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Introducing solid foods

Good food introduction practices can help babies have a confident, healthy relationship with food.

This article was written by the Department for Education (DfE) in consultation with a team of early years experts and senior health professionals, including Anaphylaxis UK.

Introducing solid foods or weaning

A baby is spoon fed

Introducing a baby to solid foods is sometimes called complementary feeding or weaning. You should only start this when a baby is around 6 months old. You must continue to give the baby breast or formula milk alongside solid foods. The introduction of solid foods should only start once a baby can:

  • stay in a sitting position and support their own head
  • coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth
  • swallow food (rather than spit it back out)

Introducing solid foods helps a baby learn new skills such as chewing and biting. It also introduces new foods, flavours and textures to them. Every child is unique. You should reach agreement with parents or carers about when and how they want to start introducing solid foods. You need to understand what foods they have been exploring at home and where they are in the food introduction process.

Go at the baby’s pace and let them show you when they’re hungry or full. For example, they may firmly close their mouth or turn their head away.

The baby will show you if they are ready to move on to the next step. It is important to share information with parents and carers to track the baby’s progress in becoming a confident eater. Babies develop at different rates. Age is just an indication so let them go at their own pace.

First foods to introduce

From around 6 months of age, babies should be introduced to a wide range of foods, flavours and textures, alongside their usual milk feeds.

Baby’s first food could be a simple vegetable or fruit puree. This lets them get used to moving food around their mouths and swallowing it.

Start off with slightly bitter pureed vegetables (such as broccoli) before moving on to the sweeter ones (such as carrot) and fruit. This will help babies get used to a range of flavours.

Gradually increase the amount and variety of the different food groups.

It may take 10 tries or more for a baby to get used to new foods, flavours and textures. Be patient and keep offering a variety of foods, even the ones that they don’t seem to like. Let them get used to the food in their own time.

Learn more about food safety, including food and drinks to avoid for children aged 5 and under.

PDF downloadSolid food roadmap

The importance of different textures

Once babies are comfortable with eating solid foods, it is important to start introducing more mashed and lumpier foods. This could be mashed fruit or vegetables, like bananas or avocado.

It’s important to introduce different textures as it helps babies to:

  • learn to chew and swallow properly, which encourages mouth and muscle development
  • get used to different textures, which means they will be less likely to become fussy eaters or develop sensory issues

Remember, babies take different amounts of time to get used to texture and lumps. Keep offering lumpy textures from around 6 to 7 months and always supervise them closely so you can be sure they are swallowing it safely.

How to introduce different textures

  1. If you puree foods, gradually make purees thicker. You can also mash fruit or veg. These thicker and lumpier textures can help babies develop muscles in their mouths.

  2. Try finger foods which are easy to grab and hold. These should be cut into thin batons, such as soft-cooked carrot or cucumber. These can encourage a baby’s hand-eye coordination, as well as introducing new textures.

  3. Try using food as a sensory activity. Let babies touch food with their hands and play with textures, such as portions of cooked spaghetti.

Cutting food safely when introducing solid foods

Make sure to cut food to a size that’s right for a child’s size, age and stage of weaning. This helps avoid choking.

Choking can happen with any food, but there are steps you can take to minimise the risks. Finger-shaped food (such as soft, well-cooked vegetables or fruits that are easy to hold) is ideal.

This video from Early Start Nutrition gives more advice on preparing food safely for young children.

Foods that are a good choice for first finger food include:

  • soft-cooked apple slices
  • cucumber sticks
  • sticks of soft-cooked carrot
  • soft cheese such as cream cheese

For more advanced eaters, from around 9 months old, you can cut food into small, bite-sized pieces so that babies can practise their pincer grasps.

When preparing food, it is important to avoid round shapes as these are a choking hazard. Cut small fruits lengthways and then halve again (quarters). These fruits include:

  • grapes
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • cherry tomatoes

Download a poster about choking hazards from the Food Standards Agency.

Foods to avoid

Babies should not eat much salt, as it is not good for their kidneys. Do not add salt to food prepared for babies. Avoid foods such as popcorn or whole nuts, which are all choking hazards. Honey should be avoided as it contains bacteria that can make babies seriously unwell.

Full list of foods the NHS advises to avoid.

Always supervise babies when they are eating.

Key takeaways

  • Building healthy eating habits for children starts when solid foods are introduced.
  • Introducing a balance of nutrients means children will have all they need for growth and development.
  • Introducing a variety of tastes and textures ensures good habits later in life.

Further information

Read more about food safety in early years settings:

Download posters and printable resources on choking hazards.

NHS weaning guides.

NHS information on which foods to avoid giving babies and young children.

NHS advice on first solid foods and helping babies enjoy new foods.

NHS advice on choosing drinks and cups for babies and young children.