Canadian experts recommend giving only breast milk for the first 6 months and continuing to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond.footnote 1 Breast milk is the ideal food for babies. If you are not able to breastfeed your baby, feed your baby iron-fortified formula. Babies don't need any other liquids or solids for the first 6 months of life.
Breastfed babies and babies fed a combination of breast milk and formula need 400 IU of vitamin D each day from a supplement.footnote 1, footnote 3 Babies who are fed only formula do not need a vitamin D supplement.
Your baby is ready to start eating solid foods at 6 months of age, which is around the time he or she:
- Demonstrates a curiosity about solid foods and your family's eating behaviour.
- Has started to transition from using the sucking reflex to swallowing and does not push a spoon or other object out with the tongue when it is placed in the mouth.
- Can sit with support.
- Has good head and neck control.
When your baby is ready to start eating solid foods, keep these general guidelines in mind:
- Continue to offer breast milk or formula while introducing solid foods.
- Offer your baby iron-rich foods first, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, finely minced meat or fish, mashed cooked egg yolk, mashed beans, or tofu.
- The order in which other foods from Canada's Food Guide are introduced is not important.
- Don't add cereal to bottles. Instead, spoon-feed your baby cereal that is made with breast milk, formula, or water, gradually making the mixture thicker.
- As the variety in your baby's diet increases, include foods rich in vitamin C—such as oranges, berries, tomatoes, and spinach—along with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C helps your baby absorb iron.footnote 4
- Observe your baby before introducing another new food. This strategy helps you quickly identify a food that may be causing a reaction, such as hives, redness, a rash, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- If you have a family history of allergies, talk to a dietitian or health care provider. Experts do not recommend waiting to introduce any foods in order to prevent allergy. This includes the common allergens such as peanut, tree nuts, egg, milk product (yogurt, cheese), wheat, soy, seafoods, and sesame. You can start offering these foods to your baby at around 6 months.
- Introduce these foods one at a time. This will help you quickly identify whether a food is causing a reaction such as hives, swelling, redness, and a rash.
- If you think your baby has had an allergic reaction to a food, stop offering it and talk to your baby’s doctor.
- Offer your baby a variety of foods with soft textures. He or she can eat food that is lumpy, tender-cooked and finely minced, pureed, mashed, or ground. Offer finger foods like dry cereal, crunchy toast, well-cooked noodles, small pieces of chicken, cooked egg, and small chunks of banana. Make sure that there are no pieces that could cause your baby to choke such as hard raw vegetables (such as carrots), whole nuts and seeds and lumps of nut butters, popcorn, raisins, candies, and marshmallows.
- Don't feed your baby directly from a food container. Instead, put some of the food onto a small dish. That way, germs from your baby's mouth won't get into the container and spoil the food that is left.
- When you first start, don't choose foods with mixed textures, such as broth with vegetables. These kinds of meals are the hardest for a baby to eat.
- Offer an open cup for liquids other than breast milk or formula. Your baby can use a cup with your help starting around 6 months of age. Work toward a goal of not using a bottle or sippy cup by 12 to 18 months of age.
- When your baby is no longer breastfeeding or taking formula, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for your baby.
- When your baby is 9 to 12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods, he or she can start to drink pasteurized whole-fat cow's milk. Limit cow's milk to no more than 3 cups (750 mL) per day for children 9 to 24 months old. If you are not breastfeeding and do not want to give your child cow's milk, give your child soy infant formula until your child is 2 years of age. After age 2, you can serve low-fat milk or fortified alternatives.
- Other kinds of milk such as skim milk, 1% milk, or 2% milk, or fortified soy beverage don't have as many nutrients as whole-fat cow's milk. It is best not to give your baby these beverages, until he or she is 2 years of age.
- Food's made from milk such as yogurt and cheese can be introduced at 6 months as long as your baby is eating a variety of iron-rich foods.
Keep these things in mind, too:
- Always stay with your baby when he or she is eating or drinking.
- Don't add salt or sugar to your baby's food.
- Don't give your baby honey until 1 year of age.
- Don't give your baby sugary drinks or foods.
- Juice is not necessary for a healthy diet. Juice does not have the valuable fibre that whole fruit has. Unless the label says the drink has only 100% juice, beware that many fruit drinks are just water, a little juice flavouring, and a lot of added sugar. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends limiting juice to ½ cup (125 mL) of 100% unsweetened fruit juice a day. Juice isn't recommended for babies 0 to 6 months.
As you introduce new foods, it is important to pay attention to your baby's cues. When your baby's head turns away from a spoonful of food, don't force it. But try again later. Let your baby tell you when he or she is full. Also, it may help to introduce new foods when your baby is well rested and there are no distractions, such as a TV.
As your baby learns to feed himself or herself, keep in mind that your job is to provide a variety of nutritious foods, but your baby will decide how much to eat. If your baby doesn't accept a new food right away, try again later. It can take many tries before your child accepts a food.
Your child can sit with you at the table for short periods of time during meals. Sharing meals with your child allows him or her see you eating a variety of foods, which makes it more likely that your child will also eat a variety of foods as he or she gets older. By 12 months, your child will be able to eat many of the same foods the rest of the family eats.
Your baby will quickly gain new eating skills, such as chewing, swallowing, and using cups and utensils, at about 6 to 12 months of age. Offer your baby a variety of nutritious foods and gradually allow him or her to explore different tastes and textures. Try to be patient as your baby experiments and learns, and be tolerant of messes. Your baby will likely enjoy playing with a spoon, but most of the food will fall off it. It's natural for your baby to "make a mess" while learning about food. Until your baby can handle a spoon better, you can give your baby a clean spoon to hold while you feed him or her with a different spoon.
To help reduce your cleanup, use a child's high chair that has a detachable tray and raised rims. The rims on the tray help keep dishes and food from sliding off. And you can carry the tray to the sink for cleaning. Cover the seat with a removable, washable pad. Also, think about covering the floor around the high chair. Remember—your child is learning by experimenting.
- Health Canada, et al. (2012). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from birth to six months. A joint statement of Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/index-eng.php.
- Health Canada, et al. (2014). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php. Accessed April 28, 2014.
- Togias A, et al. (2017). Addendum guidelines for the prevention of peanut allergy in the United States: Report of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-sponsored expert panel. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 139(1): 29-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.10.010. Accessed August 23, 2017.
- Chan E, et al. (2013). Dietary exposures and allergy prevention in high-risk infants. Canadian Paediatric Society. http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/dietary-exposures-and-allergy-prevention-in-high-risk-infants. Accessed February 12, 2014.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age four months through seven months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 217–247. New York: Bantam.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0–3 years of age). Pediatrics, 126(5): 1040–1050. Available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/126/5/1040.
Adaptation Date: 11/6/2019
Adapted By: HealthLink BC
Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC
Adaptation Date: 11/6/2019
Adapted By: HealthLink BC
Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC