First Foods: How to Start?

First, they're the size of a poppy seed, then a blueberry, a lemon, a watermelon.

Next, you've got a squishy newborn who doesn't sleep and wants to be snuggled all day long.

You finally get this nursing or bottle feeding thing down.

Then suddenly its time to introduce complementary food.

Introducing solid foods to your baby can definitely be overwhelming. There are so many options; should you do Baby Led Weaning (BLW), or spoon-feeding, or both, or neither? There is a lot of information and a big pile of misinformation out there.

This guide will give you the simple steps to getting started with solids regardless of which method you choose.

Complementary foods are meant to be complementary

Your baby does not suddenly turn 6 months old and need to be fed 3 square meals a day with snacks. Continue to provide breast milk or formula as you have been and gradually start to introduce your baby to this whole 'eating' thing. It's best not to let your baby come to the table hungry since they haven't quite figured out that food=fullness yet. Continue to offer regular milk feedings on-demand.

Many parents choose to start with one food exposure a day to introduce baby to solid foods. It really is up to you and your baby what time of day makes the most sense. Gradually increase the number of times you are offering food. At around 9 months old (give or take) you could be offering 3 meals a day to your baby. By 12 months, 3 meals and 2-3 snacks at regular times will help to prevent a 'hangry' toddler.

Offer iron-rich foods to start

There are so many exciting foods to introduce to your baby when you are starting out but iron-rich foods are the most important to offer first. Somewhere around 6-7 months of age a baby's iron levels from birth are depleted. There is iron in breast milk which is very well absorbed but, at this age, there is no longer enough iron available to meet baby's high iron needs for growth and brain development.

Iron is available from animal sources such as meat, fish, and poultry in the form of "heme" iron. Heme iron is better absorbed in the body than non-heme iron.

Plant-based iron sources such as beans, lentils, fortified grains (including iron-fortified infant cereal), and some vegetables contain "non-heme iron" which is not as easily absorbed in the body. Combine these foods with a vitamin C source (such as tomatoes, peppers, citrus, strawberries) to increase absorption.

Keep it safe and healthy

Always supervise your child while they are eating.

Ensure your child is ready to start eating complementary foods. Baby should always be sitting upright when eating, never reclined in a car seat or slouching/leaning backward in their highchair.

Avoid choking hazards such as hard and small, round, and sticky foods.

Ensure meats are cooked to safe minimum internal temperatures, clean and sanitize cooking surfaces, and avoid serving unpasteurized or raw foods and beverages.

There are some foods to avoid for babies under 12 months of age:

  • Honey should not be given to children under 12 months old

  • Avoid salt - do not add salt to foods and look for low sodium or no-salt-added packaged foods

  • Avoid added sugars and fruit juice

  • To ensure your baby continues to consume enough iron-rich foods, avoid introducing cows milk as a beverage until around 9-12 months. If you continue to breastfeed you do not need to introduce cows milk.

Let your baby lead the way

Use a responsive feeding approach which encourages paying attention to your baby's hunger and fullness cues. Never pressure or force your child to eat.

Offer a variety of textures to your baby including giving them the option to self-feed with finger foods. Some parents choose to use the baby-led weaning approach to infant feeding which encourages infants to self-feed with finger foods rather than spoon-feeding. Never put finger foods into your child's mouth for them as this increases their risk for choking. If you choose to spoon-feed, watch for your baby's cues to tell you when they are finished eating.

Want your free copy of the Baby Led Weaning Meal Building Guide? Click here.

Want more support?

If you want to join a really awesome community of parents and caregivers raising babies to have a healthy relationship with food, The BLW Confidence program includes:

  • Age & Stage Video Guide - to help you feel prepared at every stage of eating

  • Safety Video Lessons - so you feel confident about choking prevention

  • Monthly virtual support group - to connect & ask questions

  • 40+ Visual Food Guides - to save you from searching how to prepare food for your baby

  • Food Prep Info & Recipes - so you can offer your baby the same meals as the family

Join here

The nutrition information contained in this resource is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician, registered dietitian, or other qualified healthcare provider with respect to any questions you my have regarding the nutritional requirements based upon a medical condition. Reliance upon any content provided in this resource is solely at your own risk. Speak with you health provider if you suspect your child may have a condition or delay that would prevent them from eating safely.