Introducing your baby to solid foods – sometimes called weaning or complementary feeding – should start when your baby is around 6 months old.
How much your baby eats is less important to begin with than getting them used to the idea of eating. They will still be getting most of their nutrients from breast milk or first infant formula.
Begin by offering food at a time that suits you both. You'll be able to gradually increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eat small portions of the same food as the rest of the family.
When to start weaning your baby
Babies get most of the nutrients they need from breast milk or first infant formula until they are around 6 months old.
If you are breastfeeding, having breast milk alone up to the age of around 6 months will help protect your baby against illness and infections. Breast milk will carry on protecting them for as long as you carry on feeding.
Waiting until your baby is ready for solid food means they'll quickly be able to feed themselves and will be able to swallow more easily.
You may wonder if your baby is ready for solids foods if they:
chew their fists
wake in the night even though they were sleeping through before
want extra milk feeds
But these are all normal behaviours for babies and not necessarily a sign that they are hungry or ready to start solid food.
Starting solid food won't make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night. Extra milk feeds Variety in your baby's diet is really important, but there's a chance they may be allergic to certain foods.
It's important to introduce these foods one at a time – and not before 6 months:
foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley or rye
foods containing nuts or seeds (children under 5 shouldn't have whole nuts because of the risk of choking)
fish and shellfish
There's no evidence that waiting until your child is older will stop them developing a food allergy.
Once your baby is ready for solids, just give them these foods in very small amounts and watch carefully for any symptoms of an allergic reaction.
If your baby already has a known allergy – such as a diagnosed food allergy or eczema, or you have a family history of food allergies, eczema, asthma or hay fever – you may need to be particularly careful when introducing peanuts and peanut products. Talk to your GP or health visitor first. Remember, peanuts, like all nuts, should be crushed or ground.
Wriggles and Giggles deliver face to face group sessions in Yarm, Hartburn, Ingleby Barwick that you can join by booking a sessions that best suits you, if you are a parent or carer to an early years child from birth. All areas of learning are covered for your child's development and your own understanding of how that happens and how to get the best outcome for them with your parenting techniques.
How to start solid foods
Try not to worry about how much your baby eats at first. There will be some days when your baby eats more and others when they eat less, and they may reject some foods completely.
Don't be put off. All babies are different, and some learn to accept new foods and textures more quickly than others.
To get your baby off to a good start with solid foods:
Let them enjoy touching and holding the food
Allow your baby to feed themselves, using their fingers, as soon as they show an interest
It may take time for your baby to accept a new food – keep trying, as it may take several attempts
Don't force your baby to eat – wait until the next feed if they're not interested this time
If you're using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food – your baby may like to hold a spoon too
Allow your baby to go at their own speed
Start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day
Cool hot food and test it before giving it to your baby
Don't add sugar or salt (including stock cubes) to your baby's food or cooking water – see what other foods to avoid giving your baby
Always stay with your baby when they are eating in case they start to choke
What foods to give your baby
0 to 6 months
Your baby only needs breast milk or first infant formula.
"Follow-on" formula isn't suitable for babies under 6 months, and there's no need to introduce it after 6 months either.
Check with your health visitor or GP first if you want to introduce solid foods before 6 months.
Vitamins for babies
It's recommended that babies from birth to 1 year of age are given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D, whether or not you are taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself.
Babies who are fed infant formula don't need a vitamin D supplement if they're having 500ml (about a pint) or more of formula a day. This is because formula is already fortified with vitamin D.
From 6 months
Your baby's first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables – such as parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear – all cooled before eating.
Soft fruits, like peach or melon, or baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby's usual milk are good as well.
Keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula, but don't give them whole cows', goats' or sheep's milk as a drink until they are 1 year old.
Some babies like to start with mashed foods. Other babies need a little longer to get used to new textures so may prefer smooth or blended foods on a spoon at first.
To help your baby get used to a range of tastes and textures, try to move on from purées to mashed foods as soon as they are able to have them.
Keep offering different foods, including foods your baby has rejected before. It can take lots of tries before your baby will accept a new food or texture.
As soon as your baby starts solid foods, you can encourage them to have finger foods so they can practise feeding themselves.
Start off with finger foods that break up easily in their mouth and are long enough for them to grip. Try grabbable bits of soft ripe banana or avocado. Pieces about the size of your own finger work well.
Always stay with your baby when they're eating in case they start to choke.
Once your baby is used to the foods above, they can have soft cooked meat such as chicken, mashed fish (check carefully for any bones), pasta, noodles, toast, pieces of chapatti, lentils, rice and mashed hard-boiled eggs.
They can also have full-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, fromage frais or custard. Choose products with no added sugar or less sugar. You can use whole cows' milk in cooking or mixed with food from 6 months.
Introduce a cup from around 6 months and offer sips of water with meals. An open or free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip and is better for their teeth.
Vitamins for babies and children
It's recommended that babies from birth to 1 year of age are given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D.
It's also recommended that all children aged from 6 months to 5 years have daily vitamin supplements containing vitamin A (233µg) and vitamin C (20mg).
Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day don't need vitamin supplements because formula is already fortified with vitamins.
From 8 to 9 months
Your baby will gradually move towards eating 3 meals a day. It will be a mixture of soft finger foods, and mashed or chopped foods.
Your baby's diet should consist of a variety of:
fruit and vegetables
bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods
meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
milk and dairy products
From 12 months
Your baby will now be eating 3 meals a day – chopped if necessary – plus breast or whole cows' milk, and healthier snacks such as fruit, vegetable sticks, toast and rice cakes.
They can now drink whole cows' milk. Choose full-fat dairy products – children under 2 need the extra fat and vitamins. From 2 years old, if they are a good eater and growing well, they can have semi-skimmed milk. From 5 years old, 1% fat and skimmed milk is OK.
Read more about what to feed young children.
What milk, when?
For around the first 6 months, you should feed your baby only breast milk or first infant formula.
First infant formula made from cows' or goats' milk is the only suitable alternative to breast milk in the first 12 months of your baby's life.
Only use soya-based formula if your GP has advised you to.
Follow-on milks are available for babies older than 6 months, but there's no evidence that they have any extra benefits, and your baby doesn't need them.
Cows' milk can be mixed with food from 6 months, and whole cows' milk can be given as a drink from 1 year old.
Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced once your child is 2 years old, as long as they're a good eater and have a varied diet.
Skimmed and 1% milk don't contain enough calories for children under 5 years old.
First infant formula, follow-on formula or growing-up milks aren't needed once your baby is 1 year old.
Goats' and sheep's milk aren't suitable as a drink for babies under 1 year.
You can give your child unsweetened calcium-fortified milk alternatives, such as soya drinks, as part of a balanced diet from the age of 1 year.
Toddlers and young children under the age of 5 shouldn't be given rice drinks because of the levels of arsenic they contain.
If your child has an allergy or intolerance to milk, talk to your health visitor or GP. They can advise you on suitable alternatives.