Introducing solid foods 6-12 months

For a printer friendly version of many key concepts presented on this webpage, please download the Nutrition Connection Booklet “Feeding Your Baby, a guide to help you introduce solid foods .

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 37 weeks). 

For example: Baby is born 8 weeks early (at 29 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. 

Transitioning to an open cup and introducing cow's milk 

How to do it:

  • 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 to 12 months, you can begin offering homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk in an open cup at meals and snacks.
  • 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.
  • By the age of 18 months baby should not be using a bottle.

What type of cups to use:

  • Introduce open cups first and once baby is able to drink from an open cup, you can introduce a straw cup. 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. 

Tips to wean from bottle: 

  • Wean gradually
  • Use  the bottle of least interest
  • Offer breastmilk or formula in a cup before every bottle feeding
  • Give an open cup instead of a bottle, one feeding at a time
  • Establish a routine for mealtimes
  • Tell your baby he or she is doing a great job
  • Use only water in the bottle, for all other liquids use a cup
  • Store bottles where your child cannot see them
  • If you choose to use a sippy cup, fill it with water only 

For more information on weaning baby from the bottle, download our "Time for a Cup" factsheet.

Create a healthy relationship with food and signs of hunger and fullness   

Children are born with the ability to regulate their hunger and fullness and adults 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, and following the division of responsibility in feeding may help them self-regulate their appetite later in life, maintain a healthy weight and to have a healthy relationship with food.  

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 

 

Division of feeding responsibility

Adults decide

What

When

  • Between 6 and 12 months, continue to feed baby on cue when they show signs of hunger. Adults can choose to nurse/bottle feed or to offer solids based on the baby’s cues and their convenience.
  • By 8 months, offer solid foods three to five times per day, depending on baby’s cues, and continue to nurse/bottle feed 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. 

Where

  • Sitting upright (not slouched), buckled in a highchair.
  • Include baby at family meals at the table when possible.

 

Children decide:

If they want to eat

  • If your child chooses not to eat, continue to observe their hunger and fullness cues and offer them a meal or the breast/bottle when they show signs of hunger.

How much they want to eat

  • Follow your child’s hunger and fullness cues and let them choose how much to eat. Never pressure your child to eat more or less. Remember children are able to tell if they are hungry or full, so trust their instincts.

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 belowChoose the feeding method that works best for your family and adapt to your baby as they grow.

Here are some tips to follow with both feeding methods :  

  • 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. 

Regulation and safety of arsenic in rice-based foods for infants in Canada

Rice is a primary ingredient in some foods intended for infants and young children. However, rice naturally contains inorganic arsenic which could pose a health risk when consumed in large quantities. Organically grown rice does not have less arsenic than conventional rice.  

Infants and young children can eat rice, but it should be balanced with other grains like oat, bran, barley and wheat.  

Recommendations for parents: 

  • Rice does not need to be completely avoided. Balance it out by eating a variety of other grains like oat, bran, barley and wheat 

  • Don’t introduce rice cereal as baby’s first foods. Try infant oatmeal or barley cereal instead. Including a variety of other infant cereals, such as oat, barley, wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and chia is encouraged.  

  • Limit processed rice-based snacks (rice puffs, rice husks, teething biscuits).  

  • Cook rice like pasta (drain off the excess water).  

  • In general, eating a varied diet will promote good nutrition and reduce the risk of an infant consuming a substance such naturally occurring inorganic arsenic in excess. 

For more information on arsenic: 

Arsenic (Government of Canada)

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.  

Introduce textures right away, around six months

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. Feeding baby solids also gives them an opportunity to explore new tastes and textures and to participate in a fun family activity!   

Introducing different textures:  

  • Start offering different textures right away when you introduce solids, around six months. 

  • Offer a variety of textures,such as pureed, soft mashed, lumpy, ground, grated and finely minced textures.  

  • Ensure you introduce a variety of different textures by the age of nine months. 

