By waiting until six months to wean your baby, you can safely give her a wide range of foods with little risk of triggering allergies or stomach problems. But although most foods are safe from six months, some are best avoided in the early stages of weaning, as they’re less easily digested and stronger in flavour than simpler solids like fruit and veg.
It’s especially important to avoid these foods if, on the advice of your health visitor or GP, you’re weaning before six months. New research has suggested that weaning can safely begin at four months, but the current guidelines to wait until six months are based on the theory that before this point, your baby’s digestive system is still immature and may not be able to cope with certain foods. So if you’re starting to wean before six months, it’s best to proceed slowly.
Meat and fish
These can be given from six months, but if you’re just starting weaning at six months, it’s best to introduce these gradually over a few weeks while your baby gets used to solids. Meat and fish can be strongly flavoured and harder to digest.
This should be avoided until nine months as it can be a cause of food poisoning. Never give raw shellfish to a baby under a year old to avoid potentially dangerous stomach upsets.
Cow’s milk isn’t suitable as a main drink before 12 months old as it doesn’t contain the same levels of vitamins and fat as formula and breastmilk. You can use full-fat milk in cooking (for example, in sauces or on cereal) from six months, but your baby will probably prefer the taste of her usual breast or formula milk at first.
Don’t give soft, unpasteurised or blue cheeses in the first year due to risk of listeria.
Citrus fruit, berries, kiwis and tomatoes
As some children react to these fruits, they’re best avoided in the initial weeks of weaning. Most fruits, however, are perfectly safe, so try bananas, apples, pears and mango instead as ideal first foods.
Cabbage, garlic, onions
Some babies find these ‘wind-inducing’ vegetables uncomfortable, so they may be best avoided initially while your child’s digestive system adjusts to processing solids.
To reduce the risk of allergies, don’t give eggs or food containing eggs (such as some sauces and cakes) before six months. Well-cooked eggs, such as hard-boiled, can be given from six months, but raw or undercooked eggs like soft-boiled, poached or lightly scrambled must not be given until your baby is 12 months to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Wait until your baby has been having solids for a few weeks before introducing these; opt for a non-allergenic baby cereal like baby rice instead.; initially opt for a hypoallergenic cereal such as baby rice instead. Once well established on this then introduce wheat/rye/barley and oats and wheat based products such as bread and pasta.
Nuts can pose a choking hazard so you should not give your child whole or chopped nuts until the age of five. Seeds, nut butters or ground nuts are now considered safe from six months if there’s no family history of allergies, asthma or eczema, but it’s best not to give them to newly weaned babies, and to watch carefully for any reaction. Don’t be too complacent if your baby doesn’t react first time; some allergies are triggered by the second exposure.
This should not be given until 12 months to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Honey should never be given to babies under 12 months old as it can cause infant botulism: a rare but potentially dangerous form of food poisoning.
To avoid the risk of tooth decay or encouraging a sweet tooth, it’s best not to add sugar to your baby’s food. You should also avoid high-sugar foods like biscuits, fruit juice and squash and sweetened cereals.
Babies’ kidneys are too immature to process salt and it can also contribute to dehydration. Never add salt to food for babies, and avoid giving salty foods like sausages, ham and bacon until 12 months or thereabouts.