Weaning is the process of moving your baby onto a diet of solid foods.
It is recommended that you start to wean your baby onto solids from 6 months. This is a World Health Organisation guideline and many parents will start at 4 months if their baby is hungry and not satisfied by their milk feeds alone.
All babies are different, some will take to solids instantly and some will take a while to adjust. Some will reject some foods and some will eat anything you offer them. The approximate months indicated for each stage are a guide only, the important thing is to move at the pace your baby seems happy and not to stress if your baby progresses slowly.
Moving your baby onto solids is a time consuming and messy process. At some stage your baby will show an interest in feeding themselves and this is when the fun really begins. Let your baby try to feed themselves and try not to let the ensuing mess get you down, the sooner your baby learns these new skills the sooner mealtimes will be easier for you. Offer your baby a spoon so they can feed whilst you help them with another spoon to speed up the process. If your baby is unhappy to feed on the new foods you are offering then do not force them. Initially meals should be a supplement to your babies normal milk feeds and not a replacement. Once fully weaned a baby should still have 600ml of milk per day up to the age of 12 months.
Stage 1 (Approx 4 - 6 months)
When you first start the weaning process the food must be pureed, this can be either in the form of stage 1 baby jar foods or homemade food. Pureed fruit and vegetables are a good first weaning food and will introduce your baby to some flavours you hope they will like. Fruit and vegetables can be pureed by boiling down in a pan with a small amount of water and then mashed through a sieve. Remember to test hot foods (including the middle of the food) before offering to your baby. Another popular food for initial weaning is baby rice mixed with the babies normal milk be that breast of formula. If you puree fruit and vegetables in large quantities you can freeze it in ice cube trays or jars for later use. Only defrost small portions for each meal as much of the food will probably be wasted initially. Keep trying your baby with different flavours even if they have rejected some before.
Before 6 months you should avoid the following foods for your baby - sugar, eggs, nuts, stock cubes and foods containing gluten.
Stage 2 (Approx 5 - 7 months)
At this stage you can introduce meats, fish and pulses to their diet in a slightly less pureed form. Your baby will be able to accept food with small lumps and from 6 months you can introduce dairy products such as hard cheese, full fat yoghurts and fromage frais. When making meals for your baby you still need to avoid using stock cubes and you should avoid adding salt to the meals.
Again if you are preparing meals it is a good idea to get into a habit of freezing them in jars, they can then be served at a later date. See our article on cooking for babies and toddlers - Cooking for Babies and Toddlers for more information.
From 6 months finger foods can be introduced for example raisins, bread and fruit. Introduce your baby to a cup with water at mealtimes, water will not suppress their appetite and you should aim to move your baby away from using a bottle by 12 months.
Foods containing gluten can now be introduced into your babies diet e.g. Weetabix.
Stage 3 (Approx 7 to 9 months)
At this stage your baby will be gradually improving their ability to eat larger lumps in their food. Instead of Pureeing the food mash it up with a fork so your baby can experience different textures. Keep introducing finger foods as these help to encourage independent feeding.
Stage 4 (Approx 9 months and on)
At this stage you will continue to introduce more lumps to your babies food and your aim is to gradually move them onto the same meals as the rest of the family. You should be encouraging the baby to feed itself and offering large varieties of tasty and healthy meals.
To introduce your child to different flavours and textures do not be influenced by your own likes and dislikes. Allow your child to try many different foods even if you don't like them, if you are a fussy eater try and make sure your child does not grow up with the same issues.
When cooking for the family remember to remove the baby meal from the main meal before adding any salt or stock cubes.
Always stay with or very close to your baby when they are feeding in case of choking.
You may find this book helpful: