Introduction to Solid Foods

At six months, breast milk is still the most important food for your baby, but it’s no longer enough to meet all of his nutritional requirements. Solid foods (also called complementary foods) are therefore introduced around that age, when your baby is showing signs that he is ready, to provide the extra iron and other nutrients he needs to grow and develop. We recommend the same instructions for introducing solids to babies fed with infant formula.

Along with the introduction of solids, you can continue to breastfeed until 2 years of age and beyond. Breastfed and partially breastfed babies should also continue to be given a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU until 2 years of age.

Signs that your baby is ready to start eating solids

  • Better head control
  • Ability to sit up and lean forward
  • Ability to let the caregiver know when he is full such as turning his head away, closing his mouth or spitting out food
  • Ability to pick up food and try to put it in his mouth

Your child can eat the same healthy foods as you but in smaller quantities and with extra preparation, depending on your child’s abilities to eat. Remember that parents and caregivers are responsible for when, where and what food is served, but children are always responsible for if and how much to eat. Always respect your child’s appetite.

What are the first foods that I should feed my baby?

A balanced and varied diet is important to children’s growth. Iron-rich foods should be the first food you offer your baby. These include:

Iron-rich meat, poultry and fish:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Etc.

Iron-rich meat alternatives:

  • Whole eggs
  • Tofu
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Etc.

Iron-fortified infant cereals*:

  • Rice infant cereal
  • Oats infant cereal
  • Barley infant cereal
  • Wheat infant cereal
  • Mixed cereals

*Never add infant cereals to a bottle.

After the introduction of iron-rich foods, there is no particular order for introducing other foods from the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.

What are the first textures that I should feed my child?

It’s important to provide a variety of foods with soft textures early on. The first textures you should feed your child are lumpy, tender-cooked and finely minced, pureed, mashed or ground foods, as well as finger foods. Waiting to introduce lumpy textures beyond the age of 9 months can lead to feeding difficulties in children and a lower intake of nutritious foods like vegetables and fruit.

How do I feed my child?

Between the ages of 7 to 9 months, provide baby with 2 to 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks per day, depending on his appetite. Children’s appetites vary from day to day and from meal to meal.

  • You can offer breast milk either before or after solid foods.
  • Bring your baby to the table to join in at family mealtimes.
  • Make mealtimes a relaxed and pleasurable part of the day.
  • Use a baby spoon and begin with small amounts (about a teaspoon) and prepare more if your baby seems to want more.
  • Gradually increase the amount and the number of times you offer food per day.
  • Warm foods gradually by placing the dishes in a bowl of warm water.

Each food group in Canada’s Food Guide provides different nutrients that are essential to children’s optimum development. A balanced and varied diet is therefore important to children’s growth. A balanced meal includes at least three of the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, while snacks should consist of at least two of the four different food groups.

When introducing new foods, it’s normal for children to reject them the first time. They need to see a new food many times before they’ll actually eat it. It may take 10 to 15 times before children learn to like new foods, so it’s a good idea to offer them along with familiar foods. The trick is to be patient and keep on offering healthy food choices.

From one year of age:

  • Children begin to have a regular schedule of meals and snacks. This will help them establish a meal routine. Serve three nutritious meals and two to three snacks each day; provide a meal or snack every two to three hours. When you give your child a meal, allow him 15-20 minutes to eat and avoid letting him nibble or graze between meals and snacks.
  • Your baby should be eating about ¼ to ½ of adult serving sizes.
  • Serve small portions, and allow your child to ask for more. Certain children can be overwhelmed by the amount of food on their plates.
  • Continue to offer iron-rich foods with each meal.
  • Fat is necessary for children’s growth and development. Low-fat or diet foods are therefore not recommended. Fat from nutritious foods, such as cheese, avocados and peanut or nut butters, is an important source of energy for little ones.
  • If the child is growing well and is happy and healthy, changes in appetite should not be a concern.

Which fluids are suitable for my child?

  • Breastfeed as long as you and your baby want to continue.
  • Homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.) should be introduced between 9 to 12 months when your child is eating a variety of iron-rich foods. Offer 2 cups of homogenized cow’s milk (3.25% M.F.) daily in an open cup. More than 3 cups can decrease the child’s appetite for other nutritious foods. At 24 months, you can switch to skim, 1% and 2% milk.
  • Between meals, satisfy his thirst with water given in an open cup.
  • Your baby doesn’t need juice or sweetened beverages. If given, offer as part of a meal or snack and offer only 100% fruit juice in an open cup (not a bottle or sippy cup). Limit to a maximum amount of 125-175 mL (4-6 oz) per day.

Reduce your child’s risk of choking

Make sure you always supervise young children when they start eating solids as they’re at an increased risk of choking. You can reduce their chances of choking by avoiding solid foods that are hard, small and round, or smooth and sticky. Click here to check out an article from Eatright Ontario with more information about how you can reduce your child’s risk of choking.

Prevent food poisoning

Children aged 5 and under cannot fight infections as well as adults. This puts them at an increased risk for food poisoning and health complications. To reduce the risk of your children getting sick, wash your hands and your child’s hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing food or sitting down for a meal.

You should also make sure to cook meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood to their safe internal temperature and wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating. Keeping cold food cold (less than 4°C) and hot food hot (above 60°C) will also help reduce bacterial growth.

Learn more about how to prevent food poisoning by checking out Health Canada’s website.

What types of fish are safe for my child?

Fish are a good source of iron and are safe for your child to eat. You can offer fish and work up to 2 servings per week by 24 months of age. Choose low-mercury types of fish such as salmon, trout, haddock, sole, tilapia and char.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario