Over the course of the next six months babies will go from eating mashed or softly cooked food to eating three meals a day with healthy snacks. Every baby is different and they will progress through each stage at their own pace.
Guidance from the Department of Health recommends starting weaning at around six months. Parents may feel their baby is ready before then. However, it is important not to introduce food before 17 weeks as babies’ digestive systems are still developing during this time2, so solid food could cause problems for their tummies. If parents think their little one is ready to start weaning, they should speak to their healthcare professional for more advice.
As a baby develops, they will start to show signs they are ready to try solid foods. These include:
No sign alone means a baby is ready to wean and a combination of the above should be displayed before food is introduced.
Fruit and vegetables are a key part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as providing essential vitamins and nutrients, they offer a wide array of health benefits3. Babies are born liking sweet tastes4, so they may love trying fruit. However, some vegetables can prove a tricky challenge due to their bitter taste.
It’s really important to encourage babies to eat vegetables. We recommend this easy-to-follow 3-step approach to help introduce vegetables early on, starting children on a path to healthy eating habits and the love of veggies for life.
Begin weaning by offering vegetables. It is important to offer single taste vegetables without mixing or disguising them with other foods, such as fruit. This will allow infants to learn to recognise the distinct vegetable flavours5.
Offering vegetables as a first weaning food can help promote long-lasting vegetable acceptance6.
Introducing a variety of vegetable flavours during weaning may help improve not only liking for vegetables7, but also the willingness to accept new foods, such as meat or potatoes8.
A study found that babies who were introduced to five different vegetables in the first 15 days of weaning liked and ate significantly more of an unfamiliar vegetable one month later7.
Remember, little ones are born with a natural aversion to bitter tastes like those in vegetables, and it is easy to give up when it looks like they don’t want to eat them9. However, research shows that repeated exposure to the single vegetable flavours increases the chance they will accept them9. Keep trying. This can take as many as 10 attempts with each food, but the effect is long-lasting9.
During this time it’s important to focus on whether children will continue eating and not their facial expressions. Brow furrowing, nose wrinkling and gaping are natural responses to bitter or unsweet tastes, but this doesn’t mean they won’t keep eating the food10.
Early, varied and repeated exposure is the most effective way to encourage children to eat vegetables11. Following these 3 simple steps can help ensure infants are given the best start to a healthy diet for life.
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