It is best to start with a small amount of food on the tip of a shallow plastic spoon. Just let your baby play with the spoon and suck it to start with, perhaps sitting on your knee.
It may help to offer the solid food either after, or in the middle of, a milk feed so that your baby is not frustrated with hunger. As he or she becomes used to solid foods and takes larger meals, the milk can be given second.
Vegetable purées make good first foods. Carrot, potato, parsnip, turnip, yam, plantain and sweet potato can be boiled and sieved or mashed into a smooth purée - introduce one new taste at a time. Add a little breastmilk, formula or cooking water to make it quite runny at first. Rice or cornmeal are also suitable. Boiled rice can be blended or mashed with a little expressed breastmilk, boiled water or formula. Baby rice can be made up straight from the packet. Mashed banana, avocado, cooked apple and pear are also popular first foods.
Some foods may be difficult to digest or more likely to cause allergies in children who are sensitive if they are given too early. These include:
• Cereals containing gluten such as wheat. Remember that bread, biscuits, pasta and many breakfast cereals and baby rusks are made from wheat.
• Citrus fruit such as oranges.
• Dairy products, including cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt.
• Fried food with a lot of fat, which is hard to digest.
• Nuts - whole nuts should be avoided until about five years old because of the danger of choking. Avoid peanuts - and peanut-based foods such as peanut butter - for babies under three years if there are any allergies, asthma, or eczema in the family.
If there are any foods that the baby is obviously unable to digest, because they appear in the nappy or cause diarrhoea, they can be left out and tried again at a later date.
Remember not to add salt or sugar to any foods given to your baby. Foods that you cook for the family can be seasoned after the baby's portion has been taken out to be mashed.