When it comes to baby feeding, there’s a big difference between birth and six months. Although milk still needs to be the primary source of nutrition, solid foods also become an important supply of nutrients. Milk alone just isn’t enough to fuel growth by this age and stage.
Breast milk is the ideal food when it comes to infant feeding, but by six months of age iron stores which had built up in the baby’s body during pregnancy have depleted. Breast milk is low in iron so it’s important to boost your six month old’s intake of iron from solid foods. Zinc too is an essential mineral which can only come from solid foods.
The current recommendation from health care professionals is to offer solid foods at around six months. Some babies are ready before then but it’s important to always speak and check with a qualified nurse or healthcare professional first, as it may not be beneficial for your baby and it could also decrease breast milk supply for mothers who are breastfeeding.
Well Hello There
By six months old babies have a growing sense of the world around them. They are becoming increasingly social and learning how to communicate with babbling and cooing. These early attempts at communication reflect the interaction they’re gaining from other people around them, as well as their own capacity for social engagement.
Food and eating forms an important part of your six month old baby’s connection with other people. It’s so valuable to include your six month old baby in mealtimes and not separate them from the incidental conversations which happen when people gather and eat.
Breastfeeding & Solids: How Much Should a 6 Month Old Eat?
Breastfed babies at six months still need at least 5-6 feeds per day. They are still too young to sleep without waking through the night and need to be breastfed at least once. Offer both breasts when you feed your baby, this will help to support longer sleeps and less “snacking and napping” behaviour.
Sometimes your baby will be interested in solid foods and not as keen at other times. Hunger and curiosity will influence their motivation to eat.
Some six month old babies are so keen to eat their solid food that they don’t want to breastfeed. It’s also normal for six month old babies to be distractible when they’re breastfeeding. You may want to find a quiet place to feed them so they can stay focused.
Be mindful of not offering your baby too much solid food. Remember, their primary source of nutrition still needs to be milk and at six months it’s the taste and opportunity to eat which is important.
Expect your baby to spit out a fair amount. Learning how to eat solid foods is like any other skill. It takes time and lots of practice to become competent.
Mess is normal. Reaching for the spoon, smearing puree over their face, and rubbing food into their eyes are all to be expected when feeding a six month old.
Bottle Feeding and Solids
Your baby may want less formula until they become used to having solids as well. At six months their stomach is still only small and it doesn’t take much food/formula for them to feel full. Always follow the instructions and preparations on formula tins labels suitable for your baby's age.
Offer your baby their formula first and solids after. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the formula tin to see if your baby needs a “follow-on” formula which is more suitable for babies aged over six months.
What Are Signs of Solids Readiness?
- Being able to sit upright with good head and neck control
- Showing signs of interest when you and other people are eating
- Reaches out for your food and interested when you’re eating
- Opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon
- Not as satisfied with milk alone
- They’ve lost their tongue-thrust reflex and can transfer food from the front of the tongue to the back and then swallow.
The current recommendation from nutritionist is that foods can be introduced in any order as long as what’s offered is nutritious, mashed, and the right texture.
Remember, eating solids is a developing skill for your baby. Be patient as they learn to accept new tastes and textures.
What to Feed a 6 Month Old?
- Iron fortified rice cereal mixed with water, breast milk or formula
- Pureed vegetables, ideally home cooked and prepared
- Mashed or pureed fruit
- Dairy foods, including full fat yoghurt and cheese
Tips for Introducing Solids
- Choose a quiet and relaxed time for both you and your baby.
- Offer a breastfeed or formula first. Wait for 20-30 minutes and then offer solid food.
- Offer a few teaspoons just once a day at first and then increase to twice a day.
- Don’t stress if your baby isn’t interested in solid foods at first. Leave it for a couple of days and then try again.
- Be prepared to offer a new food a few times before your baby will accept it. Babies have very sensitive taste buds and what may taste fairly bland to adults can be quite strong for little palates.
Important Tips for Feeding Your 6 Month Old
- Follow your baby’s lead when it comes to their feeding. Be sensitive to their hunger and fullness cues. Turning their head away, closing their mouth, pushing the spoon away and fussing are all signs they’ve had enough to eat.
- Offer milk first and then solid foods. Milk still needs to be the primary source of nutrition at six months.
- Place their highchair next to the table and don’t feed them separately to the rest of the family.
- Offer purees as well as some lumps and textures. Babies “chew” with their gums and need hours of practice to learn how to move food around their tongue, gums and cheeks before swallowing.
- Always supervise your baby when they are eating.
- Never giving your baby small, hard foods which could cause them to choke.
- Avoid putting your baby’s spoon in your own mouth. The bacteria which cause tooth decay are easily transferred.
Always speak and check with a qualified nurse or healthcare professional for advice and guidance on your six month old baby’s individual feeding needs. Offering a good variety of foods is an important first step to help your baby anticipate flavours and tastes.