a straw cup, as opposed to a sippy cup, helps baby learn to drink like a big kid.  

  • Sippy cups and 360 cups are not recommended. The infant get water out of these cups by sucking. These movements don’t help them develop the skill of drinking from a regular cup.  

  • You can help your baby learn how to use an open cup by holding it against their mouth. Baby will use a familiar suckling pattern to “sip” the water. With time and practice they will be able to drink at their own pace.  

Create a healthy relationship with food   

Children are born with the ability to regulate their hunger and fullness. Think of how a breastfed baby can tell you when they are hungry by reaching for you, turning towards the breast, and opening their mouth. They can also tell you they are full by not drinking actively, becoming calm and sometimes even falling asleep.  

Parents need to be aware of their child’s hunger and fullness cues to avoid under- or overfeeding them. Feeding your child in a responsive way may help them self-regulate their appetite later in life, maintain a healthy weight and to have a healthy relationship with food.  

The parent is responsible for: What is offered and when* 

The child is responsible for: how much they want to eat 

*Between 6-12 months, it is recommended to feed baby on cue when they show signs of hunger. The parent can choose to nurse or to offer solids based on the baby’s cues and their convenience. The WHO says that it does not matter if solid foods are offered before or after breastmilk, the parent can decide which to offer first based on their convenience and the child’s cues. By 8 months, you should offer solid foods three to five times per day, depending on their cues, and continue to breastfeed on demand. Around 12 months of age, you can begin having a regular schedule for meals and snacks, feeding your child about every 2 hours. See “sample meal plans for introducing solids” to see what a typical feeding schedule could look like.  

Signs of hunger and fullness  

Your baby may be hungry when they are: 

  • Restless 

  • Irritable 

Baby may be full when they: 

  • Turn head away 

  • Refuse to eat 

  • Fall asleep 

  • Start to play with their food 

Baby-led feeding and spoon feeding  

Baby-led feeding (often called baby-led weaning) is where the parent offers baby soft-cooked cut up finger foods right away, and let’s baby feed themselves. This is developmentally appropriate and encourages self-feeding from the onset, however both baby-led feeding and spoon feeding can meet baby’s nutrient needs by following the tips below.Choose the feeding method that works best for your family and adapt to your baby as they grow.  :  

  • Wait until baby is about 6 months to introduce solid foods.  

  • Always make sure your baby is sitting upright and never leave your baby alone while eating. 

  • Prioritize iron rich foods and offer two or more times per day between 6 and 12 months. Give both meat and alternatives and infant cereal as first solid foods. 

  • Listen to baby’s hunger and fullness cues. If spoon feeding, stop offering spoons when baby turns head away and gives you signs of fullness.  

  • Start offering foods once a day and gradually increase the number of times a day that the complementary foods are offered.  

  • If spoon feeding, you can offer a variety of textures right away (pureed, mashed, lumpy, ground or finely minced foods). Ensure that lumpy textures are offered no later than nine months to prevent picky eating.  

  • Encourage self-feeding by offering soft-cooked cut up finger foods that can be grasped in your baby’s fist and encourage use of an open cup 

  • Prevent choking by avoiding hard, small and round, or smooth and sticky, solid food.  

  • Eat together as a family and introduce a variety of nutritious foods from the family meal.   

  • Remove distractions like TV, phones, and toys from the table to help baby focus.  

Don’t mind the mess  

Your child may not consume a significant amount of the finger foods, but this is part of the learning process. For older infants, it’s important that finger foods are part of a diet that provides a variety of textures. To reduce waste, offer small amounts of food at first and then offer more based on your child's cues. 

Gagging is natural  

You may find that your child gags when eating solid foods. This can happen when they try to move the food around in their mouth and food accidently fall to the back before the swallow happens. Babies will protect themselves from choking by gagging. Fun fact – as long as an older infant is attentive, sitting upright, and is free from distractions, the risk of choking is the same as for an adult. There are however some food shapes and textures to avoid to prevent choking.  

Food before 1 is not just for fun 

Feeding baby solid foods before the age of one is certainly fun, but it’s so much more than that. Breastmilk will continue to be baby’s primary source of energy (calories) until they are about 12 months, so it is important to continue nursing on-cue. The WHO has noted that it does not matter if solid foods are offered before or after breastmilk, the parent can decide which to offer first based on their convenience and the child’s cues.  

