When to start weaning?
It's recommended that you begin introducing solids at around six months. Don't do it too early: before 17 weeks, your baby's digestive and immune systems are not sufficiently developed. If you feel she needs solids earlier, speak to your health visitor or GP.
She's ready if:
- She can sit upright, holding her head steady
- She has the co-ordination to pick up food and put it in her mouth
- She swallows food rather than pushing it back out
It doesn't necessarily mean she's ready just because:
- She demands feeds more frequently
- She wakes at night having previously slept through.
Best first foods
She may spit out food at first, because she's not used to swallowing it and is encountering new flavours and textures, so make sure you're both dressed for mess! To start, give her a little milk, then offer a few spoons of baby rice or purée. Very first foods should be easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction. Try these:
- Baby rice - Mixed with water, breast or formula milk, fruit or vegetable purées.
- Vegetables - Carrot, potato, swede, parsnip, pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potato.
- Fruit - Ripe raw banana and papaya; cooked apple and pear. Taste them to make sure they're ripe.
Early food allergies
These are most common in the first few years; many children grow out of them by three. Introduce new foods one at a time, for two or three days, so if there is a reaction you'll know what caused it.
Common problem foods
- Cow's milk and dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Wheat-based products
- Fish, especially shellfish
- Citrus fruits
Foods to avoid
- Salt - This stresses immature kidneys and causes dehydration. Don't offer smoked foods - they're high in salt.
- Sugar - It encourages a sweet tooth and increases the risk of decay later.
- Unpasteurised cheese - Carries the risk of listeria infection.
- Honey - Very rarely honey can cause infant botulism.
- Wheat and gluten - Can be introduced after six months.
- Eggs - Because of possible salmonella infection, eggs should only be given after six months; cook until solid.
- Fish and shellfish - Should only be given after six months because of possible food poisoning and allergy; cook thoroughly. Because low levels of pollutants in oily fish, baby girls should have no more than two portions a week, and boys no more than four.
- Nuts and seeds - Nut spreads can be given from three years, if there is no family history of allergy, but children shouldn't eat chopped or whole nuts before the age of five, to avoid choking.
Preparing baby food
- Cooking Steaming preserves the taste and nutrients; if boiling, use as little water as possible and don't overcook. Once cooked, add just enough boiled water or cooking liquid, breast or formula milk to make a smooth purée.
- Puréeing For the first few weeks, make purées lump-free, not too thick.
- Freezing Save time by preparing purées in bulk. Fill small, portion-sized containers or an ice cube tray almost to the top, before cooling, sealing and freezing as soon after cooking as possible. It's a good idea to seal ice cube trays in a freezer bag. The frozen food will keep for about eight weeks.
She may spit out food at first, so make sure you’re both dressed for mess!