Introducing solid foods to your baby can be an exciting and doesn’t have to be confusing. It marks a significant milestone in your baby’s development. When is the right time to start? Which foods should you introduce first? What size portions should you give your little one? This guide should help you through the process of introducing solid foods to your child.
When to start weaning
The NHS recommends infants to be exclusively breastfed or formula-fed for the first six months of life. After six months, you can start introducing solid foods. It may be tempting to start sooner, particularly if you have a very hungry baby who’s difficult to satisfy but their little digestive systems are still maturing.
After six months, you should look for these signs that your baby is ready to start solids alongside their milk:
- They can sit up with support and hold their head steady.
- Your baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex, which means they no longer push food out of their mouth with their tongue.
- They’re showing an interest in what you are eating, looking at food on your plate and maybe even trying to grab it.
If your baby shows these signs, it’s time to start introducing solid foods.
Sometimes we can mistake normal behaviours as a sign our babies are hungry or ready to start weaning. For example:
- waking up more than usual in the night
- chewing their fists
- Wanting extra milk feeds
These are normal behaviours for a baby and shouldn’t encourage you to introduce solid food sooner than they’re ready – and definitely not before six months.
Every baby is different, and some may be slower than others to learn to handle food in the mouth.
If you have questions about whether it’s the right time, your health visitor will be able to support you.
- Eating well: the first year – A guide to introducing solids and eating well up to baby’s first birthday – firststepsnutrition.org website
Which Foods to Introduce First
The first foods you introduce to your baby should be soft and easy to digest. Here are some good options to start with:
- Mashed or softened vegetables: broccoli, carrots, peas, and green beans are good options.
- Mashed or softened fruits: Apples, pears, strawberries and bananas are good options. Start with a small amount and gradually increase the quantity. Never give them small berries or grapes
- Single-grain cereals: Rice cereal, oatmeal, porridge with breast milk or formula, or full fat cows milk are good options. Start with a thin consistency and gradually thicken it as your baby gets used to having it in their mouth.
Your baby is getting used to the way things taste but also the way they feel in their mouth. Make sure you give your baby a variety of textures and offer foods from the different food groups – protein, veg, pasteurised full fat dairy, fruit and starchy foods.
If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk with a Healthy Start Card:
- Get help to buy food and milk (the Healthy Start scheme) – nhs.uk website
If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a card with money on it which is topped up every four weeks. You can use it in some UK shops to buy
- plain liquid cow’s milk,
- fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetable
- fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
- infant formula milk based on cow’s milk
Not sure if you’d be entitled to one? You’ve got nothing to lose.
- Apply for a Healthy Start card – nhs.uk website
You can also get access to vitamins for your baby on Healthy Start. Even if you’re not eligible, you can pick up vitamins tablets for women (for expectant and nursing mothers) – 80p and children’s vitamin drops – £1.60 Family Hubs or children’s centres.
How to Introduce Solid Foods
When introducing solid foods, take it slow and be patient. Your little one may know exactly what to do with their mouth or it could take a lot of spitting and taste testing as they get used to things. Here are some tips to make the process a little easier:
- Begin with a teaspoon or two of the food and gradually increase the quantity as your baby gets used to it. Freeze the rest of the portions so you can keep introducing different tastes and textures rather than wasting a whole batch.
- Offer the food when your baby is hungry but not too hungry. You don’t want them to be too fussy or too full.
- Use a soft-tipped spoon to feed your baby. This will help them learn how to eat from a spoon and avoid overfeeding.
- Watch for signs that your baby is full, such as turning their head away from the spoon or closing their mouth. Don’t force your baby to finish the food if they are not interested.
- Introduce one food at a time and wait for a few days before introducing another food. This will help you identify any allergies or reactions.
- Be patient: It may take several tries before your baby accepts a new food, so be patient and keep trying.
How much to give
At the beginning, your baby will only eat a small amount of solid food, and breast milk or formula will still be their main source of nutrition.
Start with a teaspoon or two of the food and gradually increase the quantity to a few tablespoons. Offer the food once a day, at the same time, to establish a routine.
At 7-9 months baby will be able to eat three meals a day alongside breastmilk or first infant formula. Meals can be mashed or with soft lumps and babies will enjoy having finger foods with meals, holding a spoon even though they cannot yet feed themselves, and being included at mealtimes with other people.
What you need to get started
- Make sure you have a highchair so your baby can sit safely in an upright position and avoid choking.
- Always fit the harness in the highchair and never leave your baby alone on a raised surface.
- It’s going to be messy, so make sure you have plastic or pelican bibs (good for quick cleans) and a mat, newspaper or old towel to go under the highchair for any spills (or throws).
- If you can, invest in some soft weaning spoons which are gentler on your baby’s gums and a special weaning bowl with a suction base which will keep the bowl in place.
- Use an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve and encourage your baby to take small sips during mealtimes.
If you are struggling financially to afford any of these things, you can get advice and support based on your individual circumstances by calling 0161 770 7007 and speaking to our We Can Help team:
- We can help – Oldham Council website
Quick read: Introducing solid foods
- Only introduce solids after 6 months
- Your baby should still be getting most of their nutrients from breast milk or formula until they’re eating four meals a day plus a snack.
- Start with just a couple of teaspoons from a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
- Introduce different tastes, textures and temperatures.
- Feed at the same time each day to develop a good routine.
- Be patient while your child learns to use their tongue, chew and swallow.
- Be prepared for it being messy – have plenty of bibs and floor coverings (if needed).
- If you need support, speak with your GP or contact your health visitor