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'.
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Some babies adapt to solids more easily than others. So it is worth considering the following advice:
- start by offering just a few tablespoons of food, once a day
- heat food thoroughly, allow it to cool and test it before offering it to your baby
- throw away any food your baby hasn’t eaten – do not reheat it
- feed at your baby’s pace and allow baby to get used to different tastes and consistencies
- stay with 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
- involve your baby in the process by encouraging them to use their fingers or a spoon 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
- never add any food to your baby’s bottle (this includes rusks) as this can damage teeth and cause choking
Foods to avoid
It’s a good idea to try to introduce your baby to a variety of tastes at an early age. However, there are certain foods that should not be included in their diet.
- salty foods such as bacon or sausages – don’t add salt to any foods as a baby’s kidneys are not fully developed and cannot cope with it
- sugary foods – don’t add sugar to any foods or drinks
- honey – this is also a sugar and shouldn’t be given to babies under one year old
- nuts – whole nuts should not be given to children under five years old as these can cause choking
Weaning before six months
Weaning before six months is not recommended. If you wean your baby before six months, there are certain foods to avoid as these can cause allergies. You should never wean your baby before they are four months old (17 weeks).
If you wean your baby before they’re six months old, avoid the following, as they can cause an allergic reaction or contain harmful bacteria:
- wheat based foods containing gluten (wheat flour, bread, breakfast cereals, rusks)
- nuts and seeds, including ground nuts
- fish and shellfish
- soft and unpasteurised cheeses
Giving your baby more solid foods
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, such as 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, well cooked egg, 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 daily supplements of folic acid and continue up until the 12th week of pregnancy. All pregnant and breastfeeding women should also take daily vitamin D supplements.
Six months after the birth, if your baby is breastfeeding, you should give them baby 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 if they are fussy eaters.
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.
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).
Healthy Start scheme
If you receive Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance or Child Tax Credit (without Working Tax Credit) and have a family income of £16,190 or less, you may qualify for free milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins from the Healthy Start scheme.
Mothers may 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 don't get these benefits or tax credits.