Solids: the first steps
At around six months, it’s time for your baby to be gradually introduced to solid foods. Introducing a variety of foods with different flavours and textures will ensure your baby’s diet is nutritionally balanced.
Here are some basic guidelines on how to get your baby weaned on to solid foods and ready to start eating with the rest of the family.
Health experts agree that around six months is the best age for introducing solids (weaning). Before this, your baby’s digestive system is still developing. Starting solids too early can increase the risk of infections and allergies. See below for advice on what foods to avoid if you do introduce your baby to solids before six months.
If your baby seems hungrier at any time before six months, give them extra milk feeds. Babies born prematurely may be ready for solids at different times. Ask your health visitor for advice on what’s best for your baby.
Start by giving your baby a few teaspoons of mashed vegetables, fruit or cereal mixed with either breast or infant formula milk after a milk feed, or in the middle of a milk feed if this works better. If your baby is bottle fed, don’t add foods, such as cereal or rusk, to their formula milk.
Some babies take time to learn to eat new foods. They are experiencing different tastes and textures and learning that food doesn’t come in a continuous flow. This may take time and you should be prepared for some mess.
The following tips can help with weaning:
- Choose a time of day when you and your baby are relaxed.
- Go at your baby’s pace. Don’t be in a rush as feeding can take a lot of time, particularly at first. Your baby has to learn to move solid food from the front of their tongue to the back in order to swallow it. The food tastes and feels very different from milk so it’s bound to take some time to get used to it.
- At first, the texture of the food should be smooth so your baby doesn’t gag. Later, you can introduce different textures.
- Your baby should be sitting up straight and facing forward. This will make it easier for them to explore foods and they will be less likely to choke. A high chair is best for feeding.
- Everything you use for feeding your baby should be very clean (see Safety and hygiene).
- It’s better to spoon out the amount you think your baby will eat and heat this, rather than heating a large amount that is then wasted. You can always heat up more if it’s needed. Some babies are happy to eat food that hasn’t been heated.
- If the food is hot, allow it to cool, stir it and test the temperature before giving it to your baby.
- Cover the floor with newspaper or a protective mat and use a bib to catch food spills. Weaning can be a messy business.
- Have meals at the same time every day. That way your baby will know what to expect and will be more likely to eat their meals.
- Never leave your baby alone when they’re eating as they could choke.
- Let your baby touch the food if they want to. It will help them learn about what they’re eating.
Feeding your baby is a great opportunity to communicate, so talk to them during the meal. This will help them relax while they’re eating. You’ll usually be sitting facing them, so they can really concentrate on what you’re saying. Initially, your sentences can be very short (‘More?’). As your child gets older, you can offer more choices and use longer sentences (‘Do you want milk or juice?’).
How will I know when my baby’s had enough?
Most babies know when they’ve had enough to eat so you don’t need to persuade them to take more food than they want. It doesn’t really matter how much they eat. The important thing is to get them to try lots of different foods.
Give your baby plenty of attention, chat and enjoy meals together and don’t pressure them when they refuse food. Babies are telling you they’ve had enough when they:
- turn their head away,
- keep their mouth shut,
- push the bowl or plate away or on to the floor,
- scream or shout,
- keep spitting food out, or
- hold food in their mouth and refuse to swallow it.
Introducing solids before six months
If you do give your baby solids before six months, there are some foods that you should avoid until they’re six months old. This is because these foods can sometimes trigger the development of a food allergy. These include:
- foods made with wheat and other foods containing gluten (for example, bread, rusks and some breakfast cereals),
- seeds, and
- soft and unpasteurised cheeses.
When you give these foods to your baby for the first time, start with one at a time so that you can spot any allergic reaction. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction, seek urgent medical attention. See food allergies for the symptoms of an allergic reaction and for further information.
Published Date 2011-03-10
Last Review Date 2009-07-28