Breastfeeding and introducing complementary foods
Your baby needs to start eating foods other than breastmilk or formula at around 6 months of age. This is because your baby needs extra nutrition as well as breastmilk. However, you should aim to continue breastfeeding until 12 months and beyond, for as long as you and your baby want, as this has benefits for both you and your baby. This fact sheet has tips to help with starting your baby on complementary foods.
Why start complementary foods at around 6 months?
- Complementary foods or first foods are foods and drinks other than breastmilk.
- Giving your baby complementary foods before the age of around 6 months causes risk of choking if your baby’s mouth and swallow are not ready. Your baby may also miss out on important nutrients from breastmilk.
- Waiting longer to give your baby complementary foods may mean your baby does not get enough nutrients and energy for growing. This may also mean your baby is slower to develop chewing skills and accept new tastes.
Signs your baby is ready for complementary foods
At around 6 months, you may notice some signs that your baby is ready to start having foods other than breastmilk or formula. He or she may:
- start to bite instead of suck when feeding
- hold their head up and start to sit without help
- be hungry more often
- not push food out of their mouth with their tongue when food is offered
- have an interest in food and be willing to try new textures and flavours.
Starting complementary food
All babies start eating first foods in a different order and at different times. The way your baby begins complementary foods may not be the same as other babies.
- Babies are born with a store of iron in their body. This only lasts to around 6 months. It is important that the first foods you give to your baby are rich in iron. Cereals with added iron (e.g. rice cereal), cooked and pureed meat, poultry, fish, tofu and legumes are foods rich in iron.
- Add in fruit, vegetables and dairy foods (e.g. yoghurt, cheese and custard).
- Breastmilk is still the most important part of a baby’s diet until 12 months of age. Continue to breastfeed or formula feed your baby up to 12 months of age or beyond.
Resources for parents, families and carers
- Booklet: Child health information, Queensland Government (given to parents of every baby born in Queensland with the Personal Health Record)
- Growing Strong—Starting solids, Queensland Government
- Breastfeeding your baby in Australia, Queensland Government —including booklet, poster and fact sheets for Sudanese, Burundian and Congolese communities
- Healthdirect Australia—Introducing solid food, Australian Government
- Raising Children Network—Introducing solids, Australian Government
- Brochure: Giving your baby the best start, Australian Government
- Brochure: Get Up and Grow, Australian Government
- Starting family foods, New South Wales Government
- Brochure: Starting solids, New South Wales Health
- Baby's first foods, New South Wales Government
- Eating tips for children, Victoria Government
- Booklet: Guide to foods—baby’s first year, Victoria Government
- Fact sheet: Foods in the first year of life, Victoria Government
- Healthy eating at different ages and stages, South Australia Government
- Foods for babies (solids), South Australia Health
- Booklet: First foods, South Australia Government
- Drinks for children, South Australia Government
- Booklet: Baby's first food, Western Australia Government
- Fact sheet: Baby's first food, Western Australia Government
- Booklet: Weaning… Introduction of solid foods, Australian Capital Territory Government
- Booklet: Start them right—a parent's guide to eating for under 5s, Tasmanian Government
- Drinks for babies and toddlers
- Introducing complementary foods: feeding from around 6 months
- Introducing complementary foods: feeding from 12 months
This fact sheet is consistent with the National breastfeeding strategy 2010–2015.
Information is drawn from:
- Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
- National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
- Preventative Health 2010, Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Health.
- Preventative Health 2008, Growing Strong: Feeding you and your baby, Queensland Health.
- Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines Program 2010, Breastfeeding initiation.
This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.
This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.