Your baby’s first solid foods
- Introducing a baby to solid foods should start when they are around six months old. The latest research from the World Health Organisation shows that before this time, a baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to cope with solid foods. Feeding your baby solids before six months of age could lead to diarrhoea and vomiting
- How much a baby eats is less important to begin with than getting them used to the idea of eating – they will still be getting most of their nutrients from breast milk or first infant formula
- Start by offering food at a suitable time and gradually increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eat small portions of the same food as the rest of the family
When to start weaning your baby
- Waiting until a baby is ready for solid food means they will quickly be able to feed themselves and will be able to swallow more easily
- A baby may be ready for solids foods if they:
- Chew their fists
- Wake in the night even though they were sleeping through before
- Want extra milk feeds
Note: These are also normal behaviours for babies and not necessarily a sign that they are hungry or ready to start solid food. Starting solid food won’t make a baby any more likely to sleep through the night. Extra milk feeds are usually enough until they’re ready for solids.
Babies and food allergies
Variety in a baby’s diet is really important but there’s a chance they may be allergic to certain foods. It’s important to introduce these foods one at a time and not before six months:
- 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
There’s no evidence to support that waiting until they are older will stop them developing a food allergy, just give them these foods in very small amounts and watch carefully for any symptoms of an allergic reaction. If your baby already has a known allergy – such as a diagnosed food allergy or eczema, or a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever – be particularly careful when introducing peanuts and peanut products.
Talk to a GP or health visitor first. Remember, peanuts, like all nuts, should be crushed or ground.
How to start solid foods
Do not worry about how much your baby eats at first as there will be some days when they eat more and others when they eat less, and they may reject some foods completely.
Don’t be put off by this as all babies are different and some learn to accept new foods and textures more quickly than others. Get baby off to a good start with solid foods:
- Let them enjoy touching and holding the food
- Allow them to feed themselves, using their fingers, as soon as they show an interest
- It may take time to accept a new food – keep trying, as it may take several attempts
- Don’t force baby to eat – wait until the next feed if they’re not interested this time
- If using a spoon, wait for baby to open their mouth before offering the food – baby may like to hold a spoon too
- Allow baby to go at their own speed and start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day
- Cool hot food and test it before giving it
- Don’t add sugar, honey, or salt (including stock cubes) to your baby’s food or cooking water
- Always stay with baby when they are eating in case, they start to choke.
Avoid things like rusks, baby biscuits and biscotti as they contain lots of sugar. Also, dried fruit like raisins and apricots, and baked or pressed fruit snacks contain a lot of sugar. While they can be given as part of a meal, avoid giving them as snacks in-between. Salty foods like crisps and crackers should also be avoided.
Here are some things that can help:
- Praise your baby when they eat well and don’t get frustrated or angry if they don’t eat
- Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t like certain foods – simply leave it for now and try them again in a week or so – babies like familiar foods and sometimes a food will need to be offered more than ten times before a baby will try it
- Set a good example and let them see you eating and enjoying a variety of foods
- Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat much one day. Appetites vary and what they eat over the course of a week is more important.
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