1. The signs that your baby is ready for weaning
Your baby can stay in a sitting position and hold their head upright.
They are starting to coordinate their eyes, hands, and mouth.
Your baby looks at their food and can move it around in their mouth and swallow rather than just spit it back out.
If you have noticed these signs1 and feel ready to give weaning a go, these top tips from GP and mum Dr. Pixie McKenna, author of several books on weaning and how babies develop as they grow, will help get you started.
2. Baby weaning tips – How to get started
It can be tough to know where to start when it comes to weaning your baby. Here are our weaning tips for getting started and how to make the transition a smooth process.
Allow your baby to explore what they are eating by touching and holding the food and they may even feed themselves or show you that they want to hold the spoon.
Let your little one lead. They will tell you when they are hungry and when they are full so do not force your baby to eat.
Babies imitate their parents, so sit down as a family during mealtimes to demonstrate to your baby how to eat.
3. The stages of baby weaning
It is important to understand how your baby’s needs evolve as they grow and develop. Here, we've broken down the weaning process into stages to bear in mind when you start moving your baby onto solids.
Baby weaning at 6 months
In the beginning, babies will not need three meals a day, so just feeding them different foods in small amounts will be enough to help them get started.
Ensure your baby is not tired before eating and take your time.
Offer food before their usual milk feed, whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula, because if you do it after, your baby may be full.
Don’t stress. It can take many attempts before your baby will accept something new with a different texture!
Baby weaning at 7 to 9 months
During these months your baby will slowly begin to have three meals a day and also their usual milk feeds.
This is a great time to introduce finger foods2 as your baby is learning how to pinch, with their forefinger and thumb.
Progressively begin to increase both the amounts and variety of food you offer to your baby. This will help ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients they need.
As your baby begins to eat more they will naturally adapt their milk consumption and may want less during their feed.
Baby weaning at 10 to 12 months
Your baby should now be having three meals a day while still having their usual feeds. It's likely that they are starting to self-feed with utensils.
Hopefully, by this stage, weaning is now becoming a fun and enjoyable experience for your baby, while they hold, chew and swallow a wider variety of tastes and textures.
4. Weaning tips – Baby led weaning starter foods
Traditional weaning methods involve feeding your baby mashed, pureed, or soft cooked fruits and vegetables.
We recommend feeding your baby a range of flavours rather than just sticking to one, as this may help stop them from growing up to be fussy eaters e.g. rather than just feeding them sweet vegetables such as sweet potato or carrots, mix it up and get them trying savoury vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower too. We have a guide on baby finger foods here too for more inspiration.
Foods that may trigger an allergic reaction (such as peanut spreads, eggs, gluten, and fish) can be introduced from 6 months but only in very small amounts to help you identify any reactions. Here are some good weaning foods3 to kick things off with:
Banana – raw and mashed
Broccoli – steamed and mashed
Cauliflower – steamed and mashed
Butternut squash – roasted and mashed
Applesauce – from the jar
Avocado – pureed
Eggs – soft boiled or scrambled (introduce eggs slowly from 6 months, as they can be an allergen4)
Toast – cut into sticks once bread is toasted
Yogurt – plain
5. Baby weaning foods to avoid
Want to know which baby led weaning foods to avoid? We’ve featured a list of the foods you shouldn’t be feeding your baby during this process, to keep them safe and ensure they stay healthy.
Sugary foods – Not only is too much sugar bad for your baby’s teeth but the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends not giving your child sugar until they are at least two years old and that they should not consume more than 6 teaspoons in a day.5
Salt – Your baby should also not be having more than 1g of salt a day as this is bad for their kidneys.6
Whole nuts – These are dangerous due to the risk of choking; therefore it is safer to have them in spreads. Introduce them slowly, as nuts are an allergen.
Honey – Do not give your child honey until they are over 1 years old as it contains bacteria that can be harmful to the baby’s intestines, potentially leading to a serious illness.7
Raw shellfish – This should be avoided as it increases the risk of food poisoning.
Cheese – Avoid cheese that is made using unpasteurised milk as there is a risk that these cheeses carry a bacterium called listeria.
Cow's milk – While cow's milk is a good source of calcium for older children, it shouldn't be given to babies because they are unable to digest it at a young age. It can also irritate your baby's gut lining.8
Rice milk – As well as cow's milk, rice milk should also be avoided as it contains arsenic. In the UK, their doctors advise9 that no child under the age of 4 ½ should drink rice milk at all – so best to steer clear of it as an alternative to normal milk!
6. Vegetarian and vegan diets when baby weaning
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet you may be considering feeding your baby in the same way. However, it is important your baby receives the following nutrients, whether they eat animal products or not.
