Feeding your baby: When to start with solid foods

When to introduce your baby to solid foods and why getting the timing right is so important.

A baby girl shows signs of being hungry
UNICEF

As your baby grows, her nutritional needs grow with her. During the first two years, up to 75 per cent of each meal goes to building your baby’s brain.

Here’s when to introduce your baby to solid foods and why getting the timing right is so important.

In brief: Feeding your baby solid foods

Breastfeeding icon

Before 6 months, breastmilk alone meets all your baby’s energy and nutrition needs.

plate with food icon

Start to introduce soft foods at 6 months when your baby needs more energy and nutrients than your milk alone can provide. 

Pot and Spoon icon

At 6 months, start giving your baby just two to three spoonfuls of soft food, such as porridge, mashed fruits or vegetables, twice a day.

feeding baby icon

Start feeding both breastfed and non-breastfed babies solid foods at 6 months. Waiting too long can put your baby at risk.

Up to 6 months old

From the first hour of life, through to 6 months old, your baby can receive all of the nutrition she needs to grow and develop from your milk. She doesn’t need anything else – no water, tea, juice, porridge or any other foods or fluids during this period.
 

Myth: Babies need solid food sooner than 6 months old

When you breastfeed your baby frequently, starting foods earlier than 6 months is not necessary and can even be harmful.

Introducing foods or fluids other than breastmilk to your baby before she is 6 months old can increase her risk of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which can make her thin and weak, and even be life-threatening. Your baby may also breastfeed less often, so your supply of milk, her most vital food, may decrease.

A mother’s milk is the safest and healthiest food for the first 6 months of life for all children everywhere. It is a constant, safe source of essential nutrition, wherever you and your baby live in the world.
 

Feeding signs

If you see your baby with her hands near her mouth when she’s still younger than 6 months, you may think she’s not getting enough to eat from your milk alone. Actually your baby is showing normal feeding signs, they are just more developed now that she’s older. It doesn’t mean your baby needs solid food early. Your baby is ready when she is 6 months old.


Myth: Boys need more than breastmilk 

Both baby girls and boys need the same amount of food to be healthy and grow strong and smart. Your milk alone will meet the nutrition needs of both a son or a daughter in these first months of life.
 



6 months and older

When your baby reaches 6 months, his rapid growth and development require more energy and nutrients than your milk alone can provide. He needs to start eating solid foods in addition to breastmilk to keep up with his growing needs. 


When to feed your baby solid foods

Feed your baby whenever you see him give feeding signs. After washing hands with soap, start by giving your baby just two to three spoonfuls of soft food, such as porridge, mashed fruits or vegetables, twice a day. Continue to breastfeed as often as before. 


Non-breastfed babies

If you do not breastfeed your baby, the best time to introduce her to solid foods is also at 6 months of age. This is the age when all babies, breastfed or not, need to start getting solid foods to ensure they are getting all the nutrition their growing bodies need.


Living with HIV

If you are living with HIV, introduce your baby to his first solid foods at 6 months and continue to breastfeed him while taking your ARV medicines and following your treatment plan.


Don't wait too long to start solid food

Your baby’s body needs the extra energy and nutrients to help him to keep growing. Waiting too long may cause your baby to stop gaining weight at a healthy rate, and put him at risk of becoming thin and weak. 


 

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