Somewhere around the age of 4-6 months, infants start needing more than just milk. The exact timing will depend on a number of factors – including gestation at birth and growth rate – but certainly by 6 months of age, milk will not provide enough calories or nutrients for most babies.
If your baby starts waking at night (when they have been sleeping through), grabbing at objects and putting them in their mouth or if you find you’re having to feed them more often, then it’s probably time to introduce solids. However, milk will continue to be the major part of your baby’s diet for a while longer.
Start with a runny puree for the first few tastes and don’t add sugar or salt. Fruits, vegetables and starchy foods, such as baby rice or potatoes, are all suitable first foods. But don’t just stick to one or two – recent research suggests that offering a wide range of different foods early during the weaning process has major benefits in the long term. It seems that babies who have experienced a variety of tastes, accept new foods more readily than those who have been fed the same food day after day.
Babies are born with a liking for sweet tastes and a dislike of sour or bitter ones, which means that they will accept fruit more easily than vegetables. But at the weaning stage they can quickly learn to like all sorts of tastes – and giving a variety of vegetables encourages long-lasting liking for these nutritious foods, so make vegetables the only foods you offer for the first week or two.
How to make a magic moment
Allow plenty of time for feeding at first, and don’t rush or force feed your baby. Either sit your baby on your lap or use a highchair.
In the middle of a normal milk feed, offer a teaspoon or two of a pureed vegetable such as carrot or parsnip. Giving first tastes this way means that your baby won’t be too hungry to cope with a new experience or too full to want to try anything else.
Let your baby touch the spoon or the food – messy but fun!
Offer a different vegetable every day so that your baby gets a variety of tastes right from the start – you’ll find that after a while your baby will accept new foods more readily.