Complementary feeding means milk PLUS solids
Milk, however, continues to be hugely important throughout the second half of their first year! Remember that for 6-12 months, the focus should be on complementary feeding, which means any benefit from food is on top of what your baby receives from breastmilk (or formula). There will be times where baby is ravenous for solids, and other days where they seem completely uninterested. Just remember that this is normal, and your milk continues to be their primary nutrition!
How often should I offer food to baby?
Parents of six month olds may be overwhelmed by the idea of attempting three meals in a day with baby. And rightly so! Particularly at 6-9 months, eating will be firstly an exploration for your baby and it’s likely that they will still be learning to actually ingest it (you can see progress with their digestion by examining their nappies!).
Start slow: try one ‘meal’ a day, which may in fact be a single serving of one food type at first. It’s important not to overwhelm your child with too much food choice at first, so keep things simple and small. You might find they do a lot of smushing and some mouthing, but not necessarily swallowing.
As they get to grips with solids and begin truly eating and ingesting foods, you can introduce more balanced meals, for example a ‘main course’ like meat and veg, and a ‘second course’ like natural yoghurt with stewed fruit.
Your goal will be to work up to three meals a day, with small healthy snacks between, by the end of your baby’s first year. Thankfully, you’ll also find babies become a bit faster in terms of downing their meals - it’s not unknown for parents to spend up to two hours at the high chair at first!
How much food should I offer baby?
Just as you do with milk feeding on demand, feed as much solid food to baby as much as they will eat! Babies have just as much knowledge of their own appetite than their parents (in fact, some would say they are more attuned than we are!) and will give you clear signs:
- Leaning in, reaching out, and continuing to move food to the mouth - still eating!
- Leaning away, turning head, pushing food away, and otherwise fussing - I’m done.
Don’t plead or persuade or otherwise harass baby to eat more, even when they’ve barely touched what’s in front of them. Their appetites will be big on some days and next to nonexistent on others - and that is ok. Let baby lead the way.
If you are continuing to breastfeed as you introduce solids, and want to maintain your milk supply for baby, it’s best to always offer the breast before meal times. Try nursing an hour before offering solid foods. This way baby will be sure to get all the lovely nutrients that breastmilk provides, and also allows you to keep milk demand high to continue to supply all the breastmilk they need. KellyMom provides brilliant, research-backed resources for breastfeeding mothers through ages and stages, I highly recommend it!
How do I create a balanced meal for baby?
Although the term ‘meal’ may be a bit laughable when you first start weaning (does a lick of a peach slice count as a meal?!), you’ll soon find baby scoffing solids at every opportunity. Try to offer foods throughout the day that will meet all their nutritional needs. As they begin eating more, you’ll have even more opportunity as they move from one to three meals daily, and you can even begin introducing snacks.
Here’s what to include in your meals:
Starchy foods: one portion of grains, bread, potato, or other starchy food at every meal, as infants need carbs to fuel them!
Veg and fruit: five portions a day, with a good mix of colours to vary the nutrients
Protein: one or two portions a day of eggs, meat, fish, tofu, etc
Fats: Aim for some healthy fats every day - this might be butter, full-fat natural yoghurt, full-fat cheese, avocado, olive oil, etc.
Some days will see your baby eating a well-balanced meal three times a day; other days you won’t get anything in them other than some buttered toast! If you’re concerned about nutrient intake, try keeping a log of foods over the course of the week (rather than just one day) and I promise you’ll feel much better 😃
As with all things baby, check with your health professional or nutritionist if you have any concerns.
Download the First Foods Nutrition Guide