When to wean and introduce new foods
Babies used to be encouraged to start solids by four months, but now it is believed that six months is a preferable age as it allows for a baby’s digestive system to be better developed.
When to wean
Waiting until your baby's digestive system is fully developed has been one reason that the WHO (World Health Organisation) has recommended moving the date for weaning back from 4 months to 6 months. They also considered evidence that it might help avoid your child developing allergies later on, and some research suggests that eating solids too early might lead to childhood obesity.
However, delaying weaning too far beyond six months risks a drop in your child’s intake of essential nutrition. Also your growing baby needs to get used to the skills for eating and trying new foods for a healthy, varied diet, and building up some of their speech muscles through chewing.
Moving on to new foods
Whilst some babies quickly get into eating a portion of food at lunchtime and teatime, others will take half an hour to work through a small splodge of carrot just once a day. However, in the second six months of your child’s first year, the nutritional value of food other than milk becomes increasingly important, so beginning to bring in new foods when you can is very important.
Once your baby seems comfortable with a small repertoire of mashed veg and fruit, try something new a little at a time. By still keeping the dishes simple you can see what’s working and what isn’t, varying the meals and not slavishly always offering a ‘sweet’ fruit for ‘afters’. (Never add sugar or honey – fruit and many vegetables taste sweet enough already).
Keep the food quite mushy until about 9 months, when a little texture should be added. Now you can also begin to offer easy finger foods like cooked carrot batons or a soft piece of bread (nothing with seeds or chunky grains in it) without the crust on – unless there is a history of any food intolerance in your immediate family that might make glutens a bad idea.
By a year, your baby can eat chopped up versions of what the rest of the family is eating so long as you are eating salt-free, only lightly spiced dishes.
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