6 Month Old Feeding
The benefits of breast milk are widely known. We are constantly advised of the advantages of breast milk for overall infant development and told to keep trying to breastfeed. But when does breast milk stop being enough for your baby? And why does 6 month old feeding matter?
At 6 months, babies need more nutrition & stimulation
According to the WHO, Department of Health (UK), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, USA) and Health Canada, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for infants from birth till 6 months [1,2,3,4]. While the exact timing differs in each case, at 6 months infants will begin to require more nutrients than those amounts available solely through breast milk. In addition to meeting extra nutrient requirements, an introduction to solid foods also gives your child experiences to develop both physically and mentally [1,5].
Babies need iron from food at 6 months
A key nutrient for 6 month old feeding is iron. While an infant’s own stores of iron and the iron from breast milk are sufficient for early infants, additional sources are needed for optimal growth by 6 months . Iron is crucial to overall neural development (ie. cognitive ability, memory, behavior and motor skills) as well as to physical growth. Introduction of iron-rich foods either from meats, legumes, or iron-fortified grains is recommended to meet these needs [3,4,6,7]. Offering foods rich in iron is not just limited to the 6-month range but something that should remain ongoing throughout childhood at least twice a day . While iron may among the most important nutrients to be conscientious of during early weaning, parents should be mindful to offer nutrient-dense or nutrient-rich foods as well. This usually includes meats/alternatives and vegetables, especially as what the child eats diversifies.
Eating solids stimulates mental & physical development
Babies develop motor skills/coordination as well as healthier eating habits through the transition practices from breast milk to solids, specifically via baby-led weaning [2,4]. Of course this transition should not be forced but rather begun only when your child shows signs that he/she is ready:
- Ability to sit up properly in chairs
- Good control over head motions
- Curiosity towards food (i.e: reaches for solids and tries to put them in mouth)
- Ability to keep food from a spoon in his/her mouth
- If they are larger than 12 lbs (5.4 kg) 
But there’s no need to feed a large amount of food to a 6 month old. Throughout this process, breastfeeding and/or formula should remain the primary source of energy and nutrients for infants . 6 months is also a good time to introduce a variety of food flavors, textures, and forms to your baby, according to research .
Solid foods helps gut and immune system development
Trying new foods stimulates gut maturity and increases the diversity of gut bacteria. While accommodating new nutrients, a baby’s gut will learn how to digest more and more types of food.
6 month old feeding also introduces the immune system to a more realistic world environment. For example, research finds that introducing allergens can reduce the chance of food allergies . This especially applies with eggs and peanuts. Since food allergies are an immune response, exposing allergens through food actually helps your baby’s immune system become smarter and more efficient.
Nuttri can help planning for 6 month old feeding
- Discover sources of iron and the best food pairings to increase absorption.
- View and organize the foods that are appropriate for babies at 6 months.
- Use a meal planner to introduce a variety of different foods, including ones that baby doesn’t like.
- Cameron SL, Heath A-LM, Taylor RW. How Feasible Is Baby-Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence. Nutrients. 2012;4(11):1575-1609. doi:10.3390/nu4111575.
- Brown A, Lee M. An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods. Matern Child Nutr. 2013;9(2):233-243. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00360.x.
- Grimes CA, Szymlek-Gay EA, Campbell KJ, Nicklas TA. Food Sources of Total Energy and Nutrients among U.S. Infants and Toddlers: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2012. Nutrients. 2015;7(8):6797-6836. doi:10.3390/nu7085310.
- Ierodiakonou D, Garcia-Larsen V, Logan A, Groome A, Cunha S, Chivinge J, Robinson Z, Geoghegan N, Jarrold K, Reeves T, Tagiyeva-Milne N, Nurmatov U, Trivella M, Leonardi-Bee J, Boyle R. Timing of Allergenic Food Introduction to the Infant Diet and Risk of Allergic or Autoimmune Disease. JAMA. 2016;316(11):1181-1192. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12623