By 7 or 8 months yor baby is ready to move on to the next stage of weaning, with meals getting a little lumpier and finger foods making an appearance.
Older babies need more iron in their diets as their own stores start to run down after the age of about six months. They are also becoming much more active as they learn to crawl and then walk – and that means more calories are needed for energy and growth.
Your baby also needs a variety of nutrients in his foods, and to become used to a wide range of tastes as he grows. He can now chew, handle different textures and pick up different shapes more skilfully – eating fits in well with his newly acquired skills and experiences.
He also needs to practice his social skills, and joining in meals with other people gives a great opportunity for this. By the end of the first year, your baby will probably be able to enjoy almost all the same foods as you do, perhaps modified a little to make them more suitable for him.
Experts agree that babies aged up to a year should continue to be given breastmilk or formula milk or follow on milk as their main drink, rather than cow’s milk. Some experts feel that babies should be given no cow’s milk at all until they are a year old, because of the risk of allergies, while other experts advise that small amounts of full fat pasteurised cow’s milk can be used to mix with foods from six months onwards.
How much milk?
As your baby’s intake of other foods increases, he’s likely to need less milk. If you are breastfeeding, you can continue for as long as you and your baby want to. Your baby will naturally regulate his own intake.
When you do decide to cut down on breastfeeds, offer a drink in a cup at a time you’d normally expect your baby to want the breast. There is no point in trying to introduce the different sucking action of a bottle to a baby who’s over six months. Even if he is already accustomed to bottles, it’s still a good time to begin using a cup.
If your baby is still very keen on bottle feeds, you may have to take the initiative in dropping some of his formula intake – it’s easy for older bottle fed babies to fill up on milk, which may not leave much room for other foods. Decrease the amount of milk in each bottle so his intake over the day is less, and offer a cup instead of a bottle at
By the end of the first year, the recommended amount of milk is 600 ml a day (about a pint) – and that includes milk from other sources such as custards and yoghurt. More than this isn’t necessary, and some healthy babies take a lot less just because they don’t like it. A breastfed baby can feed as often as he wants to, but if he is only feeding once or twice, it’s sensible to make sure he has extra milk in a cup or in other foods.
What can he eat?
Your baby can add to the fruit, vegetables and rice he’s been having up until now.
Good second stage foods include:
- Pasteurised hard cheeses like cheddar
- Full-fat yoghurt and fromage frais
- Eggs (the cautious advice is to cook until both egg and yolk are solid to avoid risk of salmonella)
- Other grains such as oats, millet
- Meat and poultry
- Fish (boneless)
As before, go gradually, and follow your baby’s pace. Some babies at six months are still happiest with mixed feeds once or twice a day, in small quantities. A few are already on to three meals a day, plus the occasional breastfeed or formula feed. It is normal for babies to eat or drink several times a day – not many adults go more than a couple of hours without a drink or snack.
What to avoid
- Citrus and berry fruits
- Soft cooked eggs
- Soft ripened cheeses
- Nuts (including peanut butter)
- Strong spices
Avoid low-fat or fat-reduced dairy foods. These aren’t harmful to your baby, but they don’t pack in as much suitable nutrition. Babies need calorie-dense foods, and they benefit from the fat-soluble vitamins present in whole yoghurt, full-fat cheeses and other products.
Remember: the advice to choose low-fat foods is directed at adults – not babies and young children.
Choose unsweetened foods as far as you can for your baby, as relying on sugary foods can encourage his natural preference for sweet foods. Too much sugar can damage your baby’s delicate emerging teeth and may be bad for his long-term dental health.
The healthiest drinks for babies are water, milk (formula or breast, see above), or very dilute pure fruit juice (one part juice to five parts water). Offer well-diluted juice with meals as it aids iron absorption and is a valuable source of vitamin C.
Fruit juice needs to be diluted because the acid in the juice can erode the enamel on the teeth. Give juice with, or after, meals when the protective saliva in your baby’s mouth will help restrict decay. Never give juice in a bottle, as the slow sucking will ensure that your baby’s teeth are bathed in sugar for long periods, leading to decay.
Babies of five months and over can start learning to use a spouted cup.
Avoid squashes and other drinks with added sugar altogether, as they are particularly bad for your baby’s teeth.
By seven months most babies are capable of tolerating lumps and different textures, and it’s a good idea to begin to offer them food that is less smooth. That way your baby gets used to the feel of normal, family food and it helps his tongue and mouth develop. This is also important for later speech development.
Instead of sieving food, simply mash it and gradually reduce the amount of milk or water you add to it, so the puree becomes thicker.
By around 7 to 8 months you can introduce finger foods. Your baby may find it easier to pick up food with his fingers than use a spoon at this stage. These finger foods can be made out of anything that’s not too sloppy to cut. Here are some ideas:
- Slices of bread or toast. Press the bread firmly with a rolling pin before toasting or cutting into fingers to make sure that no crumbs or lumps will fall off
- Strips of pitta bread, nan or chappati
- Fingers of pizza
- Cubes of cheese, or a pile of finely grated cheese
- Cooked pasta in sizes and shapes your baby can pick up
- Cooked vegetables
- Chunks of dessert apple or finely grated apple
- Slices of carrot, celery, cucumber
- Tiny sandwiches with fruit or savoury filling
Note: you should always stay with your baby when he’s feeding himself in case he chokes. Usually, babies will cough or spit food out if they cannot swallow it. Occasionally you may have to pat him on the back or put your finger in his mouth to remove a piece of food.
Your baby and family meals
At this stage your baby can join in more and more with family meals. Seat him at the table in a highchair, perhaps with a cloth underneath to make clearing up easier.
You might need to give him his main evening meal rather earlier than you have yours – a baby cannot wait until 7 o’clock for his tea, unless he has a substantial snack in the afternoon. And some babies are asleep by 7pm!
Similarly, some older babies need an early lunch, at around 11 or 11.30am, and then have a post-lunch nap. Trying to keep a baby awake to fit in with your meal time is unfair and not very productive. However, even if you are not eating yourself, do sit down with him at the table and chat to him while he is eating.
Many families compromise, and eat together when they can, at the weekends and on holiday. You’ll find it is easiest to be fairly flexible, and to expect your baby’s routine to change from time to time.