The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends waiting until your child is around six months old before introducing solid foods.
The old belief is 4 months of age, but this is no longer advised by peak organisations.
Your baby is probably ready to try solid foods by the time he can do all of the following:
- Sit up unsupported
- Hold his head steady
- Pick food up and put it in his own mouth
- Swallow food (babies who are not yet ready have a tongue reflex that pushes food out of their mouths)
Baby led weaning is all about following your baby's lead. You provide a healthy, balanced mix of finger foods, but let your baby control how much he eats. You may find that for the first few weeks, very little actually makes it into your baby's tummy, but fear not, milk is still able to provide the nutrients your baby needs at six months.
Seeing your baby enjoy his first tastes of solid food can be pretty exciting, and you'll probably be keen to offer him a large variety of foods to satisfy his curious palate. Here are some great first foods to give your baby:
First Food Idea #1: Steamed Carrot
Starting off with vegetables can help your child to develop a love for these healthy morsels. You should steam the carrot for a few minutes longer than normal, to ensure it is soft enough for your baby to gum on. It mustn't be too soft, however, because your baby will need to be able to grip onto it to raise it to his mouth.
First Food Idea #2: Steamed Broccoli
Baby led weaning is all about giving babies the freedom to explore and enjoy the various tastes, smells and textures of food. Broccoli is a popular food with many babies because of the easy-to-grip stalk and soft, delicious top. You will need to steam it for a few extra minutes again to make sure it is soft enough for your baby to chew. Broccoli can get messy, so make sure you have a cloth to hand for when your baby has finished playing. If your baby has a sensitive tummy, introduce broccoli later as it can make babies more gassy.
First Food Idea #3: Avocado
This food could have been designed specifically for baby led weaning. The softness makes it a great first food even for babies who don't yet have teeth, and the firmness means it lends itself well to being gripped by small hands. Avocados are full of good fats, which are really important for brain development in young children, so it's a good food to encourage your child to enjoy.
First Food Idea #4: Cucumber
Cucumber is another perfect first food. The outer skin is tough and easy to grip to, but the inside is moist, soft and easy to eat. Cut the cucumber into big chips, and let your baby explore the various textures that it has to offer. Cucumbers that have been kept in the fridge can also offer much-needed relief for teething babies, as they act as a cool compress on sore gums.
First Food Idea #5: Steamed Asparagus
Asparagus is a great shape for finger food. The length and droop of the vegetable will no doubt give your baby something extra to explore at the dinner table as he tries to wrestle it into his open mouth. The asparagus tip also adds an extra texture, allowing your baby to explore both ends of the vegetable. Make sure that you steam the asparagus for a couple of extra minutes, to ensure it is soft enough for your baby to chomp through easily.
First Food Idea #6: Peas And Sweetcorn
A high chair tray scattered with boiled peas and sweetcorn will keep your baby entertained for a long time. They are also great foods for helping to improve dexterity, as your baby battles to pick up an individual pea or kernel of sweet corn. Even once the pea is in his hand, it will take a few attempts before he manages to deposit it into his mouth without it falling out.
First Food Idea #7: Your Dinner (Minus The Salt)
The beauty of baby led weaning, is the simplicity and convenience it allows. You don't need to stay up late filling ice cube trays with homemade batches of purees. Instead you can simply serve baby a small portion of what the rest of the family is eating. If you usually cook with salt, you will need to separate your baby's portions before adding the salt, because salt is not recommended for babies. You should also avoid cooking with sugars. Sharing meals with the rest of the family will encourage your baby to try new flavours, and explore foods containing a mix of spices and herbs.
First Food Idea #8: Pasta And Sauce
A simple pasta sauce of chopped tomatoes, herbs, lentils and chunky well-cooked vegetables, makes the perfect accompaniment to pasta. Alternate the pasta shapes, allowing your baby to practice picking up different sized and shaped foods. The tomato sauce will be messy, so make sure you have a cloth at hand to wipe up any mess. It's always worth keeping a waterproof floor covering under the highchair too, to prevent any food staining on the floor.
First Food Idea #9: Melon
Once your baby has expanded his palette of healthy vegetables and delicious home cooked meals, it's time to start adding fruit to the equation. Melon is a great first fruit because it is soft and can be easily chomped on by babies who don't yet have any teeth. Keeping some of the rind one will give your baby something to grip onto, making this an easy fruit to pick up. Keep a close eye on your baby, however, to make sure he isn't trying to eat the tough rind.
First Food Idea #10: Blueberries
Once you are ready to start introducing fruits, blueberries are a great option. Slightly bigger than peas, these will be a little easier for your baby to pick up, but will still help to develop your baby's fine motor skills and dexterity. Blueberries are rounded and will roll away as your baby tries to pick them up, meaning he will get lots of practice to perfect his pincer grip. After the first batch of blueberries, you may notice that your baby's poo is an unusual colour (purple or blue), this is normal and nothing to worry about.