If you’re here then you’re probably about to go on a new exciting new journey with your baby!
Weaning is the window of opportunity that allows you to introduce your baby to a variety of different foods and teach them that food can be both fun and nutritious.
There are two main approaches when it comes to weaning:
The traditional – starting with pureed spoon-fed food, progressing into finger food
Baby-led weaning – where the baby has more control as you allow them to feed themselves from the beginning.
Both options are totally fine, and some parents use a combination of both.
When to start?
Weaning should begin around 6 months of age, but the timing of introducing solid foods depends on your little one’s nutritional and developmental needs.
Your baby will show signs of readiness but don’t worry if they don’t seem to take to this straight away, it’s a new experience for them so may take some time to get used to.
As they learn the skill of pushing food to the back of their mouth and swallowing, they’ll start to eat a little more.
What signs to look for
When your baby is ready to start weaning, you’ll notice some of the following signs:
Your baby is looking at or trying to grab food.
They’re sitting up without support and holding their head up.
They chew and dribble more often.
They’re starting to demand feeds more regularly for more than a week.
They don’t seem satisfied after finishing a milk feed.
So, you’ve noticed these signs, what’s next?
The stages of weaning
Stage one – starting off
Start off with thin purees. Thicken these as the baby learns to take food from a spoon.
Your little one should be offered a varied diet, with different flavours and textures including green veg.
Introduce one new food at a time every 2-3 days.
Food examples include pureed veg e.g. carrot, courgette, spinach, broccoli; mashed potato or sweet potato; pureed fruit e.g. apples, pears; pureed well-cooked meat or fish; pureed peas and beans.
These can be both homemade or shop-bought but if you are making it at home avoid adding butter and never add honey or salt derivatives.
Stage 2 – 6 to 9 months
As the weaning progresses look to mince or mash the foods instead. As your child learns to eat, they will begin to accept a lumpier consistency.
By 7-8 months your little one will start to pick things up with their thumb and finger, transferring objects from one hand to another. This is a good time to introduce finger foods.
Food examples include yoghurt, custard or fromage frais, well-cooked eggs, low-sugar breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, cheese and no sugar/salt nut butters.
Stage 3 – 9 to 12 months
At this stage, family foods with some adjustments should work well (cut into bite-sized pieces and taken from a spoon or as finger food).
By 12 months, most family foods will be suitable for your little one but make sure they have no added salt or sugar.
Tips and additional info
It’s recommended to encourage your baby to drink from a beaker at 6 months. This will help them develop their swallowing reflex. Offer your little one cooled boiled water or your baby’s usual milk.
Aim to have your baby drinking from a non-lidded beaker or cup by 12 months if possible.
For the first couple of days, try to feed your baby at the same time and then gradually increase meals. Within about 2 weeks, you can be giving them solids up to 3 times a day.
If you’re having difficulty at the start, offer them some of their milk first as they’re still getting used to their food.
A rough guideline is to start with about 5-10 teaspoons of food or about 30g at one meal. You can then increase it to 2 meals a day, then up to 3 meals a day.
After a few weeks, they will increase to 2-4 tablespoons of food at each meal, then to about 4-6 tablespoons from 9 months. Most babies should be given 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
Stopping milk feeds
As your baby starts eating more solid foods, they will naturally start to drink less of their usual milk.
If you are breastfeeding, this is a very natural process where they will start to take less milk automatically and the number of feeds will naturally drop off. Babies tend to stop the night feed first.
When your little one cries, a natural response may often be to try and comfort them by feeding but it is possible to overfeed babies. To make sure your baby gets just the right amount of nutrition, aim to look for hunger cues.
Signs that your baby is hungry include:
They put their hands in or near their mouth.
They are more active, moving their hands and feet.
They cry – but this is a late sign.
Signs that your baby is full include:
Stopping and starting feeding frequently.
Spitting out their milk feed.
Ignoring their milk feed or turning their head away.
All food is important for your baby but there are a few key nutrients that are especially important when weaning.
Iron is important for your baby's brain development, especially between 6 months and 2 years.
Babies are born with a 6-month supply of iron from the mother so once weaning starts you need to introduce iron-rich foods into their diet.
Sources include meat (beef, pork, lamb), beans, lentils, dried fruits, and dark leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium and is used to strengthen bones and teeth. It is an extremely important vitamin for babies and toddlers as they go through rapid periods of growth.
Sources include oily fish, eggs and fortified foods and milks. Click here to read our all you need to know guide to Vitamin D.
Essential fatty acids
We often hear that there are good fats and bad fats, but we need all fats in our diet.
Omega-3 fats are particularly important as they aid in brain development and eye health.
Sources of this include oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It’s recommended to include 30g of oily fish per week from 7 months.
What if I want to wean my baby onto a vegetarian or vegan diet?
The principles of weaning are the same whether you decide to wean your baby on a vegetarian or meat diet.
With planning and care, a vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients your little one needs.
You will still need to focus on the main nutrients of iron, vitamin d and omega-3.
Click here to find out more.
If you are weaning your little one onto a fully plant-based diet, speak to your GP to ensure your baby is getting the right nutrients.
Additional resource links
Weaning additional info
From 12 months – the next steps