Baby is being fed and has food round its mouth

Baby Development

Weaning: When to Start

What Can I Put on Baby's Plate and What Should I Avoid?

A major milestone in a child's life is the first meal next to breast milk or bottled milk. However, this exciting step in development also raises numerous questions for many parents: when to start weaning? what is the best way to start? What is a baby allowed to eat? And which foods are unsuitable for infants? Here you will find an overview of the most important information for your successful start with solids for babies!

When is the best time to start with solids?

Between the fourth and sixth month it is time to begin the gentle transition from breast milk  or bottled milk to solid food. In addition to breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the first attempts at complementary solids can now begin.

The WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life.  Many people begin weaning at 6 months but it is important to make sure your baby is ready by looking out for certain signs.

How to tell that your little one is ready for solid food:

  • Your baby can hold its head up unassisted
  • Initial attempts at sitting are already going quite well
  • Increased interest in solid foods eaten by others
  • Your baby does not instantly spit out the pureed food offered
  • Hand and eye co ordination is present

When first attempting to feed your baby with solids, it is sufficient to provide small amounts of finely pureed food, around 2-3 teaspoons, and then gradually increase this quantity. When babies move their heads forwards to reach the spoon, this usually means "yes, I want more". Turning the head away and being easily distracted are the typical signs of "I've had enough now" (offering of breast milk again afterwards ensures that your baby is really full).

By around their first birthday, infants should be eating at the same time as the family – i.e., at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime. However, as the little ones still need a lot of energy to grow, a snack in the morning and afternoon is recommended. Incidentally, this process usually happens almost automatically, because babies signal that they are hungry after about 3 hours at the latest.

Recommendations for introducing solid food to your baby

After the gentle introduction of a finely pureed mash of individual vegetables or fruits, it is recommended to supplement the mash with further vegetables, potatoes, and meat or fish. These are considered the  introductory weaning foods .This is largely due to the better supply of iron and zinc. Around one month later, add milk and cereal puree or cereal and fruit puree.

What your baby IS RECOMMENDED to eat:

  • Cooked, pureed vegetable and fruit
  • Potatoes (cooked/steamed)
  • Meat cooked until well done and shredded to aid swallowing
  • Cooked/steamed fish: e.g., salmon, mackerel, and trout. Important: remove all bones!
  • Rice
  • Cereals: ground, flakes, or semolina
  • Pasta
  • Cow's milk for the preparation of food mixing

What are babies RECOMMENDED NOT to eat?

  • Salt 
  • Sugary foods: sugar, honey, sweeteners (especially in drinks) 
  • Spicy foods 
  • Artificial flavoring 
  • Raw produce: egg (soft egg, tiramisu), meat (e.g., roast beef, steak tartar), fish (e.g., sushi, smoked salmon) 
  • Unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized dairy products 
  • Cow's milk as a drink 
  • Curd cheese, fruit yogurt 
  • Sausages and sausage products (e.g., ham, sausages, bacon) 
  • Salty snacks/crackers 
  • Sweets, chocolate 
  • Drinks: soda, coffee, green and black tea, alcohol (also not in cooking) 
  • Whole nuts and seeds 
  • Fish: no tuna, swordfish, halibut, and pike (large, oily predatory fish may be contaminated with heavy metals) 
  • Hard foods that can cause the baby to choke 

Baby eats cooked vegetables

What else you should consider when planning your baby's diet 

In addition to the careful selection of food, the following points should also considered when starting to introduce solids:

  • If you are only breastfeeding and feeding home-cooked food, providing additional iodine is recommended – it is best to discuss this with a doctor 
  • Foods that pose an allergy risk should be included in the solids 
  • Early contact with fish may reduce the risk of allergies 
  • A vegan diet is not recommended, or you should always check this with your doctor 

That's all the information but now to the most important point: have fun cooking – and eating!

Photos: Shutterstock