It’s a special time when your baby starts eating solid foods, but how do you know if you’re doing the right things? Here are some questions and answers that may help.
When should I start feeding my baby solid foods?
Not all babies develop at the same pace, but most should be ready to start trying solid foods at around six months. Until then, breast milk or infant formula milk will provide all the calories and nourishment your baby needs.
What if my baby seems to be getting very hungry before six months?
A young baby’s digestive system simply isn’t ready for solid foods until around six months old. Give your baby extra milk feeds and ask your health visitor for more advice.
How will I know they are ready for solids?
By around six months babies are often able to stay sitting up, want to chew and put toys and other objects in their mouth and can reach out and grab for things. They should be able to coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, look at food and grab it, and put it in their mouth. They should also be able to swallow – babies who aren’t ready for solids will often push the food out of their mouth and get more around their face than anywhere else!
What should I feed my baby?
Use your Healthy Start vouchers to buy fruit and veg, which are good for babies starting on solids. Try mashed, cooked vegetables (such as parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato or carrot); mashed banana, avocado or cooked apple or pear; and any baby fist-sized pieces of soft fruit or soft, cooked veg. You can also try baby rice mixed with their usual milk – either breast milk or infant formula milk. You can also add whole milk to their food, but never give it as a drink until your baby is 12 months old.
How will I know when my baby has had enough?
Most babies know when they are full up. They may turn their heads away, spit their food out or keep their mouths shut when they’ve had enough to eat. Don’t worry if your baby hasn’t eaten much in one meal or day – what they eat over the course of a week is more important.
Mash it up!
Vegetable mash is great – just make sure there aren’t any big lumps in it. Use whole cows milk, infant formula milk or breast milk to mix in with the mash. You can freeze leftover mash in small tubs so that you always have some on hand to reheat. Make sure that it’s hot all the way through and let it cool to the right temperature for your baby. Remember: don’t add any salt, as a baby’s developing kidneys cannot cope with too much salt.
Mix things up!
As babies move on to solids and begin to eat all different types of food, it’s important to give them a good variety of foods to give their growing bodies the nutrients they need.
Your child needs to eat a variety of foods from the four food groups:
- fruit and vegetables
- bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
- meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- milk and dairy foods.
But it’s important to remember that children under the age of five need to get enough energy and should have a diet that is lower in fibre than an adult diet. So, children under two need whole milk and full-fat cheese and yoghurt. If they’re over two, they can have lower-fat dairy products and semi-skimmed milk if they are eating well, but skimmed and 1% fat milk are not suitable until your child is five years old.
Babies do not need sweet foods like chocolate, biscuits, cakes, pastries and sweets. Give your baby healthier snacks like yoghurt (unsweetened), fruit or unsalted rice cakes. Most young children like sweet treats but (like adults) they shouldn’t have them all the time. The end of a meal is a good time to satisfy a sweet tooth. Fruit and yoghurt are good, healthy options!
Got a fussy eater in the family?
- Children will often refuse new foods up to 15 times before deciding they like them, so don’t be put off – just keep trying!
- We all know kids copy mum and dad, so make sure that they see you enjoying fruit and veg and they’ll want to like it too!
- Fruit juice contains natural sugar, so if your kids drink it, try to give it to them watered down and alongside a meal. Milk is also a great drink, and you can heat it up a little to make it warm in winter time.
Remember: it’s important to follow guidance on handling food safely.
For more information:
NHS Choices: Introducing solid foods (England)
Birth to five (Northern Ireland)