Infant Nutrition: 6+ months
Is your child ready to move on from a milk or formula only diet? An infant may be ready for solids from four months of age1 but it is important not to start solids before they are ready as this may cause choking if they cannot swallow appropriately or intestinal discomfort. Before we talk about what foods are suitable for infants, let’s look at the signs of being ready for solids.
- Reaching for or watching/ showing interest in your food
- Sitting up with good head control
The World Health Organisation recommends solids from six months of age1. From this age infants have a higher energy need, 2500 kj/day for girls and 2700kj/day for boys1. Or in addition to breastmilk an extra 850kj/day for six to eight month olds and 1250kj/day for nine to eleven month olds1.
Infants at this time also have a big increase in the need for protein and carbohydrates, which breastmilk alone cannot provide however breastfeeding should still continue3 in addition to solid foods. Carbohydrate needs increase by 35g/day to 95g/day and protein needs increase to 14g/day from 10g/day1.
These nutrient increases are due to rapid physical and mental growth. Of course every child is different and may require more or less depending if they are an active infant, any illnesses and body size.
Iron and vitamin D are also important nutrients for infants1. The infants’ iron stores are depleted by six months of age and breastmilk is very lacking in vitamin D. Iron-rich foods are best for first foods and vitamin D supplements are often required. Whilst getting some daily sun is the best way to get vitamin D, it’s not the best idea to be dragging your baby out in the hot sun where they are at risk of burning or dehydration.
Good iron-rich first foods include fortified cereals and pureed meats2. First foods should be pureed then progressing on to soft lumps and only two to three table spoons twice a day to start.
Cow’s milk as a drink and fruit juices are not recommended before 12 months of age. Cow’s milk can upset the immature gastrointestinal tract1 and juices may cause diarrhea. Both may leave the infant feeling full, leaving no room for other nutrient rich foods.
It is also an outdated belief that allergen foods, such as nuts and eggs, should be avoided. Introducing these foods at six months of age is now thought to reduce the risk of developing allergies2. But a bit of common sense goes a long way, if the parents have food allergies or you suspect your infant may have an allergy consult a specialist first.
Introduce foods one at a time and stick with the same food for at least two days1,3. This helps identify any allergies as well as helping to avoid a fear of that food. More on fussy eaters to come in another story.
This table from La Trobe University adapted from the National Health and Medical Research Council is one of the easier to follow examples of suitable foods for infants you’ll come across.
Do you have questions about introducing food to your infant?
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- Radcliffe, Dr. J. (2016) DTN4LPN, Lecture 4, Topic 4, Infant Nutrition [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Department of Rehabilitation, Sport and Nutrition, La Trobe University, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au
- NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) (2013). Infant Feeding Guidelines: Summary. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
- Australian Breastfeeding Association. (2016). Confused about introducing solids?. Retrieved from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/solids.html