How to Introduce Solids: Our 5 Top Tips
Starting weaning is an exciting milestone for your little one, but it can also be quite daunting. Here’s everything you need to know about when to start, how to start and what to start with.
The latest government guidelines recommend that weaning should begin at around 6 months. At this time your baby’s iron stores are starting to deplete, and they are no longer able to get all the nutrition they need from formula or breast milk.
Some of these signs include the baby showing an interest in food, attempting to put things in their mouths, needing more milk and /or starting to wake at night when they have previously slept through. However, it can be completely normal for a baby to have sleep regression around this time so don’t automatically think it is hunger-related. Remember, teething and growth spurts can also impact on sleep. If your baby is showing some of the signs on a number of different occasions it might be a good time to start weaning. Don’t feel like you have to start because everyone around you is starting their baby’s weaning journey.
- Sit upright in a highchair (with/without cushion support) and hold their head steady
- Have some control of their hand eye coordination to enable them to bring food to their mouths
- Swallow (i.e. tongue thrust has disappeared and able to move it from side-to-side as well as forwards and backwards).
It’s also ideal if you have a ‘window’ of time to dedicate to the initial phase of weaning and perhaps bring it forward or delay it during a really hectic time or when you are due to be on holiday.
What to try first – flavours and foods
We all have a genetic predisposition to sweet and salty foods compared to sour and bitter flavors. Recent research highlights you should offer bitter foods first before moving on to sweeter tastes to reduce the likelihood of rejection. Research has also shown that enjoying vegetables at a young age often continues into adulthood.
Putting the theory into practice this looks like:
- Usual milk mixed with most bitter vegetables e.g. broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans
- Above vegetables without milk
- Sweeter vegetables e.g. sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, peas
- Less sweet fruits e.g. blackberries, raspberries, avocado
- Medium sweet fruits e.g. strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, bananas
- High sweet fruits e.g. plums, kiwis, grapes, mangos
However, not all babies will enjoy all of these foods in this order and if yours doesn’t don’t start to panic, they will still grow and thrive if this advice is not followed by the book. The overall idea is that once vegetables are accepted a greater variety of foods can be introduced e.g. fruit, protein, dairy, and starchy carbohydrates in addition to vegetables and fruit.
Suggested foods to add (in addition to fruit and vegetables):
|Chicken||Rice||Hard Pasteurised Cheese|
|White Fish||Barley||Cottage Cheese|
|Oily Fish||Oats||Full Fat Plain Yoghurt|
|Well Cooked Eggs||Bread|
Try to find a week when you can focus on this task without too many distractions. It is often much easier and calmer being at home and you’ll be able to pick up on your baby’s cues.
- Timing-wise, offer your baby food for the first time either at lunch (approx. midday) or tea time (approx 5pm)
- Ideally you should offer them milk after their food BUT if your baby is really hungry then let them have some milk first to take the edge off their hunger.
- Begin with a vegetable loosened with some milk and make sure it is completely pureed and smooth.
- Don’t expect your baby to take much at first, it is more of a learning process for them to practice taking food from a spoon and experiencing a new texture.
- Make it fun and if your baby seems distressed or isn’t enjoying it don’t worry give it a break and try again the next day. Also if they are feeling tired or ill, don’t push it.
- After a day or so try some other vegetables and once your baby has got used to food at one meal, start introducing food at another mealtime.
- Only introduce 1 new flavour each day or if you have allergies in your family every 3 days might be advisable. After a couple of weeks, you can also mix vegetables and fruit together.
- When they have tried a variety of fruit and vegetables and are having three ‘meals’ a day it is time to slowly decrease the milk and increase the quantity, types of food sources (e.g. meat, fish, pasta, grains) and move from smooth purees to those with some lumps.
Babies have very small stomachs so the amount of food they need in the early days would be the equivalent of 1 ice cube. As mentioned earlier, all babies are different and this applies to their appetite too. Some will take less and some will want more. In this early phase of weaning, babies will continue to need 600ml of breast/formula milk a day. Getting the quantities of milk and food can be a little tricky, a summary from the World Health Organization is copied below to support you.
Summary of food and milk requirements
|6-8 months||2-3 times/day||About 600ml/day|
|9-11 months||3 times/day||About 400-600ml/day|
|1-2 years||3 times/day +1-2 healthy snacks||About 400ml/day|
|2 years||As per rest of the family||About 300ml/day|
For even more weaning advise including what foods to avoid, information on allergens and gagging/choking, get our full Weaning Guide written with our Nutritionist by signing up to our mailing list.