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Baby on BoardRTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm

Episode 4: Sleep & Nutrition

Irina, Konstantin, Anna & Nikita Malenyuk

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See 8-9 month Development details...

See information on weaning...

See sleep tips ...


When to start

Weaning is the process of introducing solid foods into your child's diet. The best time to start weaning is usually between 4 and 6 months. Before this, all your baby's nutritional needs are met from milk and his digestive and immune system is not sufficiently developed to cope with food other than milk. Around this age you will also notice that a breast or bottle feed no longer satisfies your baby - or perhaps he will seem hungry very soon again after a feed.

What to expect

Eating food from a spoon and swallowing will be a bewildering experience for your baby. Choose a time of day when you can give plenty of time and energy to the task as this is something that cannot be rushed. Midday is a good time to start. Breast or bottle feed your baby first and then give a spoon-feed. It will usually be spat straight back. With a big smile and lots of praise retry 4 or 5 times and then put it away and try again after the next breast/bottle feed. After a few days your baby will have grown used to the new texture of food at mealtimes and will be learning how to swallow foods other than milk.

Always introduce new foods one at a time, leaving a few days between the addition of each new food, until there is a wide variety of foods that your baby enjoys. Be patient, they will not take to everything the first time they taste it.

The meal patterns of breakfast, lunch and dinner don't apply at this stage to infants. Babies' appetites vary but you should start with 1-2 teaspoons of food per day and increase this gradually. 4-6 spoon feeds of a variety of foods is what you should be aiming for.

Preparing first foods

Fresh food tastes, looks and smells better than processed baby food. However, the packets and jars are convenient at times. When preparing your own baby foods it is vital to ensure all the utensils you use are clean. Pour boiling water over all utensils before use and use plastic feeding bowls and spoons that can be sterilised. Prepare a small quantity of vegetables such as one carrot, one parsnip and three thick slices of turnip. Using a steamer will allow you to cook vegetables until they are soft without losing much of the vitamins and minerals. If you were to boil the vegetables to the same degree a lot of their goodness would be lost in the water. When stewing fruit such as apples and pears, cut the fruits into six or eight triangles through the core of the fruit as opposed to fine slices (discard the core and pips). The fruit will cook much faster in these larger sections.

It's best to avoid blending potatoes because they just become gluey. Instead, try mashing them with a little milk. Store portions of pureed fruit and vegetables in separate ice cube trays in the freezer. The amount contained in a single ice cube holder will be just enough for you to try out as a new food.

When defrosting or re-heating, correct the consistency of the food after it has been heated and just before serving with a little breast milk, formula milk, cow's milk* or vegetable water. The reason for adding the fluid last is that invariably the food gets too hot and needs to be cooled before eating. There is nothing so impatient as a hungry baby! Vegetables on their own make a very low calorie meal so milk and butter are important ingredients if you want to increase the calorie content of a meal.

* Remember that although a little cow's milk can be added to food at six months, cow's milk should not be given to your baby as a main drink in his bottle or beaker until he is one-year-old.

Month-by-month guide to baby's first foods

Suitable from 4-6 months

The range of first foods can vary widely. The most common include baby rice, pureed fruit, pureed vegetables, mashed potato, pureed meat, chicken, beans and peas. Choose from the following list:

  • Baby rice, gluten free cereal;
  • Pureed fruit e.g apples, pears**;
  • Pureed vegetables e.g. broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, turnip, peas, beans and parsnip;
  • Pureed meat, pureed chicken;
  • Melted cheese;
  • Eggs. Scrambled, poached and boiled eggs are suitable from four months but they must be well cooked - both the yolk and white must be solid. Soft eggs can be given after one year. If there is a history of allergy in the family delay the introduction of eggs until after six months.

**There is no need to add sugar to cooked fruit as it contains its own natural sugar.
Remember, the consistency of foods should be smooth for infants at four months.

Suitable from 6 - 9 months

  • Foods can now be mashed rather than pureed.
  • Continue with a good variety of fruits and vegetables, meat, pulses and cereals from the above list but prepared to a thicker consistency.
  • Baby porridge and wheat based cereals are not suitable weaning foods because they contain gluten, however they can be introduced to your baby's diet after age six months.
  • Offer finger foods such as toast fingers, small sandwiches, slices of peeled fruit and chopped vegetables, sticks of cheese.
  • Start giving drinks from a cup or beaker.
  • Breast milk or formula milk are the only suitable milk drinks at this age. Cow's milk is not suitable until your baby reaches one year.
  • Yoghurt, custard and fromage frais can now be introduced to your baby's diet.

9 - 12 months

Your baby will now be able to eat small bits of most foods. Let your baby feed himself, with your help. This can be a very messy time, so be prepared and have plenty of kitchen paper or even a plastic floor sheet to hand. To avoid the risk of choking, chopped or whole nuts must not be given before the age of five years. In families where there is a history of allergy, it may be advisable to delay the introduction of foods containing nuts for longer. Stay near your child while he is eating or drinking in case he begins to choke.








Anna & Nikita
Anna & Nikita
Series 1: Programme Archive