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Congratulations, your baby is now six months old! This is a very important time, as your baby is quickly growing into an infant with a personality and is now able to finally engage in some playful activities. Six months of age is when solid foods are first introduced to babies, and it has a ritual significance in large parts of India as well.

Read more: How to introduce solid foods to your baby

Rituals apart, the first introduction of solid foods to your baby’s diet also has immense pediatric health value attached to it. What solid foods you introduce to your baby from this age onwards will inform their dietary choices for the rest of their lives, and it’ll also determine how picky your baby is as he or she grows up. These early nutritional choices are therefore of the utmost importance.

Your baby will show a few signs after completing six months of age, indicating that he or she is ready for the introduction of solid foods. These include the baby being able to support his or her own head, ability to swallow without choking and showing an interest in food by trying to grasp food and take it to his or her mouth. It’s very important to remember that this process of introducing solid foods to the baby (complementary feeding) and slowly shifting to a diet of only solids (weaning) is a long one, and requires ample time and patience on every parent’s part.

It’s equally important to remember that at the age of six months, breast milk is still the most important and the best food for the baby. The baby will require four to six long breastfeeding sessions every day, and the introduction of solid foods is only a complementary part of his or her diet at this stage. Your focus should be to provide nutrients that breast milk does not have at this stage.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best foods for a six-month-old baby.

  1. When should you start weaning the baby
  2. Feeding your 6 month old baby
  3. Do’s and don’ts for 6 month old baby
  4. Easy and nutritious baby food recipes
  5. When to call the doctor
  6. Why you should continue breastfeeding

Getting the age at which to start weaning the baby right is very important because this process influences your baby’s dietary patterns and choices for the near future as well as the rest of his or her life. A study published in Maternal and Child Health Journal in 2011 indicates that while introducing solid foods too early may lead to increased risks of chronic diseases, obesity, celiac disease, eczema, low iron stores (leading to anaemia) and diarrheal disease, late introduction of solids can increase feeding difficulties. 

It’s therefore recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that breastfeeding should be done exclusively for the first six months of a newborn’s life, followed by a gradual introduction of solid foods as complementary feeding. A baby is also considered to be ready for solid foods when he or she shows the following signs:

  • The baby is holding his or her own head up, and can sit up straight against the back of a chair or bed.
  • The baby is reaching out to grasp objects and occasionally trying to put them in his or her mouth.
  • The baby is able to swallow and his or her gag reflex has lessened or is under better control.

At the age of six months, a baby usually needs to be fed four to six times a day. But expect these feedings to be longer because your growing baby’s appetite is also increasing (which is a good sign by all accounts). Remember that while you’re slowly going to introduce solid foods to the baby, the majority of the nutrition will still come from breast milk. This is the food the baby relies on, so don’t discontinue it in the hopes of weaning your baby suddenly or overnight.

Since breast milk is not a good source of iron, make sure the first solid foods you introduce to the baby are fortified with iron. You should include as wide a variety of foods as you can to ensure both nutrition and taste. This includes the following foods:

  • Fortified rice
  • Egg yolks, cooked
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Liver
  • Lentils
  • Fish
  • Green peas
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Applesauce
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Peaches

You can mix a little breast milk or formula to make the puree of these foods thinner. Start by offering these foods to your baby twice a day, and once he or she takes to it, you can gradually increase the amount. Try and introduce vegetables before introducing fruits because many babies find the natural sweetness of fruits more appealing than vegetables, and this can create a dislike of veggies early on. Remember that these early months matter a lot and can have an impact on the rest of the baby’s life and food habits.

If your baby adapts to solid foods between six-eight months quickly, don’t expect the portion sizes to be too huge. Your baby will likely be eating between two tablespoons and two cups of food in a day depending on their size, appetite and growth rate.

What you feed your baby at six months of age is important, but so is how you introduce these foods.

Introduce solid foods little by little, but continue breastfeeding as the main source of nutrition. Try not to stop breastfeeding suddenly or reject your baby’s demands for breastmilk—remember that breastfeeding is also a way for your baby to connect with you. 

Try not to force solid foods on your baby. Keep an eye on your baby's poop and poop-time, to make sure that it's not becoming too uncomfortable. If your baby cries when he or she poops and if his or her poop looks like hard pellets, then your baby could be constipated. Remove the last thing you added to the baby's diet and continue adding new veggies and fruits each week.

This apart, there are a few other do’s and don’ts you must make a note of. Keep the following things in mind while feeding a six- to eight-month-old baby.

