Weaning your baby
Reviewed on 06.12.2022, by Helen Farnsworth, Nutritionist
Welcome to weaning – the fun/messy part where your baby gets to experiment with different flavours and textures! There’s so much to cover with weaning, so we’re going to get straight into it with answers to some of your biggest what/when/how questions.
When should I start weaning?
Not too early
The Department of Health recommends that solids are introduced when baby is around 6 months old.. However, all babies are different, and you might find that your baby is ready to accept solid foods a little sooner than this.
Advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is that it is safe to start weaning baby between 4 – 6 months. However, it’s not advised to start giving them solids before 17 weeks (4 months). Your baby’s digestive systems won’t have formed properly yet, so feeding them anything other than their milk before this time could be quite harmful.
If you feel that your baby is ready to wean before the age of 6 months, have a chat with your Healthcare Professional.
…But not too late
Even if your baby shows no signs of wanting to begin weaning, don’t delay introducing solids beyond 6 months, since this is an important step in their development. Delaying weaning may also mean that your baby doesn't get enough of some important nutrients such as iron.
What about milk intake while weaning?
In the early stages of weaning, milk is still the main source of energy and nutrients for baby; babies need to drink breastmilk or formula as their main drink until they are at least 12 months old.
You will find that as weaning progresses, baby will become less interested in milk once they start eating a variety of foods. Milk is still an important part of baby’s diet, and up until the age of around 10 months, as a guide, baby will still be having around 600ml of breast milk on demand, or formula.
From around 10 months, your baby will likely be wanting about three breast feeds a day, or around 400ml formula in between their meals.
From 12 months, children don’t need as much milk anymore (if you are breastfeeding, carry on feeding on demand, but otherwise aim for about 350ml whole cows’ milk or formula per day, or two servings of dairy foods in their diet).
Giving them too much milk can be linked to poorer dietary habits and can stop them from eating enough other foods at mealtimes. As your baby's tummy is tiny and fills up quickly, always offer milk feeds after solids and don't force them to finish the bottle if formula feeding.
How should we approach weaning?
The first rule of weaning – keep it relaxed. Every baby’s different, so go at their pace, take your time and most of all, have fun! You might find it takes several tastes (sometimes 10 or more) for your baby to like a new flavour. That’s ok. If they don't like something, simply try again another day — they’ll soon get the hang of it.
Go veg first
Babies are born with a naturally sweet tooth. By getting your baby used to the taste of veg first, especially more bitter flavours like broccoli, they’ll start to enjoy it sooner.
Offer loads of different tastes and textures, purees and soft finger foods. Babies are usually able to cope with lumpier foods from about 7 months. Offering mashed foods containing soft lumps is important at this stage as it encourages chewing, which helps to develop the muscles involved in learning to speak.
Play with their food
Babies are naturally curious, so encourage them to learn about their food. Let them touch and hold it. Put colourful puree and softly cooked vegetables, like broccoli ‘trees’, on a plate in front of them and let them explore and try to feed themselves — or make handprints. The more fun it is, the more they’ll enjoy their food
As proud organic pioneers, naturally we think avoiding pesticides is better for your baby’s tum, the planet and good taste too. Explore our range of organic baby foods here.
What foods should we offer?
In the early stages of weaning, fruit, vegetables and baby rice are really all you need. After 6 months, you can start to offer a variety of tastes and nutrients from other food groups, e.g.
- Starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and oats, etc.
- Protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, pulses, etc.
Foods to avoid
Though it’s great to get your baby to experiment with lots of different food types, there are some foods that should be avoided.
- Sugary snacks – your baby does not need sugar. It can cause tooth decay.
- Raw jelly cubes – these present a choking hazard.
- Salty foods – salty foods are not good for babies’ kidneys. Avoid bacon, sausages, chips with extra salt, crackers, crisps, ready meals, takeaways, gravy and meals made with stock cubes and don’t add salt to the food you prepare for your baby.
- Some soft cheeses – just as during pregnancy, there are some cheeses that should be avoided because they can contain a bacteria called listeria. Don’t feed your baby mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie or camembert, ripened goats’ milk cheese, such as chévre, soft blue-veined cheese, such as Roquefort, or unpasteurised cheeses. Check the labels to make sure you're buying cheese made from pasteurised milk.
- Honey – honey contains a bacteria that can lead to infant botulism. It should be completely avoided until your baby is 12 months old.
- Raw shellfish – to avoid the risk of food poisoning, only give children shellfish that has been thoroughly cooked.
