Tuesday 21 September 2010 by Helen

Babies will generally start eating solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age . Cue - some food-related neuroticism, a whole new set of things to worry about. You might find yourself measuring your baby up against others, comparing and questioning is my baby too fussy? Is he eating enough? Is he eating too much? What foods should I feed my baby and when? And the list goes on...A lot to consider, so I've made a start. To begin, here are some  indications that your baby might be ready to start on real food.

  •  If your baby’s birth weight has doubled
  •  If your baby has good control of his neck and head, and can sit up (with some support)
  •  If your baby can indicate he’s full by clamping his mouth shut, or pulling away when you offer food.

color photo of baby covered in raspberry jam

How much should babies eat?

The majority of paediatricians will say - feed your baby as much as your baby wants to eat. This is bound to vary from time to time, and much like with sleeping patterns, babies do go through phases.  As a little human being, your baby will have his or her own appetite. In terms of eating '3 meals a day' for example, some babies aren't ready until they are 9-10 months, on the other hand some are ready at 7 months. The following general information may or may not apply, and again reinforces the fact that all babies and parenting methods are different...

  • When a baby is eating soft diced fruit or vegetables, they may seem to be eating less than a baby who is being spoon-fed purees.
  • When a baby is teething, they may eat less for a day or two, but this should only be temporary, and before you know it the appetite will be back. Often bigger and better!
  • When a child is preoccupied or distracted in any way, say for example you have just prized away a favourite toy, chances are she’s not going to be enthusiastic about being plonked in a high chair. So, pick your moments!
  • When you want a child to get used to eating at the same time as you, establish this as a routine early on. It might not be an instant success for all families, especially if baby particularly likes to be the centre of attention, or if their feeding requires a lot more of your attention. But if this is the case you may just need to ease them into a family mealtime routine more gradually.

Within a few months of baby eating solid foods, you can start incorporating some of the following; meats, vegetables, fruits and cereal. Cereal being a good one to start with. It's a simple, staple food, and you know what you are getting in terms of ingredients and specific nutrients. Brands that create cereals for babies are Heinz, Bebivita and Cow and Gate. You can get cereal dry or pre-mixed and it doesn’t make any difference nutrition-wise, so whether you are at home or on the go, just choose the most convenient.

Types of cereal for babies

  • Rice cereal is a popular choice. The grains have been cooked and pulverized and they contain a good source of thiamine, an important B vitamin. It also adds fibre to baby's diet.
  • Oatmeal is another ingredient for baby cereal. Like the rice, it is finely ground and is a great source of fibre.
  • When baby has got used to cereal, pureed fruit is always something you can add, or small pieces of banana.  A good way of kick starting the 5 a day!

Watch the salt intake

It is worth keeping an eye on salt levels in all your baby's food. Family cereals have a lot of hidden salts and sugars. Not all of them do though, Cow and Gate for example, doesn't have any added sugar or salt. Babies under a year old should have a salt intake of no more than 1g. Babies up to 3 years should have a salt intake of no more than 2g.

photo of three stars on a plate, one orange, one green, one yellow - all made out of pureed vegetables

When to introduce fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are introduced at about 6 months. Many paediatricians will recommend introducing fruit before vegetables, but this is simply because babies are born with a preference for sweets.  But there is no evidence that your baby will take a dislike to vegetables if fruit is given first.
I've compiled a handful of tips for getting baby eating vegetables,

  • Puree all the vegetables to begin with. Start with green and then progress to yellow, orange and other brightly coloured varieties. So peas and french beans, followed by carrots, sweet potatoes and squashes.
  • A typical serving would be 3 tablespoons twice a day, but again this depends on rate of growth and size of appetite.
  • Introduce a vegetable at a time, and allow a few days for baby to adapt to each new flavour before trying another.
  • As with cereal, you can by a more convenient pre-made version, or you can strain and puree yourself.
  • It’s advised that you don’t serve beetroots and turnips to babies less than a year of age. They contain large amounts of nitrates, and these can cause a low blood count in young babies.

Think vitamins and nutrients

Follow the same principles as you would with your own nutrition, although, your baby’s taste buds are not going to be as developed, so don't be disheartened if there are tastes baby just doesn't seem to acquire, there's plenty of time! Persist, but don't get too hung up on any one particular food, move on and try another, and come back to the stubborn food. There's such an array of vitamin-packed foods to choose from, it’s worth testing out as many as possible and encouraging baby in the right direction. Now's the time to start making nutrient rich choices, it is likely to be the fastest period of growth in their life.

  • For Vitamin A – Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli.
  • For Vitamin C – Red and green peppers.
  • Calcium – Broccoli, soy beans and squashes.
  • Iron – Spinach and Avocado

A good way to thin out purees is by using formula or breast milk, it not only adds nutrients but it's also a familiar taste that your baby will be accustomed to, which could be helpful if baby isn't really taking to vegetables.


A couple of recipes using Sweet Potatoes

Something simple...

Squashed Sweet Potatoes

(for 4-6 months)

For this recipe, the squash and the sweet potato can be served separately, or, they do go nicely mixed together. Squash has a very subtle flavour, so is a good first vegetable to try mixing with others.

1 medium Squash
1 large Sweet Potato

The Squash - directions

  1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Bake in an oven at 190 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is fleshy and soft.
  3. At this stage you can either scoop the flesh out, or food process the squash whole.
  4. If you scoop the flesh, you should be able to mash it quite easily.
  5. Add water, breast milk or formula accordingly to get a smooth consistency.

The Sweet Potato - directions

  1. Wash and prick the potato.
  2. Bake in an oven at 190 degrees for 50-60 minutes. (You can microwave if you are short on time. Or even microwave and then transfer to the oven and cook for 30 minutes)
  3. There is also the option to cut the potato into chunks, place them in boiling water for 10 minutes, and then mash them.
  4. Then you can combine the veg, or serve one at a time.

You could add a simple stock to the vegetables before pureeing, to add a bit more flavour. Be aware of the sodium and additive levels of some of the shop brought brands. You could make your own vegetable or meat stock. For vegetable, chop up onion, celery, a couple of carrots, some thyme and parsley. After chopping the vegetables, boil them for 30 minutes, strain and discard them, and you should be left with some tasty stock.

Something a bit out of the ordinary...

Sweet Potato Custard

(for 8-10 months)

1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
½ cup mashed banana
2 tbs brown sugar
2 beaten egg yolks
½ tsp salt
¼ cup raisins
ground cinnamon


  1. In a medium bowl, stir together sweet potato and banana. Add milk, blending well.
  2. Add brown sugar, egg yolks and salt, mixing thoroughly. Transfer mixture to casserole dish.
  3. Combine raisins, sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top of the sweet potato mixture.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife insterted near the centre comes out clean.
  5. This dish will retain its heat, so you can afford to give it a long time to cool down.

It seems that when introducing solid and new types of food to baby, it's largely a case of persistence, trial and error. It makes sense that babies are similar to us in terms of appetite, it won't always be consistent or predictable. It is also likely that just as our taste buds develop and change, that baby's will do the same. So don't despair, remember - fussy children don't always become fussy adults.

If anyone else has any other baby recipes or would like to share their own experiences of feeding little ones, please feel free to share...


Photo credit: via Flickr -  Qole Pejorian & Laurel717

  Currently rated 5 by 1 person

Tags: advice |  Baby |  tips |  development | 
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