Purees? Finger foods? What do we start with?
Skip the stress and take a relaxed approach.
Some parents begin with purees, but if your baby is about 6 months, these will only be needed for a very short time. Babies can begin to chew soft foods from around 7 months.
In most cases, your own cooking is best, because it is your family diet that you want your baby to learn to enjoy and you know exactly what you’ve put into the food.
Making special baby food can be time-consuming. It can also be disheartening if your baby doesn't want to eat it. Offering your baby easy-to-manage versions of your family's meals can be simpler and less stressful.
Some ideas for foods
The best food for your baby to have at a particular meal is what you are preparing for the rest of the family, adapted as needed.
Fruit: Grated apple or other fruit; piece of banana or ripe avocado; pieces of melon or pawpaw (without seeds); an orange quarter, minus peel and seeds; stone fruit with stone removed; peeled and cored apple or pear.
Meat or alternative: A small amount of meat on a safe bone, for example, chicken leg bone, lamb chop; fingers of grilled or baked liver or kidney; rissoles or slices of homemade meat loaf; firm tofu cooked in long thin slices.
Fish: Homemade fish fingers or fish cakes; flakes of cooked fish with every bone removed.
Vegetables: Cooked green stringless beans; cooked broccoli or cauliflower floret; fingers of cooked potato, carrot or other vegetable; grated raw carrot. If your baby has teeth, try a piece of raw celery or other salad vegetables.
Bread: White ‘high-fibre’ or wholemeal; homemade rusks (bake thick slices or crusts in a very slow oven until they are quite crisp and dry); toast, plain, buttered, or sometimes use a spread thinly; sandwiches.
Pasta: Boiled, cooled, pasta shapes, with meat or vegetables from a casserole.
Eggs: Pieces of hard-boiled egg yolk or whole egg; strips of omelette.
Milk products: Fingers of cheese; grated cheese. Yoghurt, very soft cheeses and custard can be eaten by using other finger foods as dippers.
Iron and zinc
Your baby has iron and zinc stores from birth which last till about 6 months. They start to reduce over the following 6 months so you will need to start offering foods that contain iron, such as red meat. Although your baby can't chew into a piece of meat, they will get valuable iron and zinc just by sucking the juices.
Before 12 months, babies will still be having breastfeeds so they may not need extra drinks. However, at mealtimes you may also want to begin to offer other drinks. Cooled boiled tap water is the best.
You can experiment with different types of cups to see what your baby prefers:
an open cup - with your assistance
a plastic feeder cup - the kind with a spout or a straw
a small, narrow, transparent cup so baby can then see what they are drinking.
Cows' milk should not be given as a drink until your baby is over 12 months of age. However, from 6 months, you can offer dairy foods in small quantities as part of your baby's diet, for example yoghurt, cheese or milk mixed with other solid foods.
After 12 months, breastmilk can continue to be a source of food and drink for your baby while other foods increase. There is no need to introduce cows’ milk if your baby is having other sources of dairy. Similarly, formulas marketed for children over 12 months such as ‘toddler’ or ‘growing-up’ milks are not necessary.
Getting from puree to finger foods
First Steps Nutrition UK have put out a series of booklets. These colourful downloads give great ideas for busy parents. Please note that the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Eating well - the first year compares purees, mash and finger food forms of common first foods.
Eating well - recipe book shows how family meals can be adapted for children, toddlers and babies.
Eating well - vegan/vegetarian infants provides interesting meal ideas for vegan families with babies.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022
Read more about introducing solids
Evidence-led info and practical tips from our Breastfeeding Information Series