  • Offer baby a variety of texture modified family foods by 12 months (i.e. you may eat raw carrots and baby may eat steamed carrots) 

Sometimes, a child has a texture preference and will dislike certain foods based on texture alone. If your child has a texture preference today, it does not mean that this will last forever. Keep offering a variety of foods to increase their exposure and familiarity to new foods.

6 months – time for iron-rich foods and 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 one to two tablespoons once per 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 allergen

Between 6 and 12 months, you want to offer iron rich foods twice per day.

Between 12 and 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 food allergies 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 one per day and wait two 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 to 12 months since their digestive system is not yet ready for this. 

For more information on priority allergens:  

6 to 12 months - meal timing and sample meal plans

From six 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.  

Age 

# meals per day 

Special considerations  

Milk and water   

Six to eight months  

  • Slowly increase frequency based on baby’s hunger and fullness cues. 

  • By eight months, you can aim to offer solid food three to five timesper day. 

 

  • Prioritize iron rich foods by offering one to two tablespoons perday  

  • Introduce priority allergens one at a time, waiting two days between each new addition. 

  • Introduce a variety of textures right away.  

 

  • Nurse or bottle feed on demand, before or after offering solid foods. 

  • Avoid cow’s milk, but cheese and full-fat yogurt can be offered.  

  • Introduce water in an open cup at meals and snacks.  

Nine to eleven months  

  • Offer iron rich foods twice per day.  

  • Continue offering priority allergens and a variety of textures.  

  • Continue to nurse on demand, before or after offering solid foods. If you are nursing frequently you may choose to delay introducing cow’s milk. If so, continue giving a daily vitamin D supplement of 400iu.  

  • If formula feeding, begin replacing formula with homogenized (3.25%) cow milk offered in an open cup at meals and snacks.  

12 months  

  • Three meals and one to two snacks 

  • Begin having a regular eating schedule 

  • Offer iron rich foods at each meal (three times per day)  

  • Continue to nurse on demand, before or after offering solid foods. If you are nursing frequently you may choose to delay introducing cow’s milk. If so, continue giving a daily vitamin D supplement of 400iu.  

  • If bottle feeding, begin weaning baby from bottle.  

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:  

Milk and drink options for children 6 to 24 months  

Breastfeeding, water and juice

  • Continue breastfeeding on demand as you introduce solids, and for 2 years and beyond, as long as parent and child want to continue.  Give a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU if you are breastfeeding.
  • Begin offering water in an open cup at mealtimes when baby is 6 months.
  • Avoid giving juice, or other sugar sweetened beverages.

Introducing cow milk

  • Around 9 to 12 months, you can begin offering homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk in an open cup at meals and snacks. Offer 500 mL (max 750 mL) of cow milk per day to avoid it taking the place of other nutritious foods.   
  • If breastfeeding, you may choose to delay introducing cow milk, depending on your convenience. 
  • If formula feeding, you can begin replacing formula with homogenized (3.25%) cow milk offered in an open cup at meals and snacks between 9 and 12 months. 
  • For information on how to wean baby from bottle: "Transitioning to an open cup and introducing cow’s milk

Goat milk

  • Goat milk may be used as an alternative to cow’s milk, but it should be pasteurized, high fat and fortified with folic acid and vitamin D.

Toddler formula 

  • You do not need to give toddler formula.
  • If formula feeding, it is recommended to continue until 9 to 12 months of age. Between 9 to 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 term children 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, a daily total of 500 mL (2 cups) of homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk can be offered as part of meals and snacks.  

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

  • Partly skimmed milk (2% or 1%) is not typically recommended as the main milk source for children under 2 years.  
  • Skim milk (0%) is not an appropriate milk choice for children younger than 2 years.  

Evaporated milk 

  • Evaporated/powdered milk can be a suitable milk alternative to homogenized (3.35%) cow milk at the age of 9 to 12 months if it is full fat. Note that it must be well diluted or reconstituted as indicated on the packaging. Evaporated milk is not a substitute for infant formula. 

Plant-based beverages

  • 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.   
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 Health811 and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 8-1-1 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

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