It begins with small portions of puréed food. The next step is chewing on more solid food, until eventually, you and your child are eating the same food.
6 months – small tastes
At around 6 months, when your baby can hold up their head and starts to show signs of chewing movements, it is probably time for their first taste of solid food. Introducing solids before
your baby is ready is not good for their digestive system. Discuss when to start solids with your child health nurse or doctor.
Choose a time when your baby is most relaxed and happy to introduce new foods. Babies like the plain taste of milk, so first foods also need to be bland. Don’t add salt, sugar, honey, sweeteners, soy sauce, cream, butter or margarine to food you make for your baby.
Breastfeed or bottle-feed first (until 8–9 months) and offer solids as a ‘top up’. Try ½–2 teaspoons first and gradually increase until baby is having about 3–4 teaspoons at a meal.
First foods need to be plain, soft and smooth. To puree baby’s food, use a blender or push food through a fine sieve with a wooden spoon. You can add expressed breast milk or formula to make the food runny enough for baby to swallow. Home-made foods can be frozen in ice cubes and used in the next 3–4 weeks.
Canned and bottled commercial baby foods have been specially made to meet the
needs of your baby. When buying baby food, check that it is for the right age. Always follow the storage instructions on the jar or can.
Hold baby while you feed them or sit them in a high chair. Use a small teaspoon and put the food in the middle of their tongue.
What to feed them:
• iron-fortified infant cereal/baby rice
• pureed fruit without skins, pips or seeds, cook to soften if needed (apple, pear, mango)
• pureed plain cooked rice
• cooked and pureed kumara, kamokamo, cassava, tapioca, pumpkin, potato
• cooked and pureed beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish and legumes
• bought baby food, the right age for your baby.
Honey should not be given to infants under 12 months.
Try introducing one new food every 2–4 days. If they don’t like it the first time, leave it for a few days and try again. Throw out any uneaten food left on baby’s plate.
Give more variety as your baby grows older. Change the type of food offered, how much you give and the texture – move from pureed, to mashed, to chopped.
8 months – al dente
At this age, baby’s first teeth erupt, and the jaw can now be moved sideways too – so it’s time for a little more to chew, with small, soft pieces or chopped food. This is important in the development of the tongue and mouth, which in turn is important in learning to talk.
Even if most pieces are moved around in the mouth, then spat out, don’t give up. In time, your baby will discover the secrets of chewing.
Don’t be scared to introduce new flavours, even if it may take 10 or more tries before your baby thinks it’s okay or even likes it. It takes time for small children to get used to new tastes.
From about 8–9 months old, when your baby can chew and bite, you can offer solids before milk feeds.
Try finger foods – small pieces of food to hold, such as:
• a small sandwich
• a finger of toast
• orange or kiwifruit pieces
• soft vegetable pieces (eg cooked potato,pumpkin or kumara)
• plain crackers with cheese or yeast-based spread
• salad vegetables eg lettuce, cucumber.
Two meals a day is about right, with meat or fish for lunch and dinner and a fruit dessert. The rest is breast or bottle feeding.
1 year – Almost big
You can gradually serve your child more and more of the food the rest of the family eats. Just avoid too much salt (not good for baby’s kidneys) and hot/strong spices.
Try to have some meals together as a family. Family mealtimes are important for your baby’s learning and development. They still need 2 cups of whole milk a day (500 ml), and are ready to try a lot of different types of foods:
• breads – pita, rèwena, chapatti,
• vegetables and fruit, including new
• whole milk (dark blue lid), yoghurts
• chopped lean meat, chicken,
seafood, egg, cooked dried peas,
beans or lentils
• a variety of cereals.
Babies and toddlers need small meals and
snacks often. They have small stomachs and use lots of energy.
Some healthy snacks are:
• chopped apple
• crackers with smooth peanut butter
• half a banana
• cheese cubes
• fruit yoghurt
• carrot sticks.
Some babies like to chew when they begin teething. Offer home-made rusks or buy teething biscuits or a teething ring.
2 years and older – the skeptic
Surveys show that six month-old babies are more open to new tastes and dishes than older children. Already at age two it gets more difficult to offer new foods, and the most difficult period is between the ages of five and 10.
What happens at two years of age is related to the way children develop. They discover their individuality, and it’s common to refuse food. If they’ve managed to taste lots of different foods by then, there’s less risk of them developing fussy eating habits.
The Ministry of Health has a useful book, ‘Eating for Babies and Toddlers’, available online or in print free from www.healthed.govt.nz