Once your baby is coping well with roughly mashed food, eating without gagging on lumps, and getting to grips with finger foods, then you can start thinking about giving her 'proper' family foods that are minced, diced and chopped rather than mush.
How do I start?
A good way to introduce proper foods is to change the consistency of just one element of your baby's meal. For example, if she's eating beef, potatoes and carrots then keep the beef pureed and the potatoes mushy and mix in some finely chopped cooked carrots along with mashed up carrot to see how she manages. If she gags on the meal then it may be too dry, so try adding boiled (and cooled) water for a more manageable consistency. If you haven't already, then you can also try your baby with finger foods which are either quite soft, such as small pieces of banana, well cooked carrot sticks and small bits of soft bread, or which readily dissolve, such as toast and breadsticks.
As your baby gets used to biting, chewing and gumming solid bits of food you can make the pieces you offer bigger. Some babies will want to take things slowly and others will want to move more or less straight on to biting bits from a whole banana or holding their own piece of bread. If your baby is keen on controlling her own mouthfuls then you'll need to keep an eye out to make sure she doesn't literally bite off more than she can chew.
Don't force things on your baby if she's not interested, it's better to go at her own pace but continue to offer new foods at intervals to see how she likes them. At this stage it's still best to leave at least a few days before each new food to check for possible allergic reactions.
Ideas for foods to try
Foods to avoid
- Honey - Honey may sometimes contain a bacteria that can cause a nasty case of food poisoning in babies, so avoid until your baby is 12 months
- Salt - Never add salt to your baby's food when cooking. Breast and formula milk contain all the salt your baby actually needs
- Sugar and sugary foods and drinks - These may encourage your baby to develop a sweet tooth and may lead to tooth decay. Any sweetness you do offer is best offered through fruit
- Low-fat dairy products - Your active and growing baby needs all the calories of full-fat dairy
- Potential sources of food poisoning - Soft, rinded cheeses (eg. brie), blue cheeses (eg. stilton, gorgonzola), raw or soft-cooked eggs, undercooked fish and meat, re-heated foods and pate
Cooked diced vegetables
- Slices of fruit such as banana (halve or quarter the slices at first), peeled apple, pear, melon, peach and plum
- Soft fruit that you can offer on a spoon, such as melon, ripe avocado and kiwi fruit (though kiwi should be avoided if there is a family history of allergies)
- Slices of cucumber (peeled at first)
- Cubes of cheese (avoid soft cheeses like brie and blue cheese like stilton)
- Rice cakes
- Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Well-cooked pasta cut into small pieces
- Chopped up hard-boiled egg with a little unsalted butter or olive oil
- Well cooked and mashed beans
- White fish in small flakes (be meticulous about removing bones!)
What to watch out for
- Small hard-ish fruits that may pose a choking hazard, such as grapes and blueberries. You an still offer these, but chop them into small manageable pieces
- Whole nuts pose a choking hazard. The Department of Health recommends that nuts are ground, crushed or flaked if offered. They should be avoided if there is any family history of nut allergy
- Stringy meat - chicken needs to be cooked until it's very soft and cut into bite-sized pieces and most other meats will need to be ground up
- Round-shaped fruit and vegetables which may pose a choking hazard - slices of carrot and banana are usually best halved or quartered
- Citrus - the acidity in citrus fruit can upset a baby's tummy and cause a nasty case of nappy rash, so look out for any reactions if you're introducing citrus.
Balancing your baby's diet
As your baby nears her first birthday it's good for her to be eating a wide range of foods. Not only does a wide food range help her to get all the right nutrients, but it will also make meal times more interesting for her and probably more successful as a result. The main components of your baby's daily diet should include:
- Around 600ml of breast or formula milk
- One or two portions of full-fat dairy products such as yogurt or cheese
- Three portions of carbohydrates such as potato, pasta, bread and rice
- One portion of protein from meat, fish or eggs. Beans and pulses are also protein sources but provide less protein per serving