Giving your baby a great start to solid food
Your little one is growing up fast and you’re feeling excited about introducing them to solid foods (weaning). Many parents feel apprehensive too as starting solids generates a lot of questions about what to feed your baby, when and how much.
Here is some advice to put your mind at rest and answer some of these very common questions.
When should I start my baby on solid foods?
Babies develop at different times, but most babies will be ready for solid foods when they are around 6 months old.
There are also occasions when introducing solids earlier than 6 months is recommended. For example if your baby has reflux, or food allergies introducing solids from 4 months of age may be beneficial. It is best to seek advice from your paediatrician before introducing solids or if you’re uncertain when weaning should start.
“Some parents see weaning as the end of something. It’s really a positive thing, a new beginning, and a fun experience for all of the family!”
Advice from Dr Yiannis.
How should I introduce solid foods to my baby?
When you and your baby are ready to start weaning, introducing them to purees and mashed food is a great start. But move to lumpier foods as soon as your baby is ready so they learn to chew their food at an early age.
At the beginning your baby will still be getting most of their nutrients and energy from milk, so you only need to offer small amounts of food.
The idea is to gradually increase the amount your baby eats aiming to have your baby eating three healthy meals a day and some healthy snacks by 9-12 months. During this time it is common for baby’s milk intake to gradually decline.
What kind of foods can I feed my baby?
Healthy food and snacks from the main food groups are a great way to get your baby started on solids. Some good starter food ideas are:
- Green beans
- Breads (e.g. toast)
- Beef mince
- Scrambled eggs
This list is by no means exhaustive and of course can vary from baby to baby. Advice may differ if there have been previous allergic reactions or in specific situations. If there is any uncertainty a discussion with your paediatrician or health visitor is usually all that is needed for reassurance. You can serve these foods as mashed or finger foods. And there is nothing to stop you simply giving your baby a little of whatever the rest of the family is eating to excite their taste buds – and make them an entertaining part of family meal times! It is best not to add any sugar or salt to babies food, they will get enough of this as they get older and so is best avoided as long as possible!
What can my baby drink?
From 6 months you can give your baby fresh tap water, but avoid bottled water as the mineral content can be too high. Water is not to replace their breastmilk or formula feeds. It’s a good idea to give them some water with their meals or as a drink on a hot day in between feeds. From 1 year of age toddlers can be offered fresh full fat cow’s milk as their main source of milk for drinking.
Enjoy the experience!
As your baby grows, they will gradually move towards eating three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The timing of meals and snacks varies greatly and it is best to find a pattern that suits you and your baby. It’s very common for your baby to be fussy about food some days more than others, so try not to worry! It’s all a learning experience and you can expect some trial and error as you explore new foods and tastes.
Giving babies and children vitamins
Offering a wide variety of different foods is important to ensure they babies get enough energy and nutrients (such as iron). To supplement this the Department of Health recommends that all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Breastfed babies should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth. These are typically in the form of easily dispensable drops.
Formula-fed babies drinking greater than 500 mls of formula milk do not need to be given additional vitamin supplements.
Vitamin D is only found in a few foods, such as oily fish and eggs. It’s also added to some foods, such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin. But it’s important to keep your child’s skin safe in the sun – make sure you pack the right essentials for holidays in hot and sunny climates.
Vitamin A is important for babies and young children. It strengthens their immune system, can help their vision, and keeps their skin healthy.
Good sources of vitamin A include dairy products and dark green vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli.
Vitamin C is important for your child’s general health and immune system. It can also help their body absorb iron.
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, kiwi fruit, strawberries, broccoli and tomatoes.