When can I start to introduce food to my baby?
Whether breast or bottle-fed, until your baby is around six months old they are getting all the nutrients and calories they need.
Some babies start a little earlier, some a little later, but it’s worth remembering that those little digestive systems need to be ready to cope with the excitement of real food. There’s no rush and you can do more harm than good by starting too early.
But don’t watch the calendar, your baby will give you lots of clues that they are ready to start experimenting:
- Are they able to sit up well with minimal support and hold their head well?
- Have they lost the tongue-thrust reflex so no longer automatically push solids out of their mouth with the tongue?
- Are they ready and willing to chew?
- Are they developing a ‘pincer’ grasp, picking up things between thumb and forefinger?
- Are they watching everything that goes into your mouth and trying to get their hands on it too?
Yes? Then your baby is probably ready to add new tastes and textures to their diet. And you are in for lots of messy fun helping them discover them! Baby-wipes anyone?
Where do I start?
With a smile and a deep breath! This is a big step for your baby and it can take a bit of getting used to, so just relax, go at their pace and take it one meal at a time.
After all, they are still getting most of their nutritional needs met from milk, so there is no pressure here to get them to ‘eat’ meals. As they say, ‘food is just for fun before one’!
If your baby is ready to start trying solid foods then pick a mealtime that suits you and will be nice and relaxed with plenty of time.
Give your baby about half the normal amount of milk to quench their thirst and satisfy some of their hunger. Then offer a very small amount of puréed food, about a teaspoonful, in tiny amounts on the very tip of a soft-tipped plastic spoon.
Do not worry if your baby appears to spit the food straight out. This is a completely new experience for them. Just be patient and prepared for some mess—it will take some time for your baby to get used to this new and very different way of eating.
Allow baby to play with the food (just have the wipes handy) and wait for them to open their mouths rather than forcing food at them. They should feel in control and comfortable, and if they show no interest at all that’s fine, just try again another time.
Planning meals into the day
Knowing how to fit meals as well as milk into the day can feel a little daunting. Just start with one to two teaspoons of purée before a feed at lunchtime for the first two weeks then as your baby progresses start to introduce one or two teaspoons at breakfast time and increase your lunchtime offer to three or four teaspoons. Be led by your baby to finally introduce two or three teaspoons at teatime. As your baby grows, increase the quantities and variety so by around nine months your baby is having three meals per day.
What’s on the menu?
It really is as simple as some blended fruit or vegetables—very easy and nutritious. It is a good idea to steam the fruit or vegetables before blending as this helps to preserve their taste and nutrient content (a lot of the goodness can be lost if boiled).
When deciding which fruits and vegetables to offer, first think about the fruits and vegetables you eat most as a family. The long-term objective is to have baby join in with family meals, so it makes sense to use things that make it regularly into the family shop. You can make up a batch of purées and freeze in individual meal quantities. Ice cube trays or baby food pots are ideal for this.
So week one might look something like this:
|Early AM||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed|
|Breakfast||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed|
|Lunch||Carrot Purée||Mashed Banana||Broccoli Purée||Apple Purée|
|Teatime||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed|
|Bedtime||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed||Milk Feed|
Once your baby has tried a variety of individual fruits and vegetables, you can start to mix them together to offer more variety in taste texture and nutritional content. See our recipes page for inspiration
At this first stage, there are some foods that you should avoid giving to your baby: salt and spices, sugar and honey, eggs, nuts, shellfish, bread, cereal, pasta, cows’ milk, blue cheeses, spicy foods and sugary drinks.
After a few weeks of introducing solid foods, you can gradually increase the amount of solid food from one feed to two or three.
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