Health Family Work

How should I feed young children (older than 6 months)?

In the first six months, when a baby is most at risk, exclusive breastfeeding helps to protect against diarrhoea and other common infections and gets the baby off to a good start in life.

At 6 months of age, the child needs other foods and drinks in addition to breastmilk. These provide energy, protein, vitamins and other nutrients needed to support growth and development.

A variety of foods – vegetables and fruits, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products – help to meet the child's nutrition needs. Breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond provides an important source of nutrients that protect against disease.

If soft, semi-solid or solid foods are introduced too late, the child may not be getting the necessary nutrients. This can slow down growth and development. When introducing solid foods, it is important to start with soft, mushy foods and move gradually to more solid foods. The greater the variety of healthy foods, the more balanced and nutritious the child's diet.

The consistency and variety of foods should be adapted to a child's requirements and eating abilities. At 6 months of age infants can eat pureed or mashed foods, thick soups and porridges. By 8 months most infants can also eat 'finger foods' (snacks that children can eat by themselves). By 12 months, most children can eat the same types of foods as the rest of the family.

Parents or other caregivers should avoid giving foods that may cause choking, such as nuts, grapes and raw carrots and other foods that have a shape and/or consistency that may cause them to become lodged in the child's throat.