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Weaning Q&A with Annabel Karmel

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Our baby feeding expert Annabel Karmel tackles some of your most common weaning worries

Should I give my baby juice or water as well as milk?

Apart from milk, water is the best drink for babies under 12 months. Bottled mineral water is unsuitable as it contains high levels of mineral salts; if your baby is under six months, just boil mains tap water and allow it to cool before giving it to her. And if your baby is on a vegetarian diet, it's a good idea to give a vitamin C-rich fruit juice with meals, as this helps to absorb iron from food. Dilute with at least five parts water to one part juice. It's best to put juice in a cup to minimise contact with teeth – even unsweetened fruit juice contains natural sugars; only give milk or water in a bottle. Drinks with added sugar or artificial sweetener are unsuitable for babies.

What are good fruits for my baby?

Bananas are perfect just mashed up, maybe try adding a little of your baby's usual milk if it is too thick. Ripe papaya is very nutritious; it also mixes well with banana, pear, avocado, cottage cheese or yogurt. Avocado has the highest protein content of any fruit and babies like its mild taste and soft texture. Ripe peach, mango and cantaloupe melon can be puréed.

When is it safe to give my baby cow's milk?

Continue with breast, formula or follow-on milk as your baby's main drink until she is 12 months old, as these are richer in iron and vitamin D than cow's milk. Full-fat pasteurised cow's milk can be introduced from six months in cereal or cooking, but skimmed and semi-skimmed milk are too low in calories and vitamins A and D for children under the age of two.

How will I know if my baby is allergic to anything?

If you, your partner or a close family member has a history of food allergies, it is better not to give foods likely to trigger a reaction – cow's milk, dairy products, eggs, fish, berries, nuts, and foods containing gluten – before your baby is six months old.

The most common signs of a food allergy or intolerance are:

  • swelling of the eyes, lips and face 
  • eczema or a red rash on the face 
  • runny nose and watery eyes 
  • diarrhoea or poo with mucus 
  • vomiting or increased spitting up

Are there any vegetables my six-month-old should not eat?

He can eat all vegetables but ones with a stronger taste, like spinach, are best mixed with root vegetables, such as sweet potato. Frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of being picked and can be just as nutritious as fresh.

When can I offer lumpier food?

Most babies will give it a go at around seven or eight months and can even manage without many teeth. Make a gradual change: rather than puréeing foods, mash them, or stir in tiny pasta shapes. Encouraging them to chew will help speech development, too.

"Avocado has the highest protein content of any fruit and babies like its mild taste and soft texture"