Premature babies can start solids in a similar way to babies born after 37 weeks. However, depending on how early your baby was born (less than 34 weeks), they may not be ready to sit up and eat finger foods or a wide range of solid foods until 9 to 12 months or so. Be guided by your baby and how they are progressing.
To prepare for introducing solids to your baby, you will need a teaspoon with smooth edges, an unbreakable dish (some have suction caps on the base to adhere to the table); baby bibs to save food soiling their clothes and some face washers to clean your baby's face and hands when finished. If you don't have something to sit your baby in, you may start with sitting them on your lap or in a baby chair then progressing to a high chair.
Eating food is a new skill and a totally new sensation. Many babies love feeling and playing with different food textures and may initially spit it out (or as they get older throw the food, plate or spoon). This is normal, so be prepared for a mess with food on your baby, in their hair and spillage on the highchair and floor, as well as perhaps on you! You may wish to spread some newspaper or plastic sheeting under your baby's chair or use an area that is easily cleaned when giving your baby solids in the early months.
Updated December 2007
Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council. Dietary Guidelines for all Australians. 2003, ref N29 - N34.
Australian Breastfeeding Association
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand
Barker, R. Baby Love, Everything you need to know about your new baby (fully revised and updated), 2005, Pan Macmillan Australia.
World Health Organisation (2002), The Optimal Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding - Report of an Expert Consultation, Geneva, Switzerland, 28 - 30 March 2001.