Introducing your baby to foods other than breastmilk (or formula) is an exciting new stage of development. Lots of parents look forward to it, but some may worry about getting it right and continuing to help their baby to be as happy and healthy as possible. Read our top tips for the latest advice to follow so you can relax and enjoy it! The best time to start solid foods is around six months. Most babies don’t need any food other than breast milk (or formula) until then and waiting until about six months gives baby’s digestive system time to develop so it can cope with other foods. We have Ready Steady Eat DVD available in our shop which covers all of the issues.
Signs that baby is ready for solid foods
- Baby can sit with minimal support and hold her head steady
- Baby can co-ordinate eyes, hands and mouth, reaching out to pick up food, and bringing it to her mouth
- Baby can take food into her mouth, move it around and chew and swallow it safely. Before six months babies push food back out of their mouths because they cannot swallow it safely.
Signs that may be mistaken for readiness for solid foods
- Babies love to watch you and to try and copy. Watching you eat is an important stage of development, but before six months it is not a sign of readiness for food.
- Night waking or frequent feeding may lead you to think that baby needs more than milk. Before six months, these are signs that your baby needs milk more frequently and giving solid foods instead won’t help your baby to sleep or to go longer between feeds.
- Always supervise baby when taking solid foods.
- Avoid obvious choking hazards such as cherry tomatoes or whole grapes.
- Cool hot foods and test them yourself before offering to baby.
- Don’t force food into baby’s mouth, this increases the risk of choking and is frightening for baby
Try mashed carrot, parsnip or sweet potato. When you’ve tried a few things, you could make some combinations or add some cooked and mashed meat, chicken or fish. Some parents prefer to let the baby feed themselves right from the start (sometimes called baby led weaning). If you want to try this, offer foods that baby can pick up and eat, such as steamed broccoli florets or carrot sticks or pieces of apple or melon. Again, when you’ve tried a few things, offer them in combination or add some strips of cooked chicken or meat. Jars and packets of processed baby foods can be handy, but the best food for your baby is food that you prepare (and eat!) yourself. Eating together and showing your baby that you enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods helps baby to stay healthy and happy as part of your family. You can find out more at www.nhs.uk
Remember you may be eligible for free vitamins and help with the cost of food until your baby’s 4th birthday. Ask your health visitor about the Healthy Start scheme.