Moving on from milk to adding solid food to a baby's diet can be daunting for both the baby and the parents. But some simple tips can make the process run as smoothly as possible
Do’s and don’ts
Most ingredients are safe for babies, but advise parents:
- Not to add salt to food as it is bad for babies’ kidneys. Avoid stock cubes and gravy too as these are often high in salt
- Not to add sugar to babies’ food. However, natural sugars from mashed fruit or breast/ formula milk are fine
- To avoid honey until the age of 12 months. Occasionally, honey contains bacteria which can produce toxins in a baby’s intestines, leading to infant botulism, which is a very serious illness. Honey is also a sugar, so avoiding it helps to prevent tooth decay
- To avoid wheat, gluten, nuts (including peanuts), soya, meat, fish, dairy and other potential allergens until six months of age as they may cause allergies or make the baby ill
- Not to give whole peanuts or nuts to children under five years old because they could choke on them
- Not to choose low fat foods. Fat is an important source of calories and certain vitamins for babies and young children. It’s better for infants between the ages of six months and two years to have full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Not to give shark, swordfish or marlin. The amount of mercury in these fish can affect a baby’s growing nervous system
- To always check the labels of cooking sauces, soups and breakfast cereals, etc, as they may contain high levels of salt, sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Did you know?
Eating food from a spoon or fingers requires a different mouth action to that used when drinking free-flowing milk, and may aid speech development.
Tackling fussy eating
It can take a while for babies to get used to a new taste or texture, but if parents are worried that their baby is becoming a fussy eater, you can suggest the following tips:
- Eat the same meals and foods as a family that you want the baby to eat – seeing the family enjoy the food will encourage the baby to do the same
- Give small portions and praise the baby for eating, even if they only manage a little
- If the baby rejects the food, don’t force them to eat it. Just take the food away without comment. Try to stay calm, even if it’s very frustrating
- Don’t leave meals until baby is too hungry or tired to eat
- The baby may be a slow eater, so be patient
- Don’t give too many snacks between meals. Limit them to a milk drink and some fruit slices or a small cracker with a slice of cheese, for example
- It’s best not to use food as a reward, especially for eating vegetables. Your child may start to think of sweets as nice and vegetables as nasty
- Children sometimes get thirst and hunger mixed up. They might say they’re thirsty when they’re hungry and vice versa
- Make mealtimes enjoyable, fun and social, and not just about eating
- If the parent knows other children of the same age who are good eaters, ask them round for tea. A good example can work well
- Sometimes a child will eat for someone else, such as a grandparent, without any fuss
- Children’s tastes change over time. One day, they’ll hate something, but a month later, they may love it.