We share advice on introducing fish, wheat, dairy and many more foods during the weaning process - essential if you're wondering 'When can my baby eat...?'
The Department of Health recommend that you breast or bottle feed your baby exclusively for the first six months of their life. However, once your baby is showing signs that he or she is ready for weaning you can gradually begin to introduce a whole range of foods into their diet.
As a new parent, knowing which foods you should introduce into your baby's diet when can be quite confusing, even more so if your family has a history of allergies. So, to help make the whole weaning process less stressful, we've created a guide that lets you know when it's 'safe' to introduce different foods. However, if you have reason to think that your baby might be at risk of developing an allergy it's always best to seek advice from your health care provider before you begin weaning.
Fruit and vegetables
Most parents begin weaning using baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk as your baby is already accustomed to the taste. However, you can also begin to introduce a whole range of fruit and vegetables from 6 months. When doing this you should introduce one food at a time, leaving a day or so in between each new trial so that you can spot any reaction.
It's best to steam or stew fruit and vegetables (so that they retain the nutrients) and then puree them into a smooth paste that your baby will enjoy. As your baby gets older and more practiced at eating you can start to leave lumps in the puree and eventually offer pieces of fruit and vegetable as finger food.
Soft, sweet fruit and vegetables such as apples, bananas, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, parsnip, courgettes, spinach and cauliflower can be good to start off with and will introduce plenty of variety in your baby's diet.
Wheat and gluten
The Department of Health recommend that you wait until your baby is 6 months old before introducing foods that contain gluten. For this reason many parents start the weaning process with more easily digested, gluten free grains such as rice and millet. Gluten based grains include wheat, oat, barley and rye so you will need to avoid feeding your baby bread, pasta and breakfast cereals before the 6 month mark.
Once your baby reaches 6 months of age you can begin to introduce full fat dairy products in their diet. However, while it's fine to feed your baby cheese, yogurt, fromage frais and milk based sauces you should not offer cow's milk as a drink before your baby's first birthday as it doesn't contain the right amount of nutrients to sustain your baby's development before this. You should also wait until your baby reaches 12 months before giving them goat's or sheep's milk.
In addition, you should only feed your baby full fat dairy products before their second birthday as they need the extra energy these products contain. After this you can replace full fat milk with semi-skimmed milk if you so wish, although skimmed milk isn't a suitable alternative for infants under the age of 5.
Mouldy, soft cheeses such as Camembert, Brie and Stilton should also be avoided as they may contain a bacteria called listeria which can be harmful to young infants.
Well cooked eggs (where the white is completely solid) can be included from 6 months and are a good source of protein. However, it is vital that you avoid feeding your baby any food containing raw egg (such as ice cream or mouse) as these carry the risk of salmonella food poisoning.
You can start introducing well pureed meat into your baby's diet from 6 months, although you can leave it a little until your baby is happy eating a range of other foods. You may find that your baby takes a little longer to get used to meat than they did vegetables and dairy however, this will simply be because it has such a different texture to the other foods they are used to and is also a lot more filling. Over time your baby will start to become used to this and will learn to enjoy meat as a normal part of their diet.
This is another great source of protein and the omega oils fish contains are essential for your baby's healthy development. Fish can be included in your baby's diet after 6 months although you should hold off until they are 3 years old if your family has a history of shell fish allergies.
Ideally you should aim to include two portions of oily fish such as salmon, cod, haddock or sardines in your baby's diet each week. However, you will need to avoid shark, swordfish or marlin as these could contain potentially toxic levels of mercury.
Fish or shellfish should be thoroughly washed and cooked all the way through to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
You can introduce very finely chopped nuts, nut oils and nut butters into your baby's diet from six months onwards as long as you have no family history of allergies. However, if you, your partner, or your baby's brothers and sisters suffer from an allergic condition such as eczema, asthma or hay fever you should wait until your baby is at least 3 before offering nut products and seek advice from your doctor before you do so.
Additionally, it is very important that you avoid giving whole nuts to any children under the age of 5 as these could pose a choking risk.
Once you begin weaning it's important that you control the level of salt in your baby's diet, keeping their daily intake below 1g as their kidney's aren't yet developed enough to process it. You will need to control the amount of naturally salty food you include in your baby's diet (bacon, sausages, cheese and processed foods are all relatively high in salt and should be used in moderation) and should never add salt to their meals.
You should avoid including sugar in your baby's diet wherever possible and this goes for sweets and chocolates too as they can cause unnecessary weight gain and tooth decay. Instead, it's better to use breast or formula milk, mashed banana or a fruit puree as a sweetener as these are much better for your baby's health.
Honey is also a form of sugar and so should only be used in limited amounts, however not before your baby's first birthday as there is a risk that it could cause harmful bacteria to develop in your baby's digestive system. After 12 months your baby's intestines will be developed enough to cope with this and honey can be safely introduced.
High fibre foods
For adults, whole grains such as brown rice and those used to make brown bread and pasta, are promoted as one of the healthier food choices and while it is a good idea to include them in your baby's diet it's also important to include other starchy foods such as potatoes, white bread and white rice too. This is because, although whole grains provide a good source of energy, they are very filling and so when consumed regularly they can potentially reduce your baby's appetite and cause them to miss out on other nutrients and calories they need for healthy development.
Fizzy drinks, squash and flavoured milk are not suitable for infants as they can damage the development of your baby's first teeth, cause excess weight gain and reduce their appetite for the nutrient rich food they need to grow. However, pure fruit juices can be introduced in moderation from six months onwards, although these should only ever be offered during meal times as this is when the vitamin C they contain will help your baby to absorb the iron in their food. It's important that you choose juices made from 100% fruit (not from concentrate) and dilute them using one part juice to ten parts water before giving them to your baby.
Whether you are just starting weaning or your baby is already happily munching away on 'grown up' food, why not visit the AskBaby forums and share your questions and advice with other parents.