Baby weaning guide: Everything you need to know about weaning your baby

Find out how to wean your baby easily, safely, and with minimum mess.
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  • Baby weaning can be a fun and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. When should you start? When can you introduce meat and fish? Which foods are a no-no?

    Baby weaning guide: How to wean your baby

    Whether you’re trying puree weaning or baby-led weaning, this need-to-know baby weaning guide will make sure you’re ready for anything your baby throws at you (probably from their high chair!). This guide includes how to introduce new flavours and textures, how to feed your baby safely, and top tips from parents who’ve done it before.

    If you’re hungry for baby weaning recipe ideas, you can jump straight to the baby food meal planner:

    6-7 months baby food meal planner
    7-9 months baby food meal planner
    9-12 months baby food meal planner

    When should I start baby weaning?

    The Department of Health recommends that whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you should only feed your baby milk for the first six months. Never start weaning before your baby is 17 weeks old.

    It’s safe to start weaning when your baby reaches six months old. Their digestive system is then ready to cope with solid foods and they’ll begin to need the extra nutrients and iron that milk alone can’t provide. However, some parents start weaning as early as four months old, following health professionals’ advice. Your baby may start grabbing at your food and try to eat it themselves, which is a clear sign that they’re ready. Babies with older siblings often start weaning earlier as they see the family eating together and want to join in.

    When is my baby ready for solids?

    Every baby is different but the NHS advises that you can tell your baby is ready for solids if they:

    • Can sit up
    • Want to chew and are putting toys and other objects in their mouth
    • Can reach and grab accurately

    Sometimes it can be hard to tell when your baby is ready for solids, and you shouldn’t assume that a hungrier-than-usual baby means it’s time to wean. If you’re worried about slow weight gain or think your baby seems ready for solids earlier than the recommended six months, discuss this option with your health visitor or GP before you begin, especially if your baby was born premature.

    “Some parents will get very excited when they start weaning,” advises The Parent & Baby Coach, Heidi Skudder. “This can sometimes mean the baby’s digestive system becomes overloaded very quickly. Which in turn can lead to a grumpy constipated baby who ends up waking up more than they did before starting weaning. I always advise clients to take it slowly, one new food every few days. I also recommend keeping a food diary to track if your baby has any reactions at all.”

    Mother feeding child

    Credit: Getty

    How should I start baby weaning?

    Early solids should be introduced alongside your baby’s usual milk feeds. The first few weeks of solids aren’t really about filling them up, it’s about getting your baby used to different tastes, textures and a new routine. It’s more fun than food!

    Weaning is a new experience for your baby and they need time to get used to it. So when you decide to try out solids for the first time, start off slowly. Try a tiny amount of baby rice or a single fruit or veg puree on your finger or on a soft-tip weaning spoon and give your baby a little taster every few days.

    You can then build up slowly over the next few weeks, offering your baby a few spoonfuls of combined fruit and veg purees once a day, then twice a day and then up to three times a day when your baby is ready. Do this in addition to your baby’s usual milk feeds until they’re established on three meals a day.

    After seven or eight months they’ll need 500-600ml or a pint of milk in addition to solids until their first birthday.

    What time of day should I start weaning?

    “There is no right or wrong time of day to start weaning,” says The Parent & Baby Coach, Heidi Skudder. “But I tend to find most babies are receptive to foods late morning, after their milk feed. But before they go down for another nap.”

    Start your first weaning whenever you have time to prepare food and then sit with your baby. This may be breakfast, or busy families might prefer lunchtime when other children are out at school. Start with one regular meal time and then build up your weaning slowly as your baby’s hunger and interest increases naturally.

    Easy baby weaning meal plans

    Once weaning picks up at around six to seven months, use our stage-by-stage, weekly baby food meal planners. These will help plan your baby’s meals and include nutritionally-balanced purees, snacks, desserts and finger foods. The recipe ideas will get you through a week’s worth of tasty meals, and provide essential nutrients like calcium, iron, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to your baby’s diet.

    These downloadable and printable seven-day meal planners are nutritionally-tailored to suit your baby during three stages of the weaning process up until their first birthday. You can pick and choose the meals that suit you, or follow the plan every day. We’ve also included a complete list of foods to avoid and exciting new foods to try.

    6-7 months baby weaning meal planner

    6 and 7 month baby weaning meal plan

    7-9 months baby weaning meal planner

    8 and 9 month baby weaning meal plan

    9-12 months baby weaning meal planner

    9-12 month baby weaning meal plan

    What foods should be avoided during baby weaning?

    If you start weaning from four months old, avoid whole eggs, meat, fish and poultry until your baby reaches six months old as they could make them ill. It’s fine to introduce a whole egg when your baby is six months old, but make sure it’s well cooked first. Don’t add salt, sugar or honey to your baby’s meal until they’re one year old.

