At about six months of age and if showing signs of readiness (hyperlink to signs of readiness page), babies are ready for solid foods. During pregnancy babies develops stores of iron, a mineral that builds blood cells and carries oxygen around our bodies. By about 6 months these stores are depleted and babies need to get iron from foods. The introduction of solid food is also important in helping baby’s develop eating skills, exposing them to new textures and flavours and allows them to begin enjoying a variety of foods.
At about six months, in addition to breastmilk (or infant formula), you can offer meat and meat alternatives including meat, fish, poultry, cooked whole eggs, well-cooked legumes and tofu, and iron-fortified infant cereals.
When offering iron-fortified infant cereals:
- Mix with breastmilk . Use infant formula if breastmilk is not available.
- Start with a single grain cereal one at a time, such as rice, barley or oats. Watch for any sign of an allergic reaction to the new food introduced. Once you know your baby does not react to those cereals, you can introduce mixed cereals.
From six to 12 months of age, iron-rich foods should be offered two or more times a day. From 12 to 24 months of age, iron-rich foods should be offered at each meal.
There is no particular order for the introduction of other foods (except cow’s milk – see fluids below). Gradually introduce vegetables, fruit and milk products such as cheese and yogurt between 6 to 9 months along with iron-rich foods and in no particular order. Offer one new food everyday.
Use an open cup to introduce or offer fluids other than breastmilk to your baby to promote mature drinking skills. The introduction of cow’s milk should be delayed until your baby is at least nine to 12 months of age and when they are eating a variety of iron-rich foods. Offer homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow’s milk until your child is 2 years of age.
If you are breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed. If your baby is not breastfed, homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow milk can replace formula at this time and 500 mL per day should be offered. Intake should not exceed 750 mL per day. Formula is generally not needed after 12 months of age for healthy young children.
Infants do not need juice. If you decide to offer fruit juice, use 100% pasteurized unsweetened fruit juice (not fruit drink or cocktail). Keep portions small – no more than 4-6oz per day. Keep in mind that whole fruits are more nutritious than fruit juice. Offer in a cup at meals.
Sips of water may be offered from a cup but do not let your baby fill up on water.
The number of times and the amount of food that you offer your baby should increase with their age, appetite and hunger cues. Initially, try to offer two to three meals and one to two snacks each day. Work towards establishing a schedule of regular meals and snacks by 12 months including a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide.
Learn more about about food allergies and introducing solids to your baby.
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