Starting on solid food is a fun and exciting time for you and your baby.
It’s their first chance to explore a wonderful variety of textures and tastes.
What food and when?
Introduce solid foods in stages. Every baby is different and will develop at his or her own pace. Keep offering different tastes and textures through your baby’s first year.
From around six months
From around six months start giving your baby food mashed with a fork until soft. Try soft cooked vegetables like parsnips, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes or carrots. Give them mashed soft fruit like banana, avocado, peach or melon.
Once your baby is used to these, try giving them soft cooked meat like chicken, or mashed fish. Check carefully for any bones. Try pasta, noodles, toast, pieces of chapatti, lentils, rice and mashed hard-boiled eggs. They can also have full-fat dairy products like plain yoghurt, fromage frais or custard. Whole cow’s milk can be used in cooking or mixed with food from six months.
Babies often like to start eating these as finger foods, or mashed. Finger food is food that’s cut up into pieces big enough for your baby to hold in their fist with a bit sticking out at the top. Pieces about the size of your own finger work well. You can also spoon-feed your baby, although they will soon be able to do this for themselves.
Foods that are okay to give your baby from six months
- Fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen or tinned in natural juice or water are all great.
- Whole cows’ milk in things like custard or cheese sauce.
- Full-fat products, like full-fat yoghurt, hard cheese, soft cheese and rice pudding or custard.
- Bread, noodles, rice, pasta, chapattis, or any food made from wheat flour.
- Well cooked eggs, meat, fish and shellfish.
- Beans and pulses.
Foods that should be avoided
- Don’t use cow’s milk as your baby’s main drink until they are one year old.
- Don’t add salt or stock cubes to meals.
- Salt and salty foods like crisps, chips with added salt and whole nuts.
- Processed foods like burgers, pasties, fish fingers, nuggets or sausages.
- Sweet foods like chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cake and pastries. These are high in sugar and fat.
- Anything sweetened with artificial sweeteners additives.
Eight to nine months
This is when your baby will probably start eating three meals a day. Meals will be a mixture of finger foods, mashed and chopped foods.
Keep your baby’s diet varied. Give them fruit and vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods. They can eat meat, fish, eggs, beans, and other non-dairy sources of protein. Give them milk and dairy products too.
From 12 months
Your baby will now be eating three meals a day. Chop up the food if necessary. Keep giving mum’s milk or cow’s milk, and healthy snacks like fruit, vegetable sticks or toast and rice cakes.
Keep giving your baby breast or formula milk until they are at least one year old.
When you first start introducing solid food milk will still be the most important source of nutrition. As your baby starts to eat more solid foods, they will take less milk.
Don’t focus too much on portion size before your baby is one. Let yourself be guided by their appetite. Don’t worry if your baby hasn’t eaten much in a meal or over a day, what they eat over a week is more important.
Breastfed babies need to be given vitamin D drops from birth. All children from six months to five years, should be given drops containing vitamins A, C and D every day. Babies who are drinking more than 500mls of formula milk a day don’t need vitamins, because the formula milk is fortified with nutrients.
You can buy vitamin drops for babies and children at most supermarkets and pharmacies. Speak to your health visitor or a pharmacist who can help you choose the vitamins you need. If you are eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme, you can get vitamins free of charge. Ask your health visitor how to get these in your area.
Storing and reheating food
Cool food as quickly as possible, within one to two hours if you can. Put it in the fridge or freezer. Eat food put in the fridge within two days.
Make sure that you defrost frozen food properly before reheating. The safest way to do this is in the fridge overnight, or by using the defrost setting on a microwave.
Reheat food properly so it is very hot all the way through. Let it cool before offering it to your baby.
To cool food quickly put it in an airtight container and hold it under cold running water, stirring the contents from time to time to allow it to cool all the way through.