    Baby rice and gluten-free cereals mixed with your baby’s usual milk, or smooth single fruit or vegetable purees are the best first foods for weaning babies as they’re not likely to cause allergies.

    How do I know if my baby has an allergy?

    After six months you can introduce common potential allergens. Give your baby a single taste and in small amounts and watch for any reaction:

    • cooked shellfish
    • fish
    • cows’ milk cooked or stirred through food
    • seeds (always finely chopped or ground)
    • nuts and peanuts (always finely chopped or ground)
    • cooked eggs
    • gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
    • soya

    If they eat the foods successfully without any reaction, then you’re able to introduce them fully into their diet.

    Can my baby have nuts?

    As long as there isn’t a family history of nut allergies, it’s OK to introduce ground nuts or smooth peanut butter to babies over six months old. Again, give them a small taste and wait for a reaction first to be sure. Do not give whole nuts to children under five year olds as they are a choking hazard.

    Child holding nuts

    Credit: Getty

    When can my baby have cow’s milk?

    Don’t give cow’s milk as a main drink to replace breastmilk or formula until your baby’s first birthday as it doesn’t contain enough iron. However you can use it in cooking when your baby is six months and above.

    Can my baby have salt or sugar?

    Babies should never have added salt or sugar during weaning. Do not add salt to cooking water for pasta or vegetables as it isn’t good for their kidneys. Sugar can cause tooth decay, so avoid honey, maple syrup and all natural forms of added sugar. For the same reason, try to avoid giving too many naturally sweet foods like pear, sweet potato, soft or dried fruits etc.

    Will my baby get constipated?

    Baby constipation is a risk if you introduce too many new foods too soon. You should also give your baby a little water or diluted natural fruit juice with each meal to avoid constipation.

    Read our ultimate guide to baby constipation, including natural remedies and symptoms to look out for.

    Baby-led eating

    Credit: Getty

    What is baby-led weaning?

    With baby-led weaning your little one feeds themselves and learns to chew straight away. This is in contrast to puree weaning, where you spoon feed your child with purees and weaning spoons.

    It’s important to find the method that suits you and your baby. Some parents like encouraging their babies to feed themselves from the start and will steer clear of purees altogether. They offer their babies easy-to-hold, bite-sized pieces of food, which their babies can feed themselves and experiment chewing with.

    The NHS advises that your baby is ready to feed themselves if they can:

    • Stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
    • Coordinate their eyes, hand and mouth
    • Look at food, pick it up, and put it in their mouth
    • Swallow food

    Other parents like the best of both worlds and prefer to combine purees with some finger foods too.

    How do I introduce different textures and flavours?

    Keep food varied with smooth, chunky and finger food to make your baby familiar with different textures. Try to keep the meals as naturally colourful as possible, as this also indicates a wide variety of nutrients.

    Try to have at least two or three different flavours on offer for every meal, so your baby can pick and choose what they want to eat. The variety can come from just a few different sliced vegetables alongside a main meal. You can spoon feed them a puree whilst they play with broccoli in their hands, for example.

    What if my baby doesn’t like the food?

    Don’t be disheartened if your baby doesn’t eat everything the first time you give it to them. Likewise, they may love something one day, and turn their nose up at it the next. Keep lots of tupperware or small jars to hand so you can store leftovers in the fridge and try again the next meal. Do not keep food for more than two to three days in the fridge, however, and do not reheat food multiple times to avoid risk of food poisoning.

    What if my baby chokes?

    Choking or gagging is a parent’s worst nightmare, and unfortunately it comes as a natural part of the weaning process as your baby learns to eat for themselves. Whether you puree your baby’s food or use baby-led weaning, never leave your baby unattended. If you’re worried, sign up for a free first aid guide from St John Ambulance and learn how to deal with a choking baby.

    If your baby starts gagging, don’t panic. The gagging reflex moves food away from your baby’s airway to the front of their mouth. They will eventually spit the food out. Always be on hand to react if food goes down the wrong hole.

    If your baby is not making any noise, this could mean their airway is blocked and that is more serious. Do not put your finger in their mouth, as this could push the food further down their windpipe. For babies under one year old, the NHS advises back blows:

    • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thighs, supporting their head with your hand.
    • Give up to five sharp blows with the heel of your hand in the middle of the baby’s back between the shoulder blades.

    If this doesn’t work, you can use chest thrusts:

    • Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs.
    • Find the breastbone and place two fingers in the middle.
    • Give five sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

    If this does not work you should stay with your baby and call 999 for help.

    Baby feeding spoon

    Credit: Getty

    What equipment do I need to start weaning?