  • Never give honey to your baby as it can cause botulism, a rare but serious illness.
  • Do not give cow’s milk to the baby until he or she 12 months old. Babies under the age of one year can have difficulty digesting cow’s milk.
  • Do not feed peanuts, peanut butter or any peanut products to a baby this young as it can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Use a small spoon with soft edges while feeding your baby.
  • You can start giving water to your baby between feedings.
  • Offer new foods to the baby only when they’re hungry.
  • Give a gap of two-three days between introducing new foods to make sure identifying signs of allergies is easier for you.
  • Avoid foods with added salt, sugar and preservatives.
  • Prepare fresh food for the baby instead of storing it with other foods in the refrigerator, to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
  • Don’t put pureed or mashed baby food in a feeding bottle. Always use a spoon or hands (washed with soap and water, of course) to feed the baby. Only water and formula milk should be put in a feeding bottle.
  • Remember to clean your baby's mouth afterwards.

Preparing highly-nutritious food for your six-month-old is very easy. You might want to head to the store and check out fancy baby foods, but cooking for a baby this young is so easy and effortless that you need not take a chance with store-bought baby foods which also have added sugars and preservatives. 

The important things to remember before preparing these foods is to only make a small batch at first, and try one ingredient at a time to ensure that your baby likes the taste or isn’t allergic to it. It’s also best to not add sugar to the baby’s food at this stage of development. Also, do not add salt when it’s not needed. The following are some easy and iron-rich recipes you can try for your baby:

  1. Pea puree for 6 month old baby
  2. Banana puree for 6 month old baby
  3. Sweet potato puree for 6 month old baby
  4. Applesauce for 6 month old baby
  5. Dal for 6 month old baby
  6. Egg puree for 6 month old baby
  7. Vegetable puree for 6 month old baby
  8. Khichdi for 6 month old baby
  9. Kheer or rice pudding for 6 month old baby

Pea puree for 6 month old baby

Green peas are rich in carbohydrates. They also contain proteins, vitamins like vitamin C, and minerals like potassium, phosphorus and calcium. The bright green colour, smooth texture and slightly sweet taste of the puree could also appeal to babies. Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients:

  • Half a cup peas, shelled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Breast milk/formula milk, as required

Method:

Boil half a cup of peas in water with the salt. Once the peas are soft to the touch, drain them. Mash the peas or grind them until smooth in a grinder. Add some breast milk or formula milk if you feel the mash is too thick. You can use the same recipe for spinach and green leafy vegetables.

Banana puree for 6 month old baby

Ripe bananas are tasty and super-easy to mash for babies. Besides being rich in carbs (they're a storehouse of energy, at 97 kilocalories in 100 grams), bananas contain good amounts of potassium and vitamin C. Here's what you'll need to do:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 banana, ripe
  • Breast milk/formula milk, as required

Method:

Take a ripe banana and mash it up with a fork or spoon. You can also grind the banana in a mixer or stick blender. Add breast milk or formula milk to turn the mash into a thinner, smoother paste, if required.

Sweet potato puree for 6 month old baby

Sweet potatoes come in colours ranging from bright orange to deep purple. These colours are a sign that they contain many nutrients, including beta-carotene and antioxidants. Here's what you will need to do:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Breast milk/formula milk, as required

Method:

Wash and clean a sweet potato thoroughly. Roughly chop into small pieces and place in a pan with two cups of water. Add the salt and boil until the sweet potato is soft. Drain, cool and peel the sweet potatoes, then mash them with a fork or in a blender. Add two teaspoons of breast milk or formula milk if the paste is too thick. The same recipe can be used to make a puree with carrots, pumpkins, and other vegetables.

Applesauce for 6 month old baby

Rich in vitamins and fibre, apples can be cooked down to make them soft enough for your baby:

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 cup drinking water

Method:

Take a fresh apple. Remove the core and peel of the apple, roughly chop it, and place it in a pan with half a cup of water. Boil the apples until the water has evaporated and the apples are soft. Let the mix cool, then mash it using a fork or a blender.

Dal for 6 month old baby

Rich in proteins, moong dal (green grams) can be a great way to introduce your baby's palette to healthy foods. Here's what you need to do:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup moong dal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water

Method:

Wash the moong dal thoroughly, then place it in a cooker with half a teaspoon of salt and two cups of water. Cook for two whistles, cool the dal and mash it before giving it to your baby.

