Getting Healthy Eating Right from 6 Months
Getting started on solids
Babies are ready to eat at around 6 months of age. The first few weeks of feeding your baby are all about experimenting with new textures and tastes. It is also about learning how to swallow. It is important for you to try to be relaxed and embrace both the challenges of feeding and the mess. The more you stress the more your baby is likely to fuss and not enjoy the experience.
Fortified infant rice cereal, pureed meat, chicken, fish, cooked tofu or legumes are great first foods as they have the necessary iron and can be easily made to the right consistency. Vegetables, fruit, and dairy products such as full-fat yoghurt and cheese can then be added.
Refer back to the 3 month feeding section for more information on the introduction of solids.
Already started on solids
The first few months of eating are all about exploring different textures, unique colours and tastes. It is also a time for your baby to show a little bit of assertiveness! Try not to stress if it takes your baby longer than other babies of similar age to accept food — keep trying.
How often to feed
At first you will be feeding your baby one to two times per day. The frequency will then increase to three times and then to three meals and two snacks. A parent’s job is to provide healthy foods at regular times – your baby will decide what and how much to eat!
How much to feed
Watch your baby for signs indicating fullness, such as closing their mouth tightly, turning their head away or pushing the spoon away. Do not encourage your child to keep on eating if they are ready to stop. Remember, your job is to provide healthy foods at regular times — it is up to your baby to decide how much to eat.
What to drink
Beyond breast milk or infant formula, the best drink for children is water. Children don’t need sweet drinks such as fruit juices, soft drinks, energy drinks, cordials, flavoured mineral waters and sports drinks, either bought or homemade. Sweet drinks are high in kilojoules (energy) and contain very little nutritional value. Regular intake of sweet drinks may cause excess weight gain and tooth decay even before the teeth have broken through. Avoid using a baby’s bottle for comfort as this can lead to tooth decay. Encourage your baby to drink from a cup from 6 months of age.
If you fuss, your baby will fuss
Remember that the more you fuss about food, the more your baby will fuss. Resist the temptation to coerce or push your child to eat. Avoid offering replacement foods like custard or other ‘favourite’ foods if you find they are not eating what you’ve provided. Finding replacement foods is a very short-term fix and will definitely encourage your baby to be a fussy eater. It can take up to 10—15 tries of a new food before they may finally accept the second bite. The next food offering should be at the next regular meal or snack time.
True constipation in babies is very rare. The number of times a baby has a ‘poo’ varies a lot from one baby to another. For example, it is normal for some babies to have one bowel action every few days and for other babies to have several bowel actions each day. Pain and distress associated with passing poo tell you that a baby may be constipated. In contrast, straining without pain and distress is usually not cause for concern.
If you believe your baby is constipated, check they are getting enough water. If formula fed, check that the formula is made up correctly with the right amount of water to number of scoops of formula. In very warm weather a bottle-fed infant may require extra fluid such as cooled, boiled water between formula feeds, and a breastfed infant may require more frequent breast feeds. If you are confident your baby is getting enough fluids and the problem persists, consult your Maternal and Child Health Nurse, General Practitioner or Paediatrician.
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of dietary fibre and will help to prevent constipation.
Limit the amount of packaged baby food you purchase. Home-prepared foods will have a more suitable texture for your baby and are far more cost effective.
Just add fruit and vegetables tip:
Once your baby is ready for fruits and vegetables, keep a list of the ones they try. Aim to add at least two new fruits and vegetables to the list every week.
> Useful resources for Session Two: 6 Months