Within a fortnight of starting solids, baby should be eating iron-rich foods

Your baby’s food between six and 12 months is all about introducing new tastes and textures

Joanne O'Halloran is a senior community dietitian with the HSE. In the second of two articles (read part one here) she shares advice on how to feed your baby from six months to one year.

- Within two weeks of introducing solids your baby should move from their first vegetable and fruit purees, on to purees featuring iron-rich foods, such as red meat. It is also really important to make a gradual progression in the consistency of what you feed them, changing it every two weeks. After the initial thin smooth puree, progress to: a thicker puree; a thicker puree with some mashed consistency; mashed; mashed with some lumps; chopped or flaked. The goal is to be eating bite-sized pieces by 12 months.

- By giving homemade foods you know exactly what you are feeding your baby. It will also be more nutritious and far cheaper. Babies tend to like bought baby foods because they all seem to have a similar strong flavour base. However, the beef or chicken or fish or lentil can taste pretty much the same. They don’t have the distinctive flavours of dishes you might cook at home. Adapt family foods. For example, your baby can eat the same spaghetti bolognese, provided you use a tin of tomatoes and add herbs like basil for flavour instead of a jar of sauce, and don’t add a stock cube, or salt to the pasta cooking water.

- Your baby’s food between six and 12 months is all about introducing new tastes and textures. Bring in finger foods from seven months. Babies need to learn to bite and chew. However, many commercial corn or vegetable puff type finger foods that are marketed for babies just dissolve in the mouth. They’re not learning how to chew, and there is little nutritional value in them.


Try soft sweet potato, parsnip, or a skinned quarter of soft pear

- Good finger foods are foods that your baby can hold in their hands. A broccoli or cauliflower floret is great; they can hold the stem and chew the top - cook them a bit softer than you would cook for yourself. Try soft sweet potato, parsnip, or a skinned quarter of soft pear. If the end becomes too slippy, dip it in a little bit of Ready Brek so they can hold on to it. Peel the top half of the kiwi but leave the skin on half so they can hold it and chew the top.

- Other finger-food options are: finely chopped fruit; avocado; plain rice or corn cakes broken in two; grated cheese; cooked pasta; slices of omelette, homemade pancakes, or French toast. Serve as snacks and alongside purees or mashes, but your baby may gradually increase the amount of food they eat with their hands.

- Always cut up food to a size that your child can chew and eat safely. To make food safer, change the texture – grate, cook, finely chop, mash, or cut lengthways into small pieces no bigger than your child’s small fingernail. Food skins, including those on apples, pears and sausages, can block your child’s airway. Peel off skins and remove strong fibres, seeds, pips or stones. Cut grapes, cherry tomatoes, and other similar-sized foods in half and then quarters lengthways, or smaller.

- Many snack foods marketed for babies, such as rice cakes and biscuits, are sweetened with fruit juice or powder. They can give your baby a liking for sweet food. If you offer your baby an unsweetened or plain snack now, such as rice cakes, crackers or breadsticks, then they’ll be happy with an unsweetened snack in their lunchbox when they go to school.

- Once your baby is taking about six teaspoons at a meal, introduce a second mealtime – maybe mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Move on to a third meal when they are taking five to 10 teaspoons. By eight to nine months they should be having three meals a day, with approximately two to four tablespoons of food.

- Gradually your baby may have two or three snacks between meals. However, for some children a snack may disturb their meals. Be guided by your baby. Between nine and 12 months they are likely to be having three meals of approximately four to six tablespoons and two to three snacks. Parents get very focused on how much food is enough. If your baby wants more give them more, if it’s your healthy homemade food.

Foods with added sugar and salts should not be given

- The main reasons to avoid foods in the first year are potential health and safety risks. This would include: lightly cooked egg; unpasteurised cheeses; honey-because of the risk of botulism; whole nuts, marshmallow and popcorn because of the risk of choking; and processed meats like ham, sausages and rashers because of their very high salt and nitrate content. Foods with added sugar and salts should not be given, including sauces, stock cubes and packet soups.

- Once your baby starts solids give one heaped teaspoon of sugar and salt free smooth peanut butter, to develop their tolerance and prevent an allergy. It can be mixed with some hot water into a thinner paste and stirred into their breakfast cereal or food. Once tolerated, it is important to continue giving a teaspoon at least three times a week.

- There are a lot of recipe books out there for baby meals. They are not necessary, but if you are cooking from them make sure to incorporate iron rich foods from six months old, and that all the meals you cook for your baby don’t have a sweet element, like sweet potato, butternut squash, or fruit in the ingredients.

- The only drinks your baby should have up to the age of one should be breast or formula milk, and cool boiled water in a free flow beaker from six months – no fruit juice, tea, or anything else. Cow’s milk is not recommended as a drink until the age of one, but can be used to moisten foods. There is no need to move on to follow-on formula milk. If formula fed your baby can stay on their first infants’ milk up to 12 months.

- If you are breastfeeding responsively your baby will instinctively adjust the demand and supply. However, if you are using formula you need to be mindful of reducing the milk intake. While we would support ongoing breastfeeding, your baby should be drinking from a cup or beaker by 12 months and formula milk should be discontinued.

  • If you have any food related queries or concerns talk to your local Public Health Nurse. Further information and advice is available on mychild.ie or in the My Child 0-2 Years booklet, given to all new parents.