Leading baby food and nutrition expert Annabel Karmel explains the different stages of introducing your baby to solid food
After around six months, your baby will start to need nutrients that can’t be provided by milk alone. That means it’s time for weaning. Some parents follow the traditional staged approach using purées and spoon-led feeding to get their little one used to solids, while others might try baby-led weaning. Some do a mix of both! Here’s what Annabel has to say…
Stage 1: First foods
- Your baby will be used to the closeness and warmth of breast- or bottle-feeding, so hold them close and give lots of cuddles when weaning.
- If they struggle to eat from a spoon, simply dip your clean finger in the purée and feed them from that.
- Very first foods should be easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergy. Butternut squash and root vegetable purées like carrot or sweet potato are good options – orange-coloured vegetables are a rich source of vitamin A, important for growth and to help your baby fight infections.
- Apple and pear also make good first fruit purées, while banana, papaya and avocado are brilliant ‘no cook’ foods – just mash them.
Stage 2: Adding texture
- Once your baby is used to smooth foods, you can begin getting them used to soft lumps and bumps. Try adding cheese to vegetable purées before moving on to other proteins like meat and fish.
- Eggs are very nutritious and fine from six months if cooked until solid and there is no family history of egg allergies. If an egg does cause a reaction, the effect will be almost immediate, in which case seek medical advice. Well-cooked scrambled eggs make a good breakfast for your baby.
- Puréed chicken is an ideal first protein as it’s easy to digest and the darker meat is a good source of iron. Try my chicken with sweet potato and apple recipe.
- Red meat is also a very good source of iron, so offer a tasty beef purée. If your baby is following a balanced vegetarian diet, lentils are a good source of iron.
- When your baby moves on to chopped foods at nine to 12 months, chunks of beef can be a little tough, so try cooking it slowly until tender in a casserole with onion and root vegetables, or make a bolognese sauce with lots of finely chopped cooked vegetables.
- Poach or cook fish in the microwave with a little milk, remove any bones then purée with a cheese sauce or mix with vegetables. Try my salmon with sweet potato, tomato and basil.
- Oily fish such as salmon is important for the development of your baby’s vision and nervous system. Your baby’s brain will triple in size during the first year so give them oily fish from six months, but no more than two portions a week; the NHS Live Well website has more information.
Stage 3: Finger foods
- Once your baby can hold pieces of food, try tempting finger foods such as my mini meatballs and salmon footballs.
- If you’re trying baby-led weaning, you might not follow a staged approach and may begin with finger foods.