Charity Registration Number 1121605

How to start

Stage 1

When you start giving your baby solid foods, mix a teaspoon of one of the following with your baby's usual milk (breast or formula):

  • smooth vegetable puree such as carrot, parsnip, potato or yam, or
  • fruit puree such as banana, cooked apple, pear or mango, or
  • cereal (not wheat-based) such as baby rice, sago, maize, cornmeal or millet.

Offer this to your baby before or after one of your usual milk feeds, or in the middle of a feed, if that works better. If the food is hot, make sure you stir and cool it and test it before giving it to your baby.

The main aim at this stage is to get your baby used to the idea of taking food from a spoon. He or she will still be getting most of their nourishment from breast or formula milk (around 500-600ml a day).

Stage 2

Feeds will still be mainly breast or formula milk (around 500-600ml a day). But when you're both ready, you can start very gradually increasing the amount of solid food you give, either before, during, or after the milk feed. Try to react to your baby's appetite, so if he or she is still hungry, you can give a little more.

At the same time, you can move gradually from solid food at one feed in the day to solid food at two, and then three feeds.

Try to give cereals to your baby just once a day. Begin to add different foods and different tastes. You'll be able to use lots of the foods you already cook for yourself. Just mash, sieve, or puree a small amount, but remember, don't add salt, honey or sugar.

Using your own food is cheaper than buying baby foods, you'll know what the ingredients are, and your baby will get used to eating like the rest of the family. Preparing larger quantities than you need and freezing small portions for later, for example in an ice cube tray, can save you time and effort.

Stage 3

As solid food becomes a large part of your baby's diet, offer a range of different foods. This provides your baby with all the vitamins and minerals he or she needs. Your baby should still be having a minimum of 500-600ml of breast or formula milk a day.

Try to give two to three servings a day of starchy foods such as potatoes, yams, rice or bread. Fruit and vegetables make good finger foods and should be included at two or more meals each day. Your baby should have one serving of soft cooked meat, fish, egg, tofu or pulses such as beans or lentils (dahl) a day. Red meat such as beef, lamb and pork is an excellent source of iron. Eggs (well cooked) are a quick, nutritious and cheap source of protein.

Give finger foods such as toast, bread, breadsticks, pitta bread or chapatti, peeled apple, banana, carrot sticks, or cubes of cheese. Avoid sweet biscuits and rusks, so that your baby doesn't get into the habit of expecting sweet snacks.

Always stay near your baby during feeding to give encouragement and to prevent her from choking.

Stage 4

As your baby becomes used to eating solid foods, he or she should be learning to fit in with the family by eating three minced or chopped meals a day, plus breast or formula milk as the main drink (around 500 - 600ml a day). Give your baby fruit or other healthy snacks between meals.If your baby is on the move, (he or she may have started crawling), you may need to increase the amount of food you give. Babies have small stomachs and they need energy to grow, so make sure you give them full-fat dairy products.

Give three to four servings a day of starchy foods and of fruit and vegetables. Don't encourage a sweet tooth by giving biscuits and cakes to your baby, because these foods will fill your baby up without providing the right nutrients.

If you have decided not to give your baby meat or fish

Make sure you give two servings a day of pulses (such as red lentils, beans or chickpeas), or tofu to make sure they get all the energy and nutrients they need. The vitamin C in fruit and vegetables helps our bodies absorb iron, so remember to give your baby fruit and vegetables at mealtimes.