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First Foods for Baby (0-1 year)

Early Years Nutrition

This section offers some general guidance to help ensure that your baby gets the right food at the right time. Remember, babies have special first foods and what is healthy for adults (e.g. high fibre, low fat) is not suitable for infants and small babies.

In addition, spoon-feeding practices vary from one family to another. Boys may differ from girls and breastfed infants tend to start spoon-feeding later than those who are not breastfed.

Starting the weaning process:

The Department of Health recommend that weaning starts at 6 months for those babies who have been exclusively breast fed, or sometime between 4-6 months if your baby has been formula fed. It is not recommended to start solids before 17 weeks (4 months) or to delay past 26 weeks as a babies’ digestive system and kidneys are still developing. Easily digested breast milk or infant formula is all that is needed. Weaning too soon may also increase the risk of your baby developing infections and/or allergies.

You may notice, particularly around three and six weeks, that your baby becomes restless and seems to want to feed more often. At this time, increase the number of breast feeds or the amount of formula offered at each feed rather than introducing solid foods.

Things to remember:

The goal of the weaning process is that by one year of age, an infant will be eating modified family foods, i.e. foods with no added gravy, sauces, or salt.

At the beginning, it is best not to offer the first spoon-feed when the baby is very hungry. The small amount taken will not be enough to satisfy his/her hunger and he/she may become frustrated and upset. If this happens, breast feed or give some formula first and then offer food when the baby is more relaxed.

Begin by spoon-feeding once a day, at a time when you too are relaxed and can enjoy the experience. At first, only a very small amount of food will be eaten. What is important is that the baby is beginning to learn to take food from a spoon.

It is important to remember to only introduce one food at a time so that the baby can get used to the different tastes and textures. If a particular food is refused, wait a few days and try again.

Baby led weaning is also becoming an increasingly popular way of introducing foods to children. It does not use the conventional weaning methods of purees and mashed foods; instead the child is offered bite sized pieces of food to suck, chew and explore. There are pros and cons to this style of weaning, so make sure to discuss with your health care practitioner before starting.

And lastly, if you suspect that your baby has reacted to a food by being unsettled or upset, avoid this food for a while and if the problem persists when you try the food again talk to your doctor, a nutritionist / dietitian or your public health nurse.

 Step by Step Guide to Weaning: 

 The weaning process is made up of three stages, starting with the first spoonfeeds when the infant is between 4-6 months and finishing at 12 months.

 

Stage 1: From 6 months:

Texture: Smooth or Pureed foods

Suitable foods:

  • Plain baby rice mixed with baby’s usual milk;
  • Pureed cooked potato, carrot or parsnip.
  • Smooth / Pureed banana, stewed fruits e.g. apple, pear, apricots.           

Skills developed:

  • Taking foods from a spoon.
  •  Moving food from the front to the back of the mouth for swallowing.
  • Managing increasingly thicker purées.

 

Stage 2: 6-9 months:

Texture: Gradually moving from mashed foods to foods with soft lumps.

Suitable foods:

  • Mashed potato, pasta, rice, bread
  • Pieces of pasteurised soft cheese, e.g. cottage cheese, cheddar.
  • Fruits, mashed or given as small and soft bite-size pieces when the infant is ready, e.g. soft apple, pear etc.
  • Mashed or cooked slices of vegetables, e.g. carrot, turnip, parsnip, peas etc.

Skills developed:

  • Moving lumps around the mouth plus chewing lumps.
  • Self-feeding bite-sized pieces of food using hands and fingers.
Stage 3: 9-12 months:

Texture:  Lumpy / chopped foods & harder finger foods.

Suitable foods:

  • 3 – 4 well-cooked pasta shapes e.g. bow-ties, shells.
  • 1-2 unsalted crackers
  • Fruit slices, e.g. melon, banana, pear, apple, mango & orange.
  • Small pot of plain natural yoghurt with some chopped/sliced fruit.
  • Strips of meat or chicken.

Skills developed:

  • Chewing minced and chopped foods
  • Self-feeding bite-sized pieces of food using hands and fingers.
  • Learning to eat with a spoon.

 
Foods to avoid for babies :
  • Salt – Don’t add any salt to foods or give the baby any foods that contain a lot of salt, kidneys have not fully functioned properly.
  • Sugar – avoid sugary foods & drinks – prevent early tooth decay.
  • Whole nuts as these are a choking hazard and peanuts  should not be provided where there is a history of allergies.
  • Undercooked eggs &  unpasteurised soft cheeses.

 

 

 
Drinks for babies up to 12mths:
  • Breast milk, infant milk, follow-on formula, cow’s milk.
  • Drinks not recommended – baby juices i.e. squash – sugary drinks.
  • Cup / beaker can be introduced from 6 months, target would be by 12 months to drink from a non-lidded beaker.
Other Useful Weaning Guides