By about a year, your baby can enjoy a mixed diet which will include:
• Dairy foods, such as fromage frais, yoghurt and cheese;
• Proteins such as lamb, chicken, white fish, eggs and beans;
• Cereals such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and rice;
• Fruit and vegetables.
Milk will still be an important part of your baby's diet. His or her milk feeds should be either breastmilk or formula milk until they are 12 months - although they can have small quantities of cow's milk mixed with cereals or porridge once they are six months old.
If you want to give your child any other fluids, offer cooled, boiled water, and if you offer fruit juice, mix it with water. (The acid in fruit juices attacks the softer enamel on babies' teeth. Giving fruit juices to babies encourages a liking for sweetened drinks that may be hard to cure in the future. They can also spoil a growing baby's appetite.)
Your baby will want to touch their food, squeeze it through their fingers, push it in their hair, and perhaps get some in their mouth. Accept this as a learning stage and be prepared!
• Place a large plastic mat or newspaper under the highchair.
• Offer him or her a plastic spoon/s of their own to feed themselves.
• Keep spare bibs handy.
• Remove any 'good' clothes - particularly if he or she is eating a banana, something that never comes out.
• Use a bowl with a suction pad on the bottom.
Cutting up pieces of food will both encourage your baby to eat independently, and develop fine motor skills.
Foods that can be sucked into a pulp are best at first, for example, fingers of toast, or bread sticks, or small, soft items such as cooked pasta or pieces of grated cheese. Take care with hard foods, such as raw carrot or celery, as he or she may bite off large pieces which they can't chew, something that can cause choking. For this reason, never leave your baby alone while eating.