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.
As your baby grows, so do their nutritional needs. 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
Before 6 months, breastmilk alone meets all your baby’s energy and nutrition needs.
Start to introduce soft foods at 6 months when your baby needs more energy and nutrients than your milk alone can provide.
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.
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 they need to grow and develop from your milk. They don'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 they reach 6 months old can increase the risk of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which can make your child thin and weak, and even be life-threatening. Your baby may also breastfeed less often, so your supply of milk, their 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.
If you see your baby with their hands near their mouth when they're still younger than 6 months, you may think they're not getting enough to eat from your milk alone. Actually your baby is showing normal feeding signs, they are just more developed now that they're older. It doesn’t mean your baby needs solid food early. Your baby is ready when they reach 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, their rapid growth and development require more energy and nutrients than your milk alone can provide. They need to start eating solid foods in addition to breastmilk to keep up with their growing needs.
When to feed your baby solid foods
Feed your baby whenever you see them 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.
If you do not breastfeed your baby, the best time to introduce them 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 their first solid foods at 6 months and continue to breastfeed 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 them to keep growing. Waiting too long may cause your baby to stop gaining weight at a healthy rate, and puts them at risk of becoming thin and weak.