Egg puree for 6 month old baby

Egg yolks contain a mineral called choline that is essential for the development of your baby's brain. Make sure you cook the egg through and through before giving it to your baby, to avoid infections. Eggs are also a common allergen, so monitor your baby's health for a few days after giving him or her an egg for the first time. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • Breast milk/formula milk, as required

Method:

Boil two eggs, let them cool and then deshell them. Cut the boiled eggs and remove the yolks in a separate bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork or spoon and add formula milk or breast milk if the puree is thick.

Vegetable puree for 6 month old baby

Different vegetables can add flavour and variety to your baby's diet. Here's what you need to do:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 cups water

Method:

Boil half a cup of peas, carrots and potatoes in water with salt. Cook until all the vegetables are soft or mushy and mash them. Add a teaspoon or two of water, breast milk or formula milk if the puree is too thick.

Khichdi for 6 month old baby

Easy to digest, yummy and soft on the gum, khichdi can be a great source of energy and proteins for your baby. Here's what you need to do:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons moong dal
  • 4 tablespoons rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water

Method:

Wash the moong dal and rice thoroughly and place in a cooker with half a teaspoon of salt and two cups of water. You can add vegetables like carrots, potatoes or sweet potatoes if your baby has taken to them already. Cook for two whistles. Let the mix cool, then mash it until smooth.

Remember that your baby may not be able to finish what you make for him or her. Don't force the food on your baby. Instead, let your baby learn to enjoy the healthy yet delicious things that come out of your home kitchen.

Kheer or rice pudding for 6 month old baby

No, we're not suggesting that you give your baby added sugar or cows' milk. Neither is good for your baby till at least one year of age. Here's how you can make a naturally sweetened, non-milk rice pudding for your baby:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 apple
  • 2 cups water

Method:

Wash the rice thoroughly and place it in a pan. Wash, core, peel and chop an apple and add it to the pan. Add water and boil until both the rice and apples are well cooked. Let the kheer cool, then mash it.

You have to be extremely careful with a baby this young, especially if you’re introducing solid foods to the baby or if the baby tends to grasp random objects and put them in his or her mouth. The introduction of certain solid foods can cause allergic reactions, and accidentally ingesting other things can lead to digestive problems as well.

If your baby is showing any of the following symptoms, you should contact your paediatrician and take the baby for a check-up without delay. 

  • If the baby has rashes, swollen eyes, swollen tongue, puffiness around the lips.
  • The baby has diarrhoea or very watery stool.
  • The baby has constipation and has trouble pooping.
  • If the baby spits up more than usual or vomits soon after feeding.
  • Babies usually cry inconsolably when in pain, so check for stomach pain symptoms.
  • The baby has difficulty breathing or is making wheezing noises while breathing.
  • The baby has a temperature and the above-mentioned symptoms.

Many women assume that breastfeeding can be stopped after the first six months of the baby’s life are completed. While you can start introducing solid foods to the baby after six months, you definitely should not stop breastfeeding. This is primarily because breast milk has vital nutrients and antibodies that your baby’s immune system relies on for protection until all the essential vaccinations are completed.

Read more: Benefits of breastfeeding

You should also know that your baby will not quit craving breast milk as soon as you introduce solid foods. Even if you’re a working woman or are unable to breastfeed due to a disease or illness, bottle-feeding the baby formula milk is an option of course. Your baby will take at least six more months to adapt to solid foods—some babies tend to take even longer than that—and the completion of immunizations is going to take more time than even that.

So, it’s best to continue breastfeeding your baby after six months as well.

Read more: How and when to stop breastfeeding your baby

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References

  1. Kuo, Alice A. et al. Introduction of Solid Food to Young Infants. Matern Child Health J. 2011 Nov; 15(8): 1185–1194. PMID: 20842523
  2. Hollis, JL. et al. Age at introduction of solid foods and feeding difficulties in childhood: findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey. Br J Nutr. 2016 Aug; 116(4): 743–750. PMID: 27356464
  3. Gupta, Shuchita. et al. Complementary feeding at 4 versus 6 months of age for preterm infants born at less than 34 weeks of gestation: a randomised, open-label, multicentre trial. Lancet Glob Health. 2017 May; 5(5): e501–e511. PMID: 28395845
  4. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. Feeding Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
  5. Stanford Children's Health: Lucile Packard Children's Hospital [Internet], Stanford. USA; Feeding Guide for the First Year
  6. Start4Life. National Health Service [Internet]. Hertfordshire. UK; What to feed your baby
  7. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. USA; Feeding patterns and diet - children 6 months to 2 years
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