M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
At around six months, your baby is ready to complement his formula or human milk intake with solid foods. During this time your baby may be showing signs of readiness to eat and his digestive tract will have developed enough to help manage this new adventure. It is also the time when his nutritional needs increase for certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and A, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron; some of which cannot be met by breast or formula feeding alone. (see: Introducing Solids: Signs of Readiness for more information on when to introduce solid foods)
Traditionally, first feedings start with spoon feeding your
infant pureed foods and gradually advancing in texture and consistency to
lumpier and more solid foods over the next weeks and months. By around 9-10 months of age your baby should be eating a
variety of textures and consistencies. Recently, Baby Led Weaning (BLW) has
become a popular way of introducing solids. This method emphasizes self-feeding
rather than spoon-feeding, putting the infant in control of what and how much
It is recommended to wait until at least six months to try
BLW as babies are more developmentally capable of reaching for food and putting
it in their mouth at this age. The feeding process is as simple as putting
soft, whole foods, cut into appropriate–size pieces that are easy to grasp,
onto your baby’s tray and then letting him eat what he wants.
According to Gill Rapley, the pioneer of Baby Led Weaning,
this feeding method encourages infants to explore more textures and tastes, to
be more independent, to better develop chewing skills, and to help in the
development of hand-eye coordination.
Family diets are not necessarily adapted to an infant’s needs. Typically, proponents of BLW recommend having your baby join family meals and be offered the same foods as everyone else; just in soft graspable pieces. However, the family meal may be saltier or sweeter than what is recommended to feed a baby so it is important to alter your baby’s foods to eliminate added sugar and salt.
This is critical for a several reasons: During infancy your baby is developing his
lifelong taste preferences – foods he eats now may impact what he will choose when he is older. Introducing foods with their
natural tastes will help your baby be more
open to these flavors down the line.
Additionally, your infant’s kidneys are not mature until the age of 2,
so he may not be able to handle a large load
of sodium. Herbs and other seasonings are perfectly fine to add, should you
Should you want to implement baby led weaning, being aware
of the potential benefits and detriments may help you provide your baby with
the nutrients he needs in a safe way. No
matter the method of feeding you choose, ensuring your infant’s diet has a
variety of foods will help provide the nutrients necessary at this stage of
life. Additionally, continue to provide breast milk or formula until your
infant is at least 12 months old.
Introducing solids is a messy endeavor! Initially, feeding
solids is less about nutrient intake and more about learning to eat and tasting
new foods. Don’t be discouraged if only a small amount of food makes it into
your baby’s mouth. Once your baby gets the hang of eating, be sure to watch for
the signals that he is full. This will help prevent the learned practice of
over-eating and help build healthy habits for years to come.
It’s perfectly fine to use a combination of feeding
practices as you introduce foods to your infant. There are currently no studies
showing that one method is better than the other (BLW or starting with spoon
fed purees). As long as you progress through textures and stages when your baby
is ready and offer a variety of foods,you will be setting up a solid foundation
for your baby’s future healthy eating habits.
Make sure the first foods you introduce are soft. You’ll know it’s the right consistency if you
can smush the food between your fingers.
Providing the food in a large strip will allow your baby to grasp it
more easily. Remember to watch for your
infant’s developmental readiness when it comes to starting with either purees,
mashed foods, or soft solids.
Avoid adding salt and sugar to
your baby’s food for optimal taste development and health.
Read Introducing Solids: First Foods and Advancing Textures]for information on introducing solids to your infant.
Some foods pose choking risks for infants and toddlers due
to their shape or hard texture. Here are
some foods that should be avoided:
To learn more, please read our article on Prevent Choking
Your infant should be in a seated, upright position and
never lying down while eating. Do know that babies
have a strong gag reflex to help prevent choking. If a food moves too far back
on his tongue before he’s ready, or if the piece of food is larger than he’s
prepared for, he will gag to bring it to the front of his mouth. This may happen more often when implementing
Baby Led Weaning since your baby will be taking in larger chunks of food. While
you should be vigilant to ensure your infant is able to bring the food back to
the front, know that this is also a normal part of learning to eat.
Always remember that it’s okay to feed purees or mashed
foods if you feel your infant is not ready for
the larger pieces of soft food.
Iron needs increase dramatically after 6 months of age, so including high iron foods is an
important part of feeding. Note that
iron from vegetables and beans is better absorbed when eaten with vitamin C.
Pair iron rich foods with citrus fruits to
Foods High in Iron:
For other nutrients that your baby needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, read the article: Nutritional Requirements for 6-12 Month Olds
While counting your baby’s
calories is not necessary, it is important to make sure he is getting enough
for adequate growth and development – particularly when following Baby Led
Weaning. In addition to vegetables and fruit, introducing proteins (eggs,
beans, lentils, dairy and lean meat), healthy fats (nut butters, olive oil, canola
oil, avocado,etc), and whole grains will provide the calorie density and
variety needed for a well-balanced diet.
Cameron, Sonia L.,Health, Ann-Louise M., Taylor, Rachel W. “How Feasible Is Baby-Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence.” Nutrients. 4.11 (2012): 1575-1609. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509508/>
“Kidney Through the Ages.” Kidney Facts, date accessed 1 August 2018. <http://www.kidney-facts.com/kidneys-health/kidney-through-ages/>
“Baby-led Weaning: The fuss-free way to introduce solid foods.” Rapelyweaning.com, date accessed 1 August 2018. <http://www.rapleyweaning.com/index.php>
“Starting Solid Foods.” Healthychildren.org, date accessed 1 August 2018. <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx>