Research shows that babies need nothing other than breast-milk or formula for the first six months of life
Babies get all the nutrients they need from breast-milk
If you are breastfeeding, giving mum's milk up to around six months will give your baby extra protection against infection. This protection will continue for as long as you wish to carry on breastfeeding.
Introducing solid foods before six months may increase the risk of allergy due to an underdeveloped digestive system and will also replace breast-milk or formula.
Introducing solid foods at six months means that your baby is more likely to quickly be able to feed themselves. They will enjoy participating in family meal times and establish a healthy and varied diet.
Baby needs to show signs of developmental readiness.
What is Developmental Readiness?
There are three signs that your baby is ready for their first foods.
They are ready when they can:
Stay in sitting position and can hold their own head
Co-ordinate their eyes, hand and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it all up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
Swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food out. So they get more around their face than they do in their mouths!
Getting solids started
Always stay with your baby when they are eating in case they start to choke
Let your baby enjoy touching and holding the food
Don't force your baby if they are not interested. Try again next time.
Let baby lead the way. They will tell you when they have had enough, how much they want and how they want to eat it. Babies can feed themselves or use a spoon.
Don't add salt. sugar (sweet enough already) or stock cubes to baby's food or cooking water
Every baby is different. Try solids after a milk feed (or in the middle of one) and see what works best for your baby
From 0-6 Months
Mums milk or infant formula First infant formula milk is the only formula milk needed in the first year.
From 6 Months
Mashed or soft cooked sticks or fruit and vegetable or finger foods
Keep feeding mums milk or formula milk alongside solids
Soft cooked meat such as chicken
Toast, pieces of chapatti
Mashed or hard boiled eggs
Full fat dairy products such as yoghurt, fromage frais or custard
Introduce a cup from 6 months
From 8-9 Months
Move towards eating three meals a day
Mixture of finger foods, mashed and chopped foods
Finger foods from 8-9 months:
Finger foods for 8-9 month olds should be soft, so that babies can start to bite pieces of food in their mouth. Cut soft foods into manageable-sized pieces, making sure there are no stringy bits, skin or pips.
Soft finger foods suitable at this age include the following:
Soft fruit such as melon, mango, kiwi, banana, peach or canned fruits in juice (drained)
Cooked vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, green beans, mange-tout or red pepper.
Cooked starchy foods such as potato, sweet potato.
Finger foods for 10-12 months:
By 10-12 months, babies can start to have a bigger range of finger foods with their meals. These can include raw fruit and vegetables, and crunchy and chewy foods.
Examples of finger foods for 10-12 month olds include:
Raw fruit and vegetable pieces (with any pips and stones removed - such as apple, pear, banana, orange segments, halved cherries or grapes (these should be cut in half lengthways), cucumber, carrot, pepper or green beans).
Dried fruits - such as chopped soft dried prunes or ready-to-eat apricots
Starchy foods such as breadsticks, rice cakes, bread crusts, pitta bread strips, toast, potato, yam or pasta
Other foods - soft cooked meat or fish (without bones), hard boiled egg, cooked soft peas and chopped beans, pulses such as cooked lentils, cheese, nut or seed butters (such as tahini) on strips of bread or pitta bread
From 12 Months
Three meals a day
They can now drink whole cow's milk and have full fat dairy products
Carry on with mum's milk for as long as you both want
As your baby eats more solid food, they may want less milk at each feed or even drop a feed altogether.
Gagging and Choking
Gagging is a protective reflex and is NORMAL
It is commonly seen in babies and young children as they are introduced to new flavours and textures
You'll often hear a child gag and you may see a piece of food propel forward in the mouth
Choking is silent
The airway is partially or fully blocked
All children are at risk of choking, which is why you must always supervise your child at all times when eating. The advice for grapes, cherry tomatoes etc. is to cut half lengthways before giving to your child.
If you want to learn to deal with choking visit: www.nhs.uk/choking.baby or first aid courses are available through your local Children Centre.