Although breastmilk continues to be the main source of calories, eating solid foods around six months becomes necessary to help baby meet their nutrient needs, particularly their need for iron since breastmilk does not provide enough of this nutrient. Research also shows that offering baby a variety of textures by the age of 9 months can help them have healthier eating habits (less picky eating!) and consume more vegetables and fruits later in childhood. Lastly, feeding baby solids gives baby an opportunity to explore new tastes and textures and to participate in a fun family activity 

6 months – time for iron-rich foods & textures

The first foods you offer your baby, around 6 months, should be rich in iron to ensure they get enough iron for their brain development and other functions. You can also introduce a variety of textures right from the start, even if spoon feeding. Start with foods like:  

  • Soft-cooked, pureed, mashed or finely chopped beef, chicken or pork 

  • Mashed or finely chopped low sodium canned salmon with bones mashed or removed 

  • Mashed, grated, or sliced well-cooked eggs ( 

  • Mashed tofu, lentils or beans 

  • Iron-fortified infant cereals mixed with breastmilk or infant formula 

When first introducing solids, start by offering 1-2 tbsp once a day and increase slowly based on baby’s cues. It is not necessary to wait a few days between each new food introduction, unless the food is a priority allergenBetween 6 and 12 months, you want to offer iron rich foods twice per day. Between 12 – 24 months, iron rich foods should be offered at each meal.

6 months – time for priority allergens  

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing priority allergens early and often to prevent food allergies from developing. Priority allergens should be introduced around 6 months, but not before 4 months, along with other complementary foods that are rich in iron and continued breastfeeding.  

The most common causes of food allergy in babies are cow’s milk*, eggs, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, fish, soy and wheat. You can begin offering these foods around 6 months when your baby starts to eat solid foods to reduce their risk of developing a food allergy. When introducing priority allergens, give only 1 per day and wait 2 days before starting another common food allergen. This will help you to know which food caused a reaction. If there is a reaction, it will likely appear within 48 hours. If your baby does not have a reaction to the food, continue to offer it regularly.  

When introducing priority allergens to your baby for the first time, it’s recommended that you spoon feed them as opposed to having them self-feed. This is because food smeared on baby’s skin may cause skin irritation that can be mistaken for an allergic reaction.  

* You can introduce dairy to your baby safely at 6 months by giving them cheese and yogurt, but do not offer cow’s milk until baby is 9 – 12 months since their digestive system is not yet ready for this. 

For more information on priority allergens:  

6 – 12 months - meal timing & sample meal plans

Age 6 to 8 months: Slowly increase the number of meals and snacks so that by 8 months, you are offering solid foods three to five times per day.  Baby may only eat 1-2 teaspoons at a time and that is OK! Start slowly and offer more if your baby wants more. From 6 months, baby can eat many of the same healthy foods enjoyed by the family, provided they are prepared with little or no added salt or sugar. Offer foods that in a variety of textures and continue to breastfeed on-cue during this time. 

Age 9 – 11 months: You can offer solid foods over 3 meals and 1-2 snacks, depending on their appetite. Continue to breastfeed on-cue during this time. You can begin introducing homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk in an open cup at meals and continue to breastfeed on-cue during this time. 

Age 12 months: By the time baby is about 12 months, you can begin to have a regular schedule of meals and snacks. You can begin introducing homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk in an open cup at meals and continue to breastfeed on-cue during this time. 

Remember! Always follow your baby’s hunger and fullness cues when introducing solids. It is normal for a child’s appetite to change day to day. Be patient when introducing new foods, it may take up to 15 tries for baby to want to try it. Never pressure your child to eat. There is no “right” amount of food that your baby should eat. Your job is to continue offering healthy foods and to let them decide how much they want to eat.  

For more information on what to offer your baby and when:  

All about milk  

Water and milk are the only fluids children need. 

  • Continue breastfeeding on demand as you introduce solids, and continue to give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU for 2 years and beyond, as long as parent and child want to continue.  

  • If you are no longer breastfeeding, homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk is recommended as the main milk source, and can be introduced from 9 – 12 months.  

  • Avoid giving juice, or other sugar sweetened beverages. 

