Weaning your baby
Babies are usually ready to start solids when they are around six months old. This is the time to gradually introduce non-milk foods, a process called 'weaning'.
Some babies adapt to solids easier than others, so it is worth considering the following advice:
- start by offering just a few teaspoons of food, once a day
- heat food thoroughly and allow it to cool, and test it before offering it to your baby
- throw away any food your baby hasn’t eaten and don't reheat it
- feed at your baby's pace - and allow baby to get used to different tastes and consistencies
- stay close to your baby when they are eating to make sure they don't choke
- don't worry if your baby refuses to take food - they know when they have had enough
- feed your baby at a time of day when they are normally relaxed
- involve your baby in the process by encouraging them to use their fingers or use a spoon and to feed themselves
- use mashed up family food when you can (it will get your baby used to eating what you eat)
- make sure everything you use for feeding your baby is really clean
Foods to avoid
It is a good idea to try and introduce your baby to a variety of tastes at an early age.
However, there are certain foods that should not make it into their diet:
- salty foods (eg bacon, cheese, sausages) – do not add salt to any foods as a baby’s kidneys cannot cope with it
- sugary foods – do not add sugar to any foods or drinks
- honey – this is also a sugar and shouldn’t be given to babies under the age of one
- nuts – whole nuts should not be given to children under five as they can cause choking
Weaning before six months
If you choose to wean before your baby is six months old, the following foods should be avoided as they may cause an allergic reaction or contain harmful bacteria:
- wheat- based foods containing gluten (e.g. wheat flour, bread, breakfast cereals, rusks etc)
- nuts and seeds, including ground nuts
- fish and shellfish
- soft and unpasteurised cheeses
Giving more solids
You can give your baby almost any home-cooked family food, as long as it is mashed or pureed and doesn’t have any added salt or sugar.
It is important to offer a range of different solid foods to provide all the vitamins and minerals needed.
- starchy foods with every meal: potatoes, yams, rice, bread, plantain or unsweetened breakfast cereals
- fruit and vegetables at two or more meals every day
- one or two servings of soft cooked meat, fish, egg (well cooked), tofu or pulses (beans or lentils) a day
You can encourage your baby to chew and feed themselves, even if they have no teeth yet, by giving the following finger foods:
- bread crusts
- pitta bread
- rice cakes
- slices of soft fruit like bananas, pears, peaches or melon
- cooked vegetable pieces like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or courgette
- cubes of cheese
- cooked pasta shapes
Pregnant women, or women trying for a baby, should take a daily supplement of folic acid and continue up until the 12th week of pregnancy. All pregnant and breastfeeding women should also take a daily vitamin D supplement. Six months after birth – if your baby is breastfeeding – you should give them vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D.
If your baby is bottle-fed with infant formula, extra vitamins are already added, so as long as your baby is drinking 500ml (one pint) of formula a day, vitamin drops are not needed. It is a good idea to continue giving children vitamin drops until they are five years old, and it's particularly important for fussy eaters. Vitamin D is also made naturally by the skin when it is exposed to gentle sunlight, so encourage your children to play outside (taking care that they do not get sunburn). Your health visitor can tell you which vitamin drops are suitable.
If you are on the Healthy Start scheme, you can claim them free on the Health Service without a prescription.
If you receive Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credit (without Working Tax Credit) and have a family income of £15,575 or less, you can get free milk, fruit, vegetables, infant formula and vitamins from the Healthy Start scheme.
Mothers can also get vitamin tablets for themselves containing vitamin D, vitamin C and folic acid.You can also get help from this scheme if you are pregnant and under 18, even if you do not get these benefits or tax credits.