Video showing baby gagging:
The digestive system of premature babies is not developed is enough to cope with the introduction of solid food before five months.
Most premature babies are ready for solids between five and eight months. It is best to wait until your baby is at least three months corrected age.
If solid foods are introduced after eight months, your baby may miss the opportunity to develop eating skills.
It is important that babies show signs of developmental readiness for the introduction of solid foods.
Start with one meal a day. Choose a time that's best for you.
Continue to breast or formula feed alongside the introduction to solids.
Slowly introduce a wider range of foods with lumps usually 1-2 months after starting.
Introduce lumps when your baby has the ability to sit without support and is showing an interest in food by putting it to their mouths,
Encourage your baby to touch their food and participate in feeding.
This is an opportunity to develop good eating habits that will last your baby a lifetime
Make meal time routines and encourage your baby to eat with the rest of your family. This will help the to learn the important skills associated with eating and develop good attitudes towards food.
For safety reasons, always watch your baby when they are eating. Never let them eat alone.
Expect mess during mealtimes. Babies like to mash, feel, smell and squish food: it helps them learn.
Allow your baby to finish eating before removing food and remove food when they have lost interest.
Never force feed your baby or put pressure on them to complete the meal. They know when they have had enough and will let you know.
Babies sometimes take their time getting used to different foods. So offer a small amount, lots of times, to let them gradually get used to new foods.
Remember vitamin supplementation.
Honey can contain bacteria so should not be given before 1 year of age.
Always wash and dry your hands well before preparing your baby's food
Check that your baby's hands are clean before feeding
Keep surfaces clean and prevent pets from coming near food or surfaces where food is prepared or eaten
Keep chopping boards thoroughly clean
Keep raw meat and eggs covered and away from other foods in the fridge including cooked or ready to eat meats. Raw meats should ideally be kept in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge so it can't touch or drip onto other foods.
Thoroughly wash and dry all bowls and spoons for feeding in hot soapy water.
Cooked food should not be reheated more than once
Cook all food thoroughly and cool it as soon as possible to a lukewarm temperature before giving it to your baby
Wash and peel fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots
Storing and reheating food
Cool food as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours) and place it in the fridge or freezer. Food placed within the fridge should be eaten within two days.
Make sure that frozen food is thoroughly defrosted before reheating. The safest way to do this is in the fridge overnight and using the defrost setting on a microwave.
Reheat food thoroughly so it is hot all the way through.
Allow it to cool before offering it to your baby
To cool food quickly. place the food in an airtight container and hold it under cold running water, stirring the contents from time to time to allow it to cool all the way through.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding your baby, you need to take a daily supplement of 10mcg of vitamin D.
The guidelines now recommended that Vitamin D should be given to all breastfeeding babies from 1 month of age or if you baby is taking less than 500mls of formula
If your baby is 6 months or older and is having less than 500ml (1 pint) of infant formula per day, give them vitamin drops containing vitamins A and C.
Continue to give your child vitamin drops until they are 5.
Be careful not to give your baby two supplements at the same time.
For example, don’t give them cod liver oil as well as vitamin drops – one on its own is strong enough.
Your health visitor or midwife can give you information on vitamins.
Currently Hertfordshire County Council provides free vitamins for all pregnant women, all breastfeeding mums and children aged six months to four years in order to give children the healthiest possible start to life. The vitamins can be collected from any of Hertfordshire’s children’s centres. Vouchers are not required.
We're here to help
If you need someone to talk to about anything on this webpage, or anything to do with your baby's health:
Talk to your midwife or a member of your health visiting team
Visit your local Sure Start Children's Centre
Call Start4life on 0300 123 1021* or text phone 0300 123 1054
Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212* or visit nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk
Sign up for free emails, videos and texts from the start4life information service for parents throughout your pregnancy and as your baby grows at www.nhs.uk/start4life