You should begin weaning your baby onto solid foods at around six months, according to the NHS.
Obviously, this varies, but it’s the clearest milestone and one to work to if possible.
To begin with, it’s not so much how much food they eat – what’s important is to get your little one used to the idea of solids rather than milk. Most of their essential nutrients will still be taken from breast milk or formula.
Time is crucial – it needs to suit you both. Ensuring your baby is comfortable and content will help. Obviously, you need to start small, and gradually increase the amount you feed them, as well as the variety of foods.
Here are some tips to help you further.
When to start weaning your baby
Up until around six months, all babies need is breast milk. It helps protect your youngster from illnesses, supplies them with necessary substance, fills them up, and keeps them healthy.
The NHS says that waiting until your baby is ready is integral. When natural, your little one will be able to swallow easily and eventually feed themselves.
Some key indicators the time is right:
• your baby chews their fists
• wakes in the night even though they were sleeping through before
• wants extra milk
These are normal behaviours too and not exclusive to feeding. But they’re signs. Solid food also helps your baby sleep through the night, so it’s the beginning of being a little less tired for you.
This is something you need to be aware of when first starting your baby on solids.
With that in mind, it’s important to introduce these foods in stages, and not before the six-month mark:
• cows’ milk
• foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley or rye
• foods containing nuts or seeds (children under five shouldn’t have whole nuts because of the risk of choking)
• fish and shellfish
Allergies are uncommon. There’s also no evidence to suggest waiting to start them on certain foods will lead to an allergy (that’s more to do with what you eat during pregnancy, according to some studies).
But it’s something to think about to make sure your baby is healthy.
Once your baby is ready, just feed them small amounts of different foods and keep a look out for any adverse reactions. See the NHS website for further details on this.
How to start solid foods
First, it’s best not to worry. Some days your little one will be willing to get going, on others, they’ll wonder why they can’t just have their milk like before.
All babies are different and respond differently to new tastes and textures. Perseverance is key, as well as mixing up foods and trying new methods. Of course, stay with them at all times.
Ideas to help:
• let them enjoy touching and holding food
• allow your baby to feed themselves as soon as they’re interested
• keep trying with new dishes, as it may take several attempts
• but don’t force your baby to eat – wait until they’re ready
• if you’re using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth, and let them hold it if possible
• don’t rush – yes, mealtimes take a while
• start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food once a day
• cool hot food and always test it
• don’t add sugar or salt (including stock cubes) to your baby’s food or cooking water –here’s what to avoid early on.
To start off with, soft foods such as mashed potato and veg and cooked fruit is best. Parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples and pears are great starting points.
Baby rice, blended fruits, and soups are all good too.
“Keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula, but don’t give them whole cows’, goats’ or sheep’s milk as a drink until they are 12 months”, the NHS warns.
After soft mashes and purées, you can develop their foods and start them on new textures. It’s a long but worthwhile process.
As your baby gets more accustomed to solid foods, you can introduce finger food and nibbles. Slices of ripe banana and avocado, as well as pieces of fruit they can grab.
Always stay with them so they don’t choke.
Next on the menu
Soon, you can start feeding your youngster proper food, including soft meats like chicken and fish (no bones), as well as pastas, noodles, bread, lentils, rice, and boiled eggs.
They can also have full-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, fromage frais and custard. Always choose products with low and no added sugar. Whole cows’ milk can be used in cooking from six months.
Cups are a good addition from six months. Let them sip water with meals and always make sure they’ve got something to drink.
This helps with mealtimes and also helps them develop strong teeth.
From 8 to 9 months
Soon, in the run-up to a year, your baby will start needing three meals a day.
Your baby’s diet should consist of a variety of:
• fruit and vegetables
• bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods
• meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
• milk and dairy products
From 12 months
“Your baby will now be eating three meals a day – chopped if necessary – plus breast or whole cows’ milk, and healthier snacks such as fruit, vegetable sticks, toast and rice cakes,” says the NHS.
Now, you can start experimenting with new dishes and introduce a wider variety. Soft food is still integral, but you’ll see a natural development, and know yourself when your baby’s ready for the next food type. Obviously, it’ll be a long while before they’re tucking into steak frites.