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Solids – when do we start?

Feeling pressured to start solids early, before 6 months?

Get the science behind official guidelines.

baby with spoon

Family foods should be introduced gradually from around 6 months of age. Before this time, breastmilk alone provides your baby with all the nourishment they need.

Breastmilk continues to be a baby’s main source of nutrition throughout their first year. But by 12 months of age, babies should also be eating a wide variety of family foods. 

What do official guidelines say?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside complementary (family) foods for 2 years or beyond.

Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside complementary foods for 1 year, or as long as mother and child desire. 

Australian recommendations in the current (2012) Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines are to introduce solids at around 6 months of age.

What are the signs that my baby is ready for solids?  

When babies are ready for food, they will: 

  • have lost the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out of the mouth 

  • show good neck and head control 

  • be able to sit upright with little support  

  • show a great interest in what you are eating and perhaps try to grab your food. (It's common for babies to put everything in their mouths, so this sign alone doesn't always mean they are ready.) 

These signs tend to occur in most babies at around 6 months of age, with some a little earlier and others a little later. All babies develop at different rates, so guidelines with ages can only ever be approximate.

Why not start earlier?

It’s common for new parents to come under pressure to begin solids earlier than 6 months. Babies won’t benefit from starting solids or other fluids until their bodies are ready. However, it can be very hard to deal with well-meaning advice, especially if it comes from family and friends.

There are good reasons to wait until your baby is about 6 months old before starting them on family foods:

  • A young baby’s gut cannot cope well with the fats and proteins that are in other milks, eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals.

  • Their kidneys cannot easily handle the large amount of salt found in many processed foods. 

  • Solids won’t help your baby sleep through the night. This is a common belief, but research shows that there are no differences in night-waking whether a baby under 6 months is having solids or only breastmilk. In fact, some babies become less able to sleep when solids are introduced too early because this upsets their tummy.  

  • There is no good evidence to suggest that starting babies on solids earlier means less chance of allergies. Also, the risk of allergy is not the only thing to consider in the timing of solids...

  • When developing guidelines, the government also thinks about the baby's nutritional needs, whether they have developed enough to chew and swallow safely, the risk they could receive too little breastmilk, and the risk of illness or infection. Many people think that risk of illness from formula-feeding or unsafe solid foods is only a problem in poor countries. But many studies show that breastfeeding protects babies from illness in developed countries like Australia, too.

This evidence supports keeping the timing for exclusive breastfeeding to around 6 months. 


© Australian Breastfeeding Association March 2024

  1. World Health Organization. (2023). WHO Guideline for complementary feeding of infants and young children 6–23 months of age. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. (2015). Infant feeding guidelines.

  3. Brown, A., & Harries, V. (2015). Infant sleep and night feeding patterns during later infancy: Association with breastfeeding frequency, daytime complementary food intake, and infant weight. Breastfeeding Medicine, 10(5), 246–252. 

  4. Anderson J, Malley K, Snell R 2009, Is 6 months still the best for exclusive breastfeeding and introduction of solids? A literature review with consideration to the risk of the development of allergies. Breastfeeding Review 17(2): 23–31.

  5. Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J., França, G. V., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., Murch, S., Sankar, M. J., Walker, N., Rollins, N. C., & Lancet Breastfeeding Series Group (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Lancet387(10017), 475–490.

Read more about introducing solids

Evidence-led info and practical tips from our Breastfeeding Information Series

Breastfeeding: and family foods

Family foods booklet