Involve your toddler in food preparation where possible, teaching them things about healthy eating along the way.

Nutrition: what your baby needs

What foods will help my baby to grow?

From around six months of age, offer your baby pureed foods after they have had their milk feed. Avoid feeling rushed and take your time. Just like we do, babies have preferences for tastes they like and dislike. Share your own foods, give them small tastes, avoid making them “special” food and importantly, feed their mind as well as their tummy.

Table conversation and sharing family meals helps to build a baby’s brain and social connection. There are also many feeding utensils available which incorporate educational designs to take the focus off the food and make feeding more engaging and fun for your baby.

Milk

  • Continue offering milk before your baby’s solid food until around eight months of age, when you can reverse this order.
  • Aim to breastfeed for as long as you and your baby are happy to do so. There are benefits for both mothers and their babies to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond.
  • Breast milk or formula should be the major source of your baby’s nutrition throughout the first year.
  • Milk contains more kilojoules than solid food.

AGE

Number of Milk Feeds/ Day

Number of Solid Feeds/ Day

Textures of Solid Food

0-6 Months

Around 6 per day – more for newborn babies

None - breast milk or formula contains all the nutrition they need

No solids recommended.

6-9 Months

4-5 per day

Start at 1 meal per day and then grade slowly up to 3.

Mainly purees though some lumps.

9-12 Months

3-4 per day

3 main meals and 2 snacks.

Increasingly lumpy and textured foods which require chewing.

From 12 Months Onwards

3-4 per day

3 main meals and 2 snacks.

Cut up food which needs lots of chewing. Encourage self feeding.

As babies drink less milk their need for solid food increases. However, milk and dairy foods still provide an important source of nutrition throughout childhood and across the lifespan.

 Vegetables and legumes

  • All kinds of vegetables can be offered from the age of six months. Use as little water in the cooking process as possible. Fresh is best. Shop for vegetables which are heavy (which indicates more water and are therefore fresher), brightly coloured and have their stocks regularly replenished. Home grown vegetables offer a healthy alternative.
  • Vegetables can be boiled, steamed or microwaved until they are soft and then pureed or sieved before serving. Mixing vegetables together unites their taste, making it difficult to determine which, if any are least palatable. 
  • Look for vegetables with varying colours as they each provide different nutritional benefits. Dark green, leafy, yellow, white and orange vegetables all contain different antioxidants.
  • Offer vegetables every day; many of the nutrients they contain cannot be stored in the body and need replenishing daily.  

Fruit

Fruit of all kinds can be offered from six months of age. Pureed, sieved and served either hot or cold, fruit is an ideal way to provide babies with important nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruit such as ripe banana, sieved or grated apple/pear, paw paw, or avocado are all ideal. Babies don’t need fruit juice. This tends to be high in sugar and frequently leads to dental decay. Fresh fruit will supply sufficient nutrition and fibre. If you feel your baby is thirsty, extra breastfeeds or some cooled boiled water from a sipper cup or bottle may be useful.

As your baby grows, expand the variety of the fruits you are offering. Lumps can be tolerated from around eight months onwards. Cooking destroys some of the vitamins in fruits so where possible, aim for raw as long as they are soft enough to eat. 

Cereals and Grains, Pasta and Rice

Iron fortified rice cereal can be offered from six months onwards. Aim to gradually increase your baby’s dietary intake to include pastas, bread, barley, oats, other infant cereals, rye and cornflour. Wholegrain cereals contain more fibre and slightly better nutritional value.

Dairy foods

Only offer breast milk or formula until around nine months of age. Yoghurt, custard, cheese and dairy desserts can then be offered.  Cow’s milk can also be used when preparing sauces such as white/cheese sauce; however, as a drink on its own it is not recommended.

Meat, fish and poultry

Beef, lamb, chicken and pork can be offered from around six months onwards. Meat needs to be cooked until it is very tender and only offered in small amounts. Red meat is an ideal source of iron and zinc as well as protein. Even small amounts of red meat help to boost iron absorption so it can be used by the body.

When can my baby chew?

  • Use your baby’s teeth as a guide to when to offer foods of increasing texture and consistency.
  • Babies also use their gums to chew.
  • Offering lumpy foods helps to support early speech development.
  • You can incorporate a teether into your baby’s daily routine. This will help them to practice chewing and assist them with their oral development between feeds.
  • Where possible, source, buy cook and prepare your baby’s food yourself. Knowing what’s in their food gives you control and is cheaper than buying processed foods.
  • Cooking batches of food and then freezing them until they’re required is very practical. As long as the food is correctly sealed and remains frozen until use, there is minimal nutrient loss.  
  • Offering small amounts more frequently aids digestion and avoids stomach distension. Babies have very small stomachs, which fill and empty quickly.
  • Keep your baby’s meals simple. Avoid using salt (which overloads immature kidneys), sugar, honey, spices or additives which they don’t need.
  • Textures, as well as tastes and flavours, colours and consistency need to be varied to avoid meal times from becoming boring.
  • If you are using processed foods, read their labels and if you are unsure about an ingredient, don’t offer it. Check expiry dates, that cans and jars are intact, and that seals have not been tampered with.
  • Growth slows in the second year of life and this is often reflected in a baby’s eating pattern. As energy demands increase, so does the appetite.
  • Where possible, give the onus of eating control to your baby. Fussiness tends to peak in the second year of life when autonomy and independence are a primary developmental stage.
  • You cannot control whether your child eats or even how much they eat. Your job is to provide, cook and then serve food to your child; whether they eat and the quantity they do is up to them.
  • Cooled boiled water can be offered from an infant sipper cup with a spout. 
  • Meal times can be a great opportunity to support your baby’s learning. Developing skills in eating and mastery over utensils takes time and lots of practice.