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Complementary foods and baby-led weaning

Complementary foods and baby-led weaning


When does complementary feeding begin?

Complementary feeding begins at the stage of your child’s development when breastmilk alone is no longer sufficient to meet all of their nutritional requirements. The usual age range for the complementary feeding stage is between 6-24 months.

When do I introduce solid foods to my baby?

It is important that you do not begin introducing solid foods until you are confident your child is ready. This can be determined by developmental ability and behavioural changes.

Developmental ability:

By 3 months:
  • Sucking reflex – becomes voluntary instead of reflexive
  • Rooting reflex (early breastfeeding cue) begins to diminish
  • Growth of skull and jaw, and absorption of buccal fat pads help to increase oral cavity size in preparation for food/swallowing.
  • Tongue movement becomes more defined and voluntary
By 6 months:
  • Be able to sit up and independently control own head and neck
  • Development of fine-motor coordination and tongue coordination – bringing food towards the back of their mouth to swallow, instead of pushing it out with their tongue.

How can you practice responsive feeding?

  • Start at 6 months with small amounts of soft foods, increasing slowly as your child gets older

  • Gradually increase food consistency and variety

  • Gradually increase the number of times you offer complementary food

  • Feed patiently and slowly, responding to hunger cues

  • Minimise distractions during meals

What are the age recommendations for starting solids?

The World Health Organisation recommends to start introducing solids in addition to breastmilk initially 2-3 times a day (6-8months) increasing to 3-4 times a day (9-11months) and 4+ with nutritious snacks also offered as needed (12-24months).

What is baby-led weaning?

This guide supports the “Baby-led weaning” approach. Baby-led weaning allows the child to decide when they are ready to start experimenting with complementary foods. Mothers who adopt this approach have reported decreased anxiety about weaning and feeding their babies, who also show greater participation in family mealtimes and activities.

Written by Keryn Thompson, RM and IBCLC (L-301766)


Bacchus, S., Taylor, R., Fleming, E., Williams, S., Wheeler, B., Taylor, B. and Heath, A., 2020. Acceptability to parents of a baby-led approach to introducing solids. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 79(OCE2).

Brodribb, W. and Miller, Y., 2013. Introducing Solids and Water to Australian Infants. Journal of Human Lactation, 29(2), pp.214-221.

Brown, A. and Rowan, H., 2015. Maternal and infant factors associated with reasons for introducing solid foods. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 12(3), pp.500-515.

Choudhury, S., Headey, D. and Masters, W., 2018. First Foods: Diet Quality Among Infants Aged 6–23 Months in 42 Countries. SSRN Electronic Journal,

Cichero, J., 2016. Introducing solid foods using baby-led weaning vs. spoon-feeding: A focus on oral development, nutrient intake and quality of research to bring balance to the debate. Nutrition Bulletin, 41(1), pp.72-77.

Harrison, M., Brodribb, W. and Hepworth, J., 2016. A qualitative systematic review of maternal infant feeding practices in transitioning from milk feeds to family foods. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 13(2), p.e12360.

Morin, K., 2004. Solids—When and Why. MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 29(4), p.259.

New England Journal of Medicine, 2016. Introducing Allergenic Foods in Infants. 375(8), p.e16.

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