Introduce cow milk around 9 – 12 months 

  • Starting at 6 months, you can start to help baby drink from an open cup by offering water at meals and snacks. You can also offer breastmilk or formula in an open cup at meals and snacks, but this “practice time” should not replace regular nursing/bottle feeding sessions.  

  • Continue offering breastmilk/formula on demand to ensure that baby get all the energy and hydration they need for their day as they learn how to eat solid foods and use an open cup.  

  • Around 9 – 12 months, you can begin offering homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk in an open cup at meals and snacks. Offer no more than 500 mL of cow milk per day to avoid it taking the place of other nutritious foods.   

  • If bottle feeding, you can begin to transition baby from a bottle to an open cup for all fluids at around 12 months. At this age, homogenized cow milk, along with nutritious family foods, can provide all the energy and nutrients that your child needs to grow and develop.  

  • If bottle feeding breastmilk, you can continue to offer it in an open cup at meals and snacks.  

  • The transition from bottle to cup should happen no later than 18 months. Not using bottles beyond 18 months for daytime and evening formula will help reduce the risk of developing dental carries and drinking too much formula, which can displace nutrient rich solid foods.   

You do not need to give “toddler” formula 

  • If formula feeding, it is recommended to continue until 9 – 12 months of age. Between 9-12 months, you can begin to wean baby off formula by starting to offer homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow’s milk in an open cup at meals.  

  • Most healthy termchildren do not need commercial formula beyond 12 months. Homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk and healthy meals can meet all their energy and nutrient needs to grow and develop.  

  • For a young child aged 12 months or older, who is not breastfed, 500 mL (2 cups) of homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk should be offered each day as part of meals and snacks.  

Partly skimmed cow’s milk (2% and 1%)& evaporated milk  

  • Partly skimmed milk (2% or 1%) is not routinely recommended as a young child’s milk source.  

  • Skim milk is not an appropriate milk choice for children younger than 2 years.  

  • Evaporated/powdered milk can be a suitable milk alternative if it is full fat. Notethat it must be well diluted or reconstituted as indicated on the packaging. 

Plant-based beverages are not appropriate as the main milk source for a child under 2 years of age 

  • Soy, rice, almond, or other plant-based beverages, whether or not they are fortified, are not appropriate as the main milk source for a child younger than 2 years. Most are low in energy, fat and often protein and some may not contain the vitamin and minerals children need to develop.  

  • If your child is following a plant-based diet, please consult with your child’s doctor, or with a Registered Dietitian to find an appropriate cow milk substitute.   

Goat milk may be used as an alternative to cow milk  

  • The goat milk needs to be pasteurized and high fat. 

  • Choose a goat milk with added folic acid and vitamin D.

Foods to avoid giving baby and choking prevention tips 
Foods to avoid giving baby 
  • Honey: Do not give honey (pasteurized or unpasteurized) until after they are 12 months. This includes not giving foods that have honey in them or cooking/baking with honey.  

  • Albacore tuna (canned white tuna): no more than half of a 170-g can per week.  

  • Tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin and orange roughy: no more than 75 g per month.  

  • Cow’s milk: Do not introduce until after baby is 9 months. You can offer milk and cheese before 9 months.   

  • Sugary drinks, like juice, soda/pop or energy drinks 

  • Candies or other foods with added sugars 

  • Processed foods high in sodium  

Choking hazards for your child under 4 Years 

  • Hard foods  

  • Small and rounds foods 

  • Smooth and sticky solid foods 

Examples include: 

  • Hard candies or cough drops 

  • Gum 

  • Popcorn 

  • Marshmallows 

  • Whole nuts 

  • Seeds 

  • Fish with bones 

  • Hot dogs 

  • Snacks using toothpicks or skewers 

Choking prevention tips 

  • Wait until your child is sitting before giving them food. Eating while playing or while you are driving is not safe. 

  • Do not give your child under 4 years old any of the choking hazards listed above. 

  • For soft round foods, cut in half lengthwise. Then cut into smaller pieces. 

  • Cook or grate hard vegetables such as carrots. Peel and chop fruit into small pieces. 

  • Make nut butters less sticky. Spread nut butters thinly or mix with applesauce or infant cereal. 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian? 

Call Health Connect Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

 

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