Introducing solids to babies is recommended at aged 6 months due to the development of their digestive organs and up to this age they can get all the nutrition they need from their own stored supplies and milk, whether breast or formula. It is not recommended to start weaning before babies are 17 weeks old, again due to their internal organ development and early weaning is also reported to be linked to increased allergies. Babies also have a tongue thrusting reflex that helps to protect them against choking and by 6 months they have mastered new skills to enable them to pass food from the front to the back of their months and swallow allowing them to commence baby led weaning.
Your baby is ready if they can:
- Stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
- Co-ordinate their eyes, hand and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves
- Swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths
These signs do not usually appear together before six months.
- Make sure your baby is sitting up straight so that they are able to explore foods better and are less likely to choke
- Allow your baby to enjoy touching and holding the food
- Always stay with your baby when they’re eating in case they choke
- Never force your baby to eat, just wait until the next time if they are not interested this time
- As soon as your baby shows an interest allow them to hold the food and feed themselves
- If you’re using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food. Your baby may like to hold a spoon too
- Start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day
- If the food is hot, allow it to cool and test if before giving it to your baby
- Don’t add salt, sugar or stock cubes to your baby’s food or cooking water
Click here for a video all about starting your baby on solid foods.
Click here to read the Unicef Start for Life booklet introducing-solid-foods
- Enjoy mealtimes together
- Babies will enjoy watching you eat and learn from being a part of family meal times
- Help them join in by talking to them and giving them food when you or the rest of the family is eating
- Try to have mealtimes around the same time every day, this can make it easier for your baby to know when to expect to eat
Healthy eating starts here
Babies like the food they get used to so try to give them as many different, healthy foods as you can – this way they are more likely to continue eating them as they grow up. It’s a good habit to get into and will hopefully make your life easier as they get older.
Try not to give your baby foods or drinks with added sugar, salt or fatty foods as this will make them more likely to want them as they get older.
At first you will need to allow plenty of time for eating. Rushing or forcing your baby could lead to problems.
- Be led by your baby and go at their pace
- Stop when your baby shows you they have had enough
- Do not make your baby finish a portion if they don’t want it
Most babies will indicate when they are full up by:
- Pushing the food away
- Turning their head away
- Spitting it out
- Refusing to open their mouth
- When they are young it is better to offer them smaller more frequent meals and healthy snacks
Be prepared for mess! Feeding can get messy but this is an important part of your baby’s development.
You can always cover the floor with newspaper or a protective mat to make cleaning up easier.
Babies will copy their parents and other children and will want to eat what you eat. You can help them by showing them that you eat healthier foods.