Typical. No sooner have you mastered breastfeeding than your tot's ready for his first solid meal. The World Health Organisation says that ideally, solid food should not be introduced to your until he is six months. Before then, milk provides all the nutrients he needs and exclusive breastfeeding will strengthen his immunity and prevent allergies.

There's no doubt that this stage can be stressful deciding what to feed your baby is a big responsibility. He's your most treasured possession, after all. Then there's the mess and the time it takes to get even a single spoonful down the hatch. But don't be put off as infants eat very little at first, and spend a long time doing it. Your baby may pull a face or spit food straight back out, but that needn't mean he doesn't like it just that it's different.

Ready, steady

Your baby will probably let you know when he's ready for solids. He may still seem hungry after his milk, or start waking at night when previously he slept through. He may take an interest in your food, too watching you eat, making chewing motions or trying to grab food off your plate. Don't leave weaning any later than six months the stores of iron he was born with will start to run out, and milk alone won't meet his nutritional needs.

By about eight months your baby should be ready for finger foods. (Image: Getty Images)

Once your baby has started solids, you'll be surprised how quickly his appetite grows. By about eight months he should be ready for finger foods bite-sized chunks that he can feed himself. He'll probably want his own spoon between nine and 12 months, but it may be a while before he develops the coordination to get it from bowl to mouth!

What you'll need

  • Unbreakable plastic bowl
  • Infant spoon a plastic one with soft, rounded edges is kind to gums
  • Fork, sieve or blender for pureeing and mixing
  • Bibs
  • Highchair
  • Splash mat or newspaper to protect the floor
  • Sterile containers with lids for storing foods

Your step-by-step guide to baby's first meal

  • Step 1: Choose your moment. Make sure you're both relaxed, and he's not too tired or hungry. Lunchtime is ideal breakfast can be too hectic, and a first meal at dinner could disturb his bedtime routine.

  • Step 2: Take the edge off his appetite by giving him a small breastfeed or bottle-feed first for now, you just want him to get used to the taste and texture of solids, not give him a full meal.

  • Step 3: Sit him in his highchair. Try to minimise distractions like the TV.

  • Step 4: Start with baby rice. Mix it with breastmilk it should be lukewarm, not hot.

  • Step 5: Put a tiny amount in his mouth using a soft spoon. If it comes straight back out, try again, as long as he's not upset. Smile, chat and tell him how yummy it is.

  • Step 6: Don't overdo it. A few mouthfuls are plenty at first. Be guided by him it's quite normal for him to want several spoonfuls one day, and nothing the next. Continue to give him at least 600ml of milk a day.

Your timetable

Week 1
What to give – Baby rice and purees of single vegetables for example, carrot, parsnip, potato, sweet potato, zucchini or cauliflower
How much – Offer a few teaspoonfuls a day, unless your baby wants more

Week 2
What to give – Introduce purees of fruit like apple, pear or mashed banana
How much – Two servings a day, if your baby's happy

Week 3
What to give – If he's over six months, try dairy products like mild cheddar cheese or unsweetened natural yoghurt
How much – Two meals a day

Week 4
What to give – From six months, purees of protein-rich foods like chicken, lean meat or lentils
How much – Two or three meals a day, with at least one serving of protein

6 to 9 months
What to give – Citrus fruits, hard-boiled eggs, wheat-based foods (bread, pasta, etc), strawberries, boneless fish. Introduce lumpier foods, and, from seven months, finger food like breadsticks or chunks of fruit
How much – Three meals a day

9 to 12 months
What to give – Small, unsalted portions of normal 'adult' food, chopped up, and do encourage him to eat with the family
How much – Three meals a day, with healthy snacks in between, if he's hungry

What not to eat

Beyond six months, most foods are suitable, but here's what to avoid:

  • Whole nuts: a choking hazard for under-fives. Don't offer peanut products before age three if there's a family history of allergies.
  • Salt: before 12 months, it could cause kidney damage. From 12 months, use only sparingly.
  • Honey: it can cause botulism (serious food poisoning) before 12 months.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs: avoid them until 12 months because of the risk of salmonella food poisoning.
  • Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks: the caffeine stops your baby's body absorbing iron.
  • Low-fat foods: your tot needs lots of calories to grow.
  • Adult gravy and sauces: often very high in salt.
  • High-fibre foods like added-bran cereals: too hard to digest.
  • Cow's milk: it can cause allergies before 12 months, although you can use it in cooking.

Food allergies spot the signs

True food allergies are, thankfully, rare, but can be serious. Wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts are the most common culprits. The symptoms include wheezing, a rash and swelling of the lips and tongue, and in extreme cases, your baby could even stop breathing. The reaction generally develops within an hour of eating. You should always consult your GP if you suspect your baby has a food allergy, and if the reaction is severe, call an ambulance immediately.

Food intolerances are more common but less severe. They tend to cause digestive problems, like colic, diarrhoea, constipation and vomiting. Your GP may refer your baby to a dietician. Whether he has a true allergy or an intolerance, complete avoidance of the foods in question may be the only solution, but there are alternatives, such as soy milk and gluten-free bread.

To avoid allergies and intolerances, ideally breastfeed exclusively until six months, and stick to baby rice, fruit and veg for the first two weeks of weaning. Introduce potential problem foods gradually wheat, dairy and eggs shouldn't be given before six months. Avoid cow's milk (except in cooking) until 12 months, and peanuts, in any form, until age three if there's a family history of allergies.