How to get your baby started on solids

How to get baby started on solids

Making the transition onto solids is an exciting time. Get your little one started on a delicious and nutritious weaning journey with this advice.

Starting your baby on solids is an exciting step to take. When your baby reaches approximately six months of age, you may notice that his appetite may become a challenge to satisfy with breast or formula milk alone. Your baby is ready to complement his milk-based diet with new flavours and textures. We outline all you need to know about weaning your baby.

What is weaning?

Weaning means to slowly introduce a range of solid foods to your baby, until they are ready to eat the same food as the rest of your family. Weaning is not just important for a baby’s nutrition and growth – did you know that an important part of introducing solid foods is to develop muscles that are associated with motor skills and speech?

When do I start weaning my baby?

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) recommends that weaning should begin at approximately six months – no sooner than 17 weeks and no later than 26 weeks.

While it is important that infants are not introduced to complementary foods later than six months, due to the natural variation in the physiological requirements of individual infants, research has shown that some infants may require complementary foods before the age of six months to support optimal growth and development. It is essential to continue to give them breast or formula milk throughout this time. Starting solids later than 26 weeks can lead to fussy eating and possible food intolerances. It can also increase the risk of iron deficiency.

How do I know my baby is ready for weaning?

There are a number of signs your baby will give you when they are ready to be weaned. Your baby may be ready for solids if they are of the recommended age and:

  • Have good head control.
  • Show an interest in foods. They may open their mouths and ‘chew’ when they see other people eating.
  • Are hungry and restless after a milk feed.
  • Chew and dribble more frequently.
  • Do not seem satisfied after a milk feed.
  • Start to demand feeds more frequently over a time period of more than one week.

How to get baby started on solids

Set a date

Decide on a day that suits you and your baby and a time of day when both of you are relaxed and not under any time pressure. Choose a time when your baby is not too hungry. Babies should be fed in an upright position. A high chair, travel chair or bumper is best, where your baby can look straight ahead when feeding. Begin by offering tiny amounts of food, so your baby can get used to this new experience and taste.

Never force solids on a baby. If your baby refuses food, stop and try again in a few days. Do not rush your baby; this is a daunting time for them as they learn these new tastes and hardest of all, how to swallow. Remember, that up until now all they have had to do is suck.

When should gluten be introduced to a baby’s diet?

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Gluten should be given to your baby at about six months of age. Introducing gluten before four months of age or after seven months of age can increase the risk of developing coeliac disease or type 1 diabetes. At first, small amountsof gluten should be given and this should slowly be increased over a four to six week period.

Do it gradually

Start with one or two spoons of food. It’s a good idea to let your baby hold and play with a spoon while they are being fed. Introduce one new food at a time, leaving one day between each new food to see if your baby has a reaction or intolerance to a food. Once your baby is managing to take food from the spoon, spoon feeds can be spaced out between milk feeds. Remember not to add salt or sugar to your baby’s food. However, low-salt stock cubes are fine to use when making baby’s food.

Solids and breastfeeding

Your baby should have her usual milk, which provides vitamins, iron and protein in an easily digestible form. Solids will eventually replace some milk feeds, but your baby’s usual milk remains an important source of nutrition until she’s one year old.

How do I help my baby to get used to thicker textures?

Gradually make her meals thicker in consistency and start to include a few ‘lumpier’ ingredients to help her to get used to chewing and swallowing different textures of food.

How to get baby started on solids

The importance of hygiene

Great care must be taken to ensure that all foods are fresh, clean, hygienically prepared and stored correctly. Never leave leftover food lying around. If you wish to offer it again later the same day, cover it and store it in the fridge. Meals, which are prepared in advance for freezing, or for use later in the day, should be stored with care. Freeze small portions in containers or plastic bags and defrost in the fridge. Reheat all pre-cooked food thoroughly and allow to cool before serving.

Can I reheat food?

When reheating baby food, make sure that it is piping hot. Let it cool down before you give it to your baby, testing a bit of food on the inside of your wrist to see if it is a comfortable temperature beforehand.

What is baby-led weaning?

Baby-led weaning is where you skip the purée stage, and simply jump to the finger food stage. This allows the baby to pick up, touch and play, smell, and taste the usual family foods – such as a piece of cooked chicken, a piece of soft vegetable, a piece of mango, banana or avocado. The ideal time to start finger food is when your baby is picking up anything and everything and putting it into their mouth.

Finger food ideas:

1. Small pieces of lightly toasted bread or bagels (spread with vegetable purée for extra vitamins).

2. Small chunks of banana or other very ripe, peeled and pitted fruit, like mango, plum, pear, peach, cantaloupe or seedless watermelon, well-cooked pasta spirals, cut into pieces.

3. Small, well-cooked broccoli or cauliflower ‘trees.’

4. Pea-sized pieces of cooked chicken, ground beef or turkey, or other soft meat.

More you might like:

Pear and baby rice puree
Pureed sweet potato
Been and potato puree


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.