- Shark, swordfish or marlin – these fish contain high levels of mercury, which can affect your baby's growing nervous system.
- Fresh pâté – to avoid the risk of food poisoning, don’t give your baby fresh pâté made from meat, fish or vegetables.
One last tip: your baby is still figuring out this chewing lark, so for safety's sake, avoid giving whole foods that are hard or large in size, like popcorn, grapes, whole nuts or cherry tomatoes .. Never leave your baby unattended with food, and watch this video to learn what to do if your baby chokes.
How can I tell if my baby is eating enough?
All babies are different. But if your baby is feeling well, wetting and filling nappies regularly and putting on weight steadily, it's a safe bet that they are eating and drinking enough.
Similarly, toddlers and children are very good at regulating the amount of food they eat. When left to their own devices, they will usually eat all they need for healthy growth and development, even if it doesn't seem like very much to you! The key with toddlers is to feed them good-quality calories to give them the energy their growing bodies need. This is why we recommend full fat dairy products, for example, to get more calories per spoonful.
My baby is constipated - what should I do?
Some babies may become a bit constipated during weaning, as the amount of milk they drink decreases and they start to eat more food. Make sure your baby is drinking plenty of fluids (offer extra water in addition to the normal amount of milk) and eating fruit and vegetables regularly. Fruit is particularly helpful to help ease constipation: apples, apricots, peaches, plums, prunes and berries are all good choices.
Why does my baby need iron in their diet?
Babies are born with a store of the iron they need for good health, but this gets used up by the time they are about 6 months old. That's why it's important to give your baby weaning foods that contain iron, along with vitamin C-rich foods to help them absorb all the iron in their meal.
Does my baby need extra vitamins?
The government recommends all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day should not be given vitamin supplements. This is because formula is fortified with vitamins A, C and D and other nutrients.
Babies who are being breastfed should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether or not you're taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself.
Which foods are most likely to cause allergies?
If there is a history of allergies such as asthma or eczema in your baby's close family, it's a good idea to speak to your GP, health visitor or allergy specialist before giving your baby peanut products, such as peanut butter or groundnut (peanut) oil.
The other foods most likely to trigger food allergies are milk, egg, soya, wheat and other cereals that contain gluten, such as rye and barley.
My baby got a bit of a rash after trying a specific food – is it an allergy?
Some babies react a little bit when they eat certain foods - they might have a tummy upset, or develop a rash around the mouth where the food has been in contact. Unless you notice other symptoms at the same time, such as wheezing, redness, or vomiting, it's possible that your baby's reaction is just a ‘transient' intolerance, which often goes away with age.
For more information and advice on what to look for with allergens, see our allergen advice for weaning here!
Feeding fussy eaters
As your toddler discovers a growing independence, you might start to notice another change, too. Suddenly, your previously angelic little one won't eat anything but breakfast cereal and toast fingers, no matter which meal it is. Any new foods are viewed with deep suspicion, and even foods they've always enjoyed might be suddenly turfed from the table.
This sort of behaviour is perfectly normal, and it's all part of growing up.
Try to relax, and just keep offering a variety of good things to eat. At this age, their daily intake doesn't matter as much as what they eat over the course of a week.
Most toddlers eventually grow out of this ultra-fussy stage - particularly if they see everyone else enjoying lots of different foods - so just keep persevering. In the meantime, here’s a quick list of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s for those fussy days.
- Stick to your normal routine
- Stay relaxed and keep mealtimes calm occasions
- Sit back and allow them to touch and play with the food while you eat something yourself. You can be a great role model for them to copy in their own time. Withdraw the food without any fuss and try it again another time
- Keep offering the foods they have refused – the more often you expose a toddler to a food, the more likely they are to accept it and eat it
- Keep mealtimes regular and short – consistency is reassuring for children
- Offer little tastes of lots of different foods
- Introduce new or rejected foods alongside ‘will eat’ foods
- Accept if they don’t want to eat a food; remove it and try it again another time when they are hungry
- Praise and encourage your child
- Change everything to fit in with their food refusals - the more you do this, the more likely the problem will continue
- Give up!
- Force them to eat – the more pressure you put on them, the less likely they are to eat.
- Add foods to a ‘won’t eat’ list too soon – keep trying them
- Prolong mealtimes in the hope this will make them eat.
- Overwhelm them with large portions
- Limit the foods you offer to just a few types
- Give ‘will eat’ treats as an alternative at mealtimes if they refuse their meal – all this will do is teach your toddler that if they refuse a food, they will get a food they like instead!
- Scold them if they don’t accept a food