Feeding up to six months
Breastfeeding is great for your baby. According to health experts, breastmilk is all babies need until they’re six months old. So it’s worth making every effort to breastfeed.
Most problems with breastfeeding can be overcome with information and support. For some mothers, though, issues such as mastitis make it difficult to continue breastfeeding. If you can’t breastfeed, baby formula from a bottle is the next best thing.
Other things to know about feeding your young baby
- Cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk aren’t suitable for children under
12 months. These products don’t have all the nutritional elements a baby
needs to grow and thrive.
- If you’re bottle-feeding, giving baby a bottle in bed isn’t recommended. Holding your baby during bottle-feeding is safer and can help you bond
and connect. It’s also a great opportunity for partners to take turns at
bonding with their baby.
Going back to work doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding. You can express your breastmilk and refrigerate or freeze it, or you could consider partial weaning. If you do continue feeding, slowly introduce your baby to a bottle or cup before you start back.
You can start slowly introducing your baby to solids at around six months. It’s wise to introduce foods one at a time, starting with a little bit of very milky baby cereal (mixed with breastmilk or formula). This can help identify food allergies or intolerances.
Here’s a quick guide to what foods you can introduce and when.
Your baby is ready to try a world of different tastes and flavours. Along with baby cereal, available from the supermarket, you could also offer cooked pureed fruit (apple, pear) or vegetables (potato, pumpkin, carrot). See our homemade baby foods guide for how to make your own.
After six months, you can introduce small amounts of boiled and cooled water.
Keep using the above foods. Try introducing pureed meat and toast fingers or sugarless rusks.
It’s time for a bit more coarsely mashed food, like minced meat, chicken and rice. You can also introduce finger foods such as soft, chopped fruit, soft-cooked vegies, bread and toast, pasta, grated cheese (pasteurised), yoghurt and custards.
At this age, your baby is ready to eat a little of what the rest of the family is eating – as long as you cut food into small pieces. Baby can also drink plain pasteurised milk at this time.
All babies are different, and this time frame is just a guide. There’s no point trying to force a child to eat anything. If a food gets knocked back one week, try it again next week. Babies can be offered a new food many times before deciding to try it.
Some handy tips
Try not to worry if your child is a fussy eater. A relaxed approach is
the best way to establish good habits and avoid later problems. As a
parent, you decide what healthy foods to offer your baby, and your baby decides how much. You can also expect a bit of mess as children learn to feed themselves.
When babies are 9-12 months old, you can put healthy leftovers in a
blender and reduce to a textured pulp. Spoon into ice cube trays or
small plastic containers and freeze for quick meals later in the week.
But try to avoid microwaving milk and food in plastic bottles or bowls,
unless they’re specifically marked as ‘microwave safe’. Microwaves make
‘hot spots’, which could burn your baby, and ‘cold spots’, where
bacteria might survive. If you stop and stir the food midway through,
then heat it further, you can overcome this issue.
Food and milk schedule after six months
Once your baby is eating well, you can start a meal schedule. Your schedule might look like this:
Early morning – breastfeed or bottle
Mid-morning – breakfast and breastfeed or bottle
Early afternoon – lunch and breastfeed or bottle
Early evening – dinner and breastfeed or bottle
Late evening – breastfeed or bottle (if needed).
This means 4-5 milk feeds a day. You can reduce this to three milk feeds as your baby starts to eat more solid food (6-9 months). Of course, your baby’s own milk intake might vary from this.
Foods to avoid
Salt, sugar or caffeine: babies’ systems can’t handle foods high in salt or sugar, or foods with caffeine (found in cola drinks and chocolate).
Fruit juice and soft drinks: these aren’t recommended. Juice is expensive and high in sugar, and it’s better for babies to get their nutrition straight from fruit. Soft drinks have lots of sugar and very few vitamins and minerals. If baby is thirsty, plain tap water is best – it’s fortified with fluoride, which helps build enamel on baby’s developing teeth.
Honey and unpasteurised dairy products: these might contain dangerous bacteria and are unsuitable for babies under 12 months.
Cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk: these aren’t suitable for children under 12 months. Babies need the nutrients found in breastmilk or formula.
Biscuits and sweets: if you can avoid the temptation to give your child biscuits and lollies (at least for the first two years), you might be rewarded with fewer mealtime battles.
Nuts: some babies have a tree nut or peanut allergy, which might cause a severe reaction if they eat nuts or nut products. Also, nuts can be a choking hazard for infants and small children.
Bad fat: this kind of fat comes in the form of saturated fat and trans fat.
Generally, food additives don’t cause harmful effects. But if you think
your child is sensitive to one or more food additives, speak to your
doctor. You can also read more about food additives in our article on food labels and nutrition panels.
Babies and food reactions
This short video is about food reactions and allergies in babies. It includes information about reflux and lactose intolerance. It also notes that most babies vomit or spit up some breastmilk or formula. In some cases, this is the sign of a more serious condition that needs medical attention.