Introducing solid foods

Erin messy eatingIn their first year, babies will be getting most of their energy and nutrients from breastmilk or first infant formula. Your baby should be introduced to a varied diet, alongside breast milk or first infant formula from around six months of age. At this age, most babies can sit up unaided, pick up food, put it in their mouth and swallow it rather than pushing it out again with their tongue.

The following behaviours can be mistaken for signs of being ready for solid foods:

  • chewing fists
  • wanting extra milk feeds
  • waking up in the night more than usual.

Wondering how to introduce solid foods while continuing to breastfeed?

Your baby’s tummy is tiny and fills up quickly, so offer milk feeds after food. From six to 12 months, you can start to introduce other milk in foods, for example, on cereal or in sauces alongside your baby's milk. Other milks, including cows' milk, should not be introduced as a main drink until your baby is 12 months old. There’s no need to introduce next stage milks, growing up milks or toddler milks.

A baby’s appetite can fluctuate. Some days your baby might want more breastmilk. On other days, your baby might be more interested in food which might be due to them being tired, ill, needing a bit of extra comfort for some reason they’re not able to tell you. Some parents offer breastfeeds at different times to food, but some babies are more open to trying new foods once they have had some milk. Try both options to see which works best for your baby. Being led by your baby is the best way to continue feeding even when introducing solids, so keep looking out for your baby’s hunger cues.

The best way for your baby to learn this new skill is with you and from you so eat alongside your baby. Start with one small meal a day. This can be puree, finger foods or a mix of both. Your baby won't need very much when first starting to wean. Over the next few months gradually increase your baby’s intake to three meals a day. Variety is important so offer your baby lots of different flavours and textures.

There aren’t many foods your baby can't have but foods with a high salt content should be avoided. Babies under one can’t have honey due to the risk of botulism.

Health Visiting Teams and children centres run workshops about introducing solids if you'd like to ask any questions you may have.

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