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Introducing solid foods

Around 6 months old your baby will be ready for the start of the next phase of their nutritional development. The current NHS guidelines state that solid food should be introduced at 6 months. This is because at this age your baby’s gut has matured and developmentally, they are ready.

Your baby should be introduced to a varied diet, alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula

If your child is having prescribed milk or has intolerances/allergies it is important to seek health visitor advice before commencing introducing solid foods.

Signs of being ready for solid food

There are 3 signs that your baby may be ready to start solid foods:

  1. Your baby has good hand eye coordination – your baby can see, reach and put food to their mouth.
  2. They can stay in the sitting position and can hold their head steady.
  3. Your baby is able to swallow without pushing food back out of their mouth.
How to start to introduce food

Find a time that is suitable for you both. Start with a small amount of food once a day to begin with. It’s not a rush so be led by your baby. You can start with a single vegetable or fruit. Gradually your baby will move to three meals a day and by 10-12 months they should be having breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as their milk feeds. It’s not necessary for them to have snacks until they are 12 months old.

First foods

Baby’s first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables. You can use a mixture of feeding your baby from a spoon and giving them finger foods to hold and chew. When preparing finger foods a good way to determine the right size is to have a piece big enough to fit into your baby’s fist. It is always best to prepare finger foods length ways into baton sized pieces and cut round foods into quarters (for example, grapes and tomatoes).

Next foods

Once your child has got used to eating they can have soft cooked meats, mashed fish, pasta, toast, noodles, well-cooked eggs, full fat dairy products (such as yogurts and cheese). Food can be full of flavour and textures and the more variety your child has the less likely they are to become fussy.

    What to avoid
    • Whole nuts are not recommended for under 5s due to the risk of choking
    • Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1. This is because it contains a bacteria they can be harmful.
    • Low fat foods should not be given as your child needs the vitamins and calories from fat for their growth and development
    • All raw shellfish should be not be given to children as there is a high risk of food poisoning. Some fish such as marlin, shark and swordfish have high mercury levels and can cause damage to children’s nervous system
    • All under-cooked and raw eggs should not be given due to the risk of salmonella poisoning
    • Salt, sugar and saturated fats should be avoided. Sugar can cause tooth decay in young children so it is best to limit sweet treats. Salt can be harmful for the kidneys. Be careful of stocks and gravies as these can be salty. If you share your meal with your child, make sure you have not added salt or sugar

    Q. How much food should my baby have?
    To begin with it’s not important how much solid food your baby is eating. The most important thing is that they start getting used to food. Your baby should be introduced to a varied diet alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula.

    Food is fun, until they are one.

    Your baby will be able to self-regulate their appetite and will eat until they are full. All babies are different and on different days may eat more or less. It is okay for a baby or toddler not to finish their meal. As long your baby is content and putting on weight there is no need to be concerned. When your baby is full they may push food away or turn their head.

    Q. Now I have introduced solid food, how much milk will my baby need?
    Only reduce your child’s milk intake once they are having an established and varied diet. This should be a gradual reduction and milk intake will decrease once food intake increases.

    Q. When can my baby have cow’s milk?
    Babies can have full fat cow’s milk as a drink from 1 year onward. You can add full fat cow’s milk to cooking and cereal from 6 months old. You can introduce semi-skimmed milk from 2 years old onward if your child is having a good range of foods.

    Q. Does my baby need follow on milk?
    Your baby only needs stage 1/first formula and at 1 year your baby can go on to cow’s milk as a drink.

    Q. I am worried my baby will choke!
    It is very rare for babies to choke but it is very common for babies to gag when they first start to have solid food in their mouth. This is a normal reaction. Babies are very good at gagging and pushing something out of their mouth by themselves. When babies gag they will push the food forwards and spit it out.

    Please note that you should not put your finger into a babies mouth if you cannot easily see and remove a piece of food. Putting your finger in their mouth could risk pushing the food further back.

    Q. What is baby-led weaning?
    Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing solid food which allows the baby to take the lead themselves. Joining mealtimes with family and joining in when ready. Babies explore food and pick it up when their hands. Food is offered in pieces, in a size and shape that baby can handle rather than puree and mashed foods. Babies are also not fed from a spoon and it is up to babies how much they eat.

    Q. My baby is premature, will this effect when they can start solid food?
    Look for the same signs as a term baby. Introducing solid foods usually starts around 6 months. Most babies who are only a few weeks premature may start around the same time, but those who are significantly premature may not be ready so please speak to your Health Visitor or GP before you introduce food.

    Q. Can my baby have water?
    Your baby can have tap water from 6 months in a free flow beaker which encourages your baby to sip and swallow.Add a small amount of water to the beaker and offer this at every mealtime.

    Q. Does my baby need vitamins?
    The government recommends all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

    For breastfed babies, it is recommended they are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether or not you are taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself.

    Babies who are having 500ml (about a pint) or more of first infant formula a day should not be given vitamin supplements. This is because first infant formula is fortified with vitamins A, C and D and other nutrients.

    If you have children under the age of 4, you’re pregnant and on income-related benefits, or if you’re pregnant and under 18, you may be entitled to free vitamins from the Healthy Start scheme.