baby feeding self

Once your baby is six months old you can start to introduce them to their first foods. It can be daunting so here are some tips get you started.

Your baby is about to embark on an exciting adventure of new tastes and textures. It’s helpful to remember that their main source of nutrition will be their usual milk up until the age of one (NHS Choices, 2018).

You can pick from a couple of different methods to introduce solids to your baby to solids. Either traditional spoon feeding or baby-led weaning.

Whichever method you choose, it might take your little one time to get used to their first foods. Your local Introducing your baby to solids course through NCT could give you confidence at this stage.

Whatever you do, you’ll want to learn the basics. Here are some tips to help you get started with feeding your baby their first foods:

1. Make sure your baby is comfy

Sit your baby upright facing the table, either on your lap or in their highchair (Rapley and Murkett, 2010). Make sure they are steady and can use their hands and arms freely.

You may wish to put down a ‘messy mat’ on the floor, as many babies enjoy throwing their food.

Make sure you test any hot food before offering it to them.

2. Start out small

Start by offering your baby just a few pieces or teaspoons of food once a day. If you are using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before offering it to them.

Let your baby enjoy touching and exploring their first foods for flavour and texture. Don’t worry if your baby hasn’t eaten much – what they eat over the course of a week is more important.

3. Stay with your baby

Always supervise your little one while they are eating. You will need to stay with them the whole time they are eating, to keep an eye on them. This will reassure your baby as well as help to prevent choking incidents.

4. Take your time

There is no right or wrong time of day to get started. Try to choose times when your baby is not too tired or too hungry, so they can concentrate.

Mealtimes at this stage are for play and learning. Don’t hurry your baby or distract them and never force your baby to eat. Be patient with them and let them take their time.

5. Family mealtimes

Include your baby in your mealtimes whenever you can. If your dishes are suitable, you can offer your baby the same food as you are eating.

Including your baby will help introduce them to a healthier and more varied diet. Your little one will also learn to copy you and other members of the family.

6. Adapt your dishes

It’s important that babies do not eat too much salt because their kidneys cannot cope with it (NHS Choices, 2015). Added sugar is also a no no as it can cause tooth decay (NHS Choices, 2015).

If you‘re making a family meal that contains added salt or sugar, adapt the recipe by taking it out to suit your baby. Alternatively, you can put aside some of the dish for your baby before adding the salt or sugar.

7. Make mealtimes fun

Chat to your baby about the food they are eating. Talk about the different colours, textures and flavours.

If you are spoon-feeding your baby, you can play games like flying food towards them. Just make sure you don’t force food into their mouth if they close it.

8. Try, try, and try again

If your baby will not try or does not like something the first time you offer it, don’t be disheartened. Keep offering a variety of nutritious foods, again and again.

Even if your baby has refused something many times, they can often change their minds later on.

9. Milk feeds

Carry on offering breast milk or formula feeds as before. Milk is still your baby’s main source of nutrition until they are one year old (NHS Choices, 2018). When your baby needs less milk, they will reduce the amount of milk they drink themselves.

10. Thirsty work

It’s a good idea to encourage your baby to drink water out of a cup from six months old (NHS Choices, 2018).

By the time your baby is one year old, they should have stopped drinking from bottles with teats. You can then offer your little one sips of tap water from a cup with their meals.

Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, offering them tap water with meals is a good idea. Tap water is better for your little one’s teeth than sweetened drinks that can cause tooth decay.

This page was last reviewed in October 2017.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

An NCT Introducing solids course may be useful at this stage. A qualified practitioner will give you the latest tips and information about introducing first foods. You will also have the chance to meet other local parents.

Baby First aid courses are also available from your local NCT branch.

NHS Choices. (2018) Your baby’s first solid foods. Available from:   http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2015) Foods to avoid giving your baby.  Available from:  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/foods-to-avoid-baby.aspx [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Rapley G, Murkett T. (2010) Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow up a Happy and Confident Eater.  London: Experiment LLC. [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Further reading

Brown A, Harries V. (2015) infant sleep and night feeding patterns during later infancy: association with breastfeeding frequency, daytime complementary food intake, and infant weight. Breastfeeding Med. 10(5):246-252. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25973527 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Brown A, Lee M. (2013) An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods.  Matern Child Nutr.  9(2):233-243. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22118242 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Carruth BR, Ziegler PJ, Gordon A, Barr SI. (2004) Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers' decisions about offering a new food. J Am Diet Assoc. 104:57-64. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14702019 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

First Steps Nutrition. (2017) Eating well: The first year. Available from:  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f75004f09ca48694070f3b/t/5a5a41479140b7e31a75ccbc/1515864404727/Eating_well_the_first_year_Sep_17_small.pdf [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Grummer-Strawn LM, Scanlon KS, Fein SB. (2008) Infant feeding and feeding transitions during the first year of life. Pediatrics. 122 Suppl 2:S36-S42 Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18829829 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Hamosh M, Hamosh P. (1999) Development of digestive enzyme secretion. In: Sanderson IR, Walker WA (eds), Development of the Gastrointestinal Tract. B.C. Decker, Ontario, Canada, 1999: 261-271. [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Marasco L, Barger J. (1999) Cue Feeding: Wisdom and Science. Breastfeeding Abstracts. 18(4):28-29 Available from: http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/cuefeeding.pdf [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Munblit D, Peroni DG, Boix-Amoros A, Hsu PS, Land BV, Gay MCL, Kolotilina A, Skevaki C, Boyle RJ, Collado MC, Garssen J, Geddes DT, Nanan R, Slupsky C, We-gienka G, Kozyrskyj AL, Warner JO. (2017) Human milk and allergic diseases: an un-solved puzzle. Nutrients. 9(8) doi: 10.3390/nu9080894. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579687 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Du Toit G, Roberts G, Sayre PH, Bahnson HT, Radulovic S, Santos AF, Brough HA, Phippard D, Basting M, Feeney M, Turcanu V, Sever ML, Gomez Lorenzo M, Plaut M, Lack G; LEAP Study Team. (2015) Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy. N Engl J Med. 372(9):803-813. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1414850. Available from: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414850 [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Naylor A, Morrow A. (2001) Developmental readiness of normal full term infants to progress from exclusive breastfeeding to the introduction of complementary foods: reviews of the relevant literature concerning infant immunologic, gastrointestinal, oral motor and maternal reproductive and lactational development. Available from: https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnacs461.pdf [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NCT. (2018) First aid: What to do if a baby (birth to 12 months) is choking. https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/first-aid-what-do-if-your-baby-1-year-starts-choking [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2016)  Baby teething symptoms.  Available from:  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/teething-and-tooth-care.aspx [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2018) Fussy eaters. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/fussy-eaters [Accessed 1st October 2017].

SACN-COT. (2016). Assessing the health benefits and risks of the introduction of peanut and hen’s egg into the infant diet before six months of age in the UK. A Joint Statement from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in food, Consumer products and the Environment. Available from: https://cot.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/jointsacncotallergystatementfinal2.pdf [Accessed 1st October 2017].

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