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Introducing solid foods

Introducing solid foods happens when your baby is around 6 months old (as per the current NHS guidelines) and ready to start the next phase of their nutritional development.  At this age your baby’s gut has matured and developmentally they are ready. If your child is having prescribed milk or has intolerances/allergies it is important to seek health visitor advice before commencing introducing solid foods.

Health Visitors help families during those early years of a child’s life, giving a profound impact on the lifelong health and wellbeing of young children and their families.

If your child has a problem with feeding, you should initially speak to your health visitor to assess if they can assist your child with their symptoms. If your child needs more specialised assistance then the health visitor can refer your child to a specialist service. Alternatively, your child’s GP may also refer your child.

Introducing solid foods online group sessions

We run regular online group video sessions on Microsoft Teams which are free for anyone to join. To book onto one of our sessions, please call the Single Point of Access on 0300 247 0090. The presentation slides used in the online sessions are also available here, so you can access them at your convenience.

How do I know when my baby is ready for solid foods?

There are 3 signs that your baby may be ready to start solid foods:

  1. Your baby has good hand eye coordination – your baby can see, reach and put food to their mouth
  2. They can stay in the sitting position and can hold their head steady
  3. They are able to swallow without pushing food back out of their mouth

What food should I give my baby initially?

Baby’s first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables. You can use a mixture of feeding your baby from a spoon and giving them finger foods to hold and chew. When preparing finger foods a good way to determine the right size, is to have a piece big enough to fit into your baby’s fist. It is always best to prepare finger foods length ways into baton sized pieces and cut round foods into quarters (for example, grapes and tomatoes)

What next?

Once your child has got use to eating they can have:

  • Soft cooked meats
  • Mashed fish
  • Pasta
  • Toast
  • Noodles
  • Eggs*
  • Full-fat dairy products (such as yogurts and cheese)

Food can be full of flavour and textures and the more variety your child has the less likely they are to become fussy.

*Advice / Guidance from NHS Choices regarding Eggs:

Due to improved food safety controls in recent years, infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs, or foods containing them, that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.

But these groups of people should still avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs that are:

  • not British Lion stamped
  • not hen eggs (e.g. duck or quail eggs)
  • from outside the UK

What foods to avoid?

  • Whole nuts are not recommended for under 5s due to the risk of choking
  • Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1. This is because it contains a bacteria that can be harmful
  • Low fat foods should not be given as your child needs the vitamins and calories from fat for their growth and development
  • All raw shellfish should be not be given to children as there is a high risk of food poisoning
  • Some fish (such as marlin, shark and swordfish) have high mercury levels and can cause damage to children’s nervous system
  • Salt, sugar and saturated fats should be avoided
  • Sugar can cause tooth decay in young children so it is best to limit sweet treats
  • Salt can be harmful for the kidneys
  • Be careful of stocks and gravies as these can be salty

If you share your meal with your child, make sure you have not added salt or sugar.

How much should my baby have?

Your baby will be able to self-regulate their appetite and will eat until they are full. All babies are different and on different days may eat more or less. It is ok for a baby or toddler not to finish their meal. As long your baby is content and putting on weight there is no need to be concerned. When your baby is full they may push food away or turn their head.

Now I have introduced solid food, how much milk will my baby need?

Only reduce your child’s milk intake once they are having an established and varied diet. This should be a gradual reduction and milk intake will decrease once food intake increases.

When can my baby have cow’s milk?

Babies can have full fat cow’s milk as a drink from 1 year onwards. You can introduce semi skimmed milk from 2 years old onwards if your child is having a good range of foods. You can add cow’s milk to cooking and cereal from 6 months old.

Does my baby need follow on milk?

Your baby only needs stage 1/First Formula and at 1 year your baby can go on to cow’s milk.

I am worried my baby will choke

It is normal for babies to gag when first trying solid food and this is a normal reaction. When babies gag they will push the food forwards and spit it out.

My baby is premature will this effect when they can start solid food?

Look for the same signs as a term baby. Introducing solid foods usually starts around 6 months.

Can my baby have water?

Your baby can have tap water from 6 months in a free flow beaker which encourages your baby to sip and swallow.

Does my baby need vitamins?

It’s recommended that children aged one to four years should have a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement all year round.

As a precaution, all babies under one year should have a daily 8.5-10mcg vitamin D supplement to make sure they get enough.

However, babies who have more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day don’t need a vitamin D supplement as formula is already fortified.

If you are unsure if your baby needs additional vitamin D ask your Health Visitor for advice.

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