    Don’t feel under pressure to kit out your kitchen when you start weaning. However there are a few essentials to make life easier (and less messy):

    1. A high chair. Find a stable and easy to clean high chair that fits under your table. This Hauk highchair looks stylish and has an adjustable foot rest so they can sit at the table when they’re older too.
    2. All-over bib. Cover your baby’s arms and body when you start weaning, as food gets everywhere. These Bumkins bibs are easy to clean and quick drying, or try a full-coverage Bibado bid to stop bits falling down the gaps.
    3. Baby weaning spoon. This should have a soft tip to not damage their gums like these Munchkin spoons. It should also have a flat base, so food doesn’t get stuck in the dip like a normal spoon.
    4. A sippy cup. One with a soft edge and 360 degrees sipping action is easier than cups with a teat.
    5. Suction bowl. Not essential, but these clever suction bowls stick to the table and keep food off the floor.
    6. Large ice cube trays. These Annabel Karmel trays are particularly useful in the first few months as you can portion out purees of food and freeze it. Push the cubes out and store in a labelled plastic bag. Once you’ve finished weaning, they also make excellent oversized ice cube trays for a gin and tonic!
    7. Reusable wipes. Avoid filling your bin with wet wipes and try reusable wet wipes to clean up messy face and hands.
    8. Floor mat. Find an old, wipe-clean tablecloth or buy a cheap one to protect your floor under and around the highchair.

    Do’s and Don’ts of baby weaning

    • Enjoy it. Find a time when you and your baby are both relaxed to make the process easier.
    • Sit comfortably. Sit facing your baby without leaning forward to protect your lower back.
    • Plan ahead. Use our meal plans and stock your freezer up. Keep basics like tomato sauce, stews, curries or purees in the freezer so you can prepare dinner quickly.
    • Put a small amount on the spoon to start with so your baby can easily fit it in their mouth.
    • Keep it varied. Try a variety of vegetables (cooked and raw) to keep the meal colourful, interesting and nutritious.
    • Keep it simple. Don’t spend hours preparing dinner every day. You’ll only get disheartened if most of it ends up on the floor. Babies can also get overwhelmed if there’s too much variety in front of them. So aim for three to five flavours maximum.
    • Let them eat what you eat. When you’re cooking your own dinner, syphon off a portion for the baby (without any salt or sugar). It’s more convenient, and it means they’ll be used to your cooking as they get older.
    • Be creative. Most babies will happily eat herbs and spices (within moderation!) so introduce interesting flavours early on. A drizzle of olive oil, chopped herbs, roasted spices, or a squish of lemon juice make vegetables taste much better.
    • Eat with your baby. Babies will enjoy mealtimes more if they feel like they’re part of something. Try to eat at least one meal with your baby so they can watch and learn.
    • Give them encouragement. Smile, laugh and congratulate your baby when they put food in their mouths or take the puree. Children enjoy positive reinforcement and it makes them more likely to do it again.

    Here are a few things to avoid

    • Don’t force your baby to eat if they turn their head away or keep their mouth shut. Don’t take their refusal personally.
    • Never put food in the baby’s mouth when they are laughing or yawning. They won’t be ready for it and they could choke.
    • Don’t take all day over it. Allow 20 minutes to half an hour for feeding time. Your baby will learn that is sufficient time to eat their meals.
    • Don’t worry. When you first start weaning your baby will be drinking milk for all their nutrients. Consequently, both you and your baby have time to learn how to feed and eat together without worrying about eating enough to begin with.

    Top weaning tips from real parents

    ‘My best tip is to freeze everything! I have a drawer in our freezer especially for Finlay’s food so it’s easy to see what I have, ready for his lunches and tea.’
    Glenda, 32, mum of Finlay aged 8 and a half months old

    ‘Sam loved bananas but after I fed him them for the first time, his stools were filled with what looked like little black worms. Don’t worry if this happens to you – they’re just banana fibres. Phew!
    Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old

    ‘I found that steamed fruit and veg, rather than boiled, made the tastiest meals. I loved the baby food mill for turning Sam’s meals into textured purees which weren’t too smooth or too lumpy.’
    Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old

    ‘I found Baby-led Weaning much easier than pureeing. I went straight into sharing our meals with both of my babies.’
    Sarah Graham posted this top tip on Facebook

    ‘Sam would get restless and upset at meal times. I realised it was because he wanted to feed himself. When I gave him a spoon to play with or finger foods while I fed him, he was happy as Larry.’
    Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old

    ‘I was really worried about feeding my baby healthily on a budget. Until I realised I qualified for Healthy Start vouchers for fruit, veg and milk too.’
    Angie, mum of Harry aged 11 months old