It is the general recommendation of most experts that you wait until your baby is six months old before introducing him to solid food. Research shows that waiting until then gives their digestive system time to develop fully so it can cope with solid foods. This includes solid foods made into purées and cereals added to milk. This process is sometimes called weaning or complementary feeding.
Giving your baby breast milk alone up to the age of six months will protect your baby against infections. Breast milk will carry on protecting them from infections for as long as you carry on feeding.
It's a really crucial stage in your baby’s development, and it can be a great opportunity to bond and explore new flavours and textures of food together. To begin with, how much your baby takes is less important than getting him accustomed to the idea of eating. Your baby will still be getting most of his nutrition from breast milk or infant formula.
Babies don't need three meals a day like adults do. You can begin by offering foods at a time that suits you both. Gradually, you'll be able to change the amount and variety of food your baby eats, until he can eat the same as the rest of the family, in smaller portions.
How to get started
Try offering your baby one or two spoonfuls of the following:
- Well-mashed or pureed vegetables, such as cooked carrot, parsnip, potato or sweet potato.
- Well-mashed or pureed fruit, such as banana, cooked apple, ripe pear or mango.
- Baby cereal such as baby rice, sago, maize, cornmeal or millet. You can mix these with some of your baby's usual milk.
You can give food to your baby before or after a milk feed, or in the middle of a feed. Choose a time that's good for both of you. If you've heated the food, make sure to stir, cool and test it on the inside of your wrist before offering it to your baby.
It may take your baby a bit of time to get used to these new flavours. Don't be shocked if he rejects the food or spits it out. You can always just try again later, or the next day. Or you can make the food a little blander by mixing it with a few teaspoons of your baby's usual milk.
You may notice at first that your baby seems to eat very little. Be patient and remember it may take time for him to learn how to eat. As he becomes used to fruits, vegetables and cereal, add a variety of other foods. Then gradually increase the number of times a day that he eats solids. Around his seventh month, your baby should be eating solids three times a day. A typical day's intake could include:
- Breastmilk or formula milk.
- Iron-fortified cereal. Check packaging for salt and sugar levels, though.
- Vegetables. These can include potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, spinach and butternut squash.
- Small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, yoghurt, hard-boiled egg, well-cooked lentils or cheese. Don't give your baby brie, stilton and other mould-ripened or soft cheeses.
Your baby's appetite will differ from one feed to the next. Observe and watch out for cues that he's full. If you see him keeping his mouth shut, turning away, or starting to play with his food, he's probably had enough.
You don’t need to worry even when your baby hasn’t eaten much in a meal or even in a day. It is the quantity and quality of the food he eats over an entire week that is more significant. At first, your baby may just play with his food, and that’s okay. He may grab pieces of food and start to suck on them. Continue giving your baby breastmilk or formula milk in between mealtimes. As your baby progressively eats more solids, the number of milk feeds will start to reduce.
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