At the age of six months, if not slightly before, babies should be ready to start weaning and move onto their first solid foods.
It’s a big process for babies, who have to get used to a new way of eating, and for parents, who are often anxious about achieving the move to solid food.
This process of introducing solid foods is called weaning. Not every baby is ready to be weaned at exactly six months old, but there are indicators to look out for.
For example, if your baby is able to sit up, picks up food and puts it in his mouth and wants to chew, then he’s probably ready to be weaned.
Making The Move to Solids
The move to solid food is a gradual process and it starts with the introduction of smooth pureed food. It’s best to begin with vegetable purees at first – but only one vegetable at a time – such as carrot, potato, sweet potato or parsnip.
You can make the puree yourself, or buy them ready-made, but to achieve a runny consistency you may need to add a drop of breast milk, formula or water.
If you are preparing food yourself, remember not to add any sugar or salt.
Make sure any puree isn’t too hot before you give it to your baby and have your baby sitting up in his highchair to eat it.
This is better for him and reduces the chance of choking, plus it offers some scope for him to see what’s going on and explore the new food.
Sometimes it can help if you get him used to the plastic spoon first, through letting him play with it and suck.
Then when he seems to be familiar with it, use it to feed him the puree.
Once your baby has mastered vegetables, you can move onto trying him out with fruits. Good options to try include cooked apple, pear, banana or avocado.
Again, it’s best trying one fruit at a time at first, but once you know he likes something, you could try being creative and mixing them – like apple and pear, or apple and banana.
As your baby responds and enjoys his food, you can gradually introduce new flavours and textures. For examples you could try:
- Mashed up meat, such as chicken.
- Mashed up fish, such as tuna (without bones).
- Full-fat dairy products, such as yogurt or fromage frais.
- Pasteurised hard chesses, such as cheddar.
- Grains such as oats and millet.
- Eggs, fully cooked and solid to reduce the risk of salmonella.
How Many Meals?
So now that you’re feeding your baby solids, how many meals a day does he need? Most experts suggest:
- One mini meal per day at first. This consists of about one to two teaspoonfuls for the first week.
- At week two of solids, increase to three teaspoonfuls per meal.
- At week three, introduce two meals per day.
- At about six to nine weeks, introduce a third meal each day.
- By the time you’ve introduced a third meal a day, you could try and tie them in with the rest of the family. It will help your baby feel part of the family and encourage the development of social skills.
However, it is important to realise all babies are different. Whilst some will be happy with one feed a day in the early stages of weaning, others may need two.
Likewise, babies differ in how soon they can progress onto having three meals a day and, in many cases, it can be much earlier than six to nine weeks after starting solid foods.
Be guided by your health visitor and GP, as well as your baby.
Between the ages of seven and nine months, you can introduce finger foods. This is great for your baby, as he can pick things up and explore the food himself!
Examples of ideal finger foods include:
- Toast or bread soliders.
- Strips of pitta bread or chappati.
- Cubes of cheese.
- Cooked pasta shapes.
- Slices of apple.
- Slices of carrot, cucumber or celery.
- Chunks of cooked vegetables, such as carrot or potato.
Always ensure you’re there when your baby is trying to feed himself, so that you can check he doesn’t choke.