Vitamin B12 – This is normally found in animal foods, eggs, cheese and milk but, if you are feeding your baby a vegetarian or vegan diet, they will need to take supplements of this vitamin or foods fortified with B12 such as yogurt and milk alternatives, such as soya and coconut drinks.
Omega-3 – This fatty acid is found in oily fish like salmon but, if your baby does not eat fish then you can get a great source of Omega-3 from ground flaxseeds, ground walnuts or ground chia seeds.
Iron – Your baby can get this through lentils, beans, chickpeas, dried fruit and whole grains.
Calcium – The usual source of calcium is through milk and dairy products which is important for the development of teeth and bones. You can give your baby alternatives such as soya, oat or almond milk and also bread, almond butter, green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils.
Protein – A great source of protein can be found in beans, chickpeas, lentils and soya products. In addition, seeds and nuts offer protein but ensure they are ground or as a spread for those children under five years.
Iodine – Natural sources of iodine in our diet comes from foods such as fish, cow’s milk and other dairy products. However, for those babies who follow a diet that does not include these foods, iodine can be found in plant foods such as cereals and grains, or an iodine supplement can be given.
7. How to prepare food safely for your baby
Good hygiene is important in any kitchen but even more so when preparing food for a baby. Here are our top weaning tips for preparing food for your little one.
The first step, of course, is to always remember to wash your hands before preparing the meal and keep the surfaces clean. This is more important than ever and it's recommended that you wash your hands for 20 seconds to ensure they are completely sanitized and clean. As well as ensuring your hands and surfaces are clean, you should always wash and peel fruit and vegetables.
Cut small and round foods, like grapes, into small pieces. Remember to cut them length ways to prevent choking, it's recommended that foods are made small enough for your baby to easily hold – typically around an adults' finger length.
Make sure the food has cooled down before feeding it to your baby and don't reheat food more than once.
Finally, carefully remove any pips and stones from fruit or bones from meat and fish as these are a choking hazard.
8. How can I stop my baby from being a fussy eater?
Slaving over a nutritious meal for our little one, only for it to get chucked around is not fun.
Alas, most babies will have fussy phases during the weaning process, but this is just another reason to enjoy eating together as a family – whatever they leave behind means more for the rest of you! (Just keep your eye on their plate to make sure it doesn’t end up on the floor first).
“Nathan was an amazing eater when we first started feeding him,” says dad, Ed. “Like most parents I started off with really good intentions and used to blend up superfoods like kale, and even though it tasted pretty gross, he’d eat it all with a smile on his face!
"That lured me into a false sense of security though as now he’s almost two, he is so much fussier. I worried at first but now I just give him a combination of the few meals he’ll eat. Children change so much that who knows, in another six months he might be keen to try whatever we throw at him.”
Should I refuse feeds during weaning?
Refusing could help increase your baby’s concentration on the weaning process. However, if your baby wants a feed you may do so but continue to work on distracting them with new foods and activities.
9. Gagging or choking
It can be scary to see your baby eating food and looking like they are choking. In most cases, they have simply triggered their gag reflex and this is completely normal.
Your baby may gag whilst adapting to solid foods and this is different from choking.
If your baby is gagging you may notice they have watery eyes, they are pushing their tongue out of their mouths or are retching to bring the food forward.
The difference between choking and gagging is that with choking, they would either be coughing uncontrollably or there will be no sound coming from your baby at all.
This is because their airways are blocked and as the chest and ribs are pulled in they will be struggling to breathe. There are techniques10 to help overcome choking such as back blows, chest thrusts and abdominal thrusts to dislodge any objects blocking the airways and depending on their age the technique will vary.
If those all fail then immediately call 000.
10. What you need to make baby weaning easier
There are some tools for the job you need to ensure you and your little one has a positive experience while trying new foods. These include:
A highchair – This is important as your baby needs to be in an upright position - you may want to put a mat under the highchair to stop the mess going everywhere!
Bibs – You can get bibs that wipe clean or collect the food for easy cleaning.
Weaning spoons – These are normally soft enough for your baby's gums but can help them teach themselves how to use utensils.
Weaning cup – Introducing an open cup without a valve will benefit your baby as they learn how to sip. These cups usually come with two handles for easy grip and an anti-spill design.
Food on the go – As parents you will always be juggling a million and one things at the same time so it may not always be easy or convenient to prepare your food, so don’t feel guilty if you need to use pre-prepared pouches or jars.
Wet wipes – In their ears, eyes, up their nose – there is no limit to the number of crevices that food will get lost in, not to mention all over your lovely floor. Weaning means food getting everywhere but wet wipes make it easy to get your baby cleaned up after a fun mealtime.
“Some of my favourite home videos are of Milo’s first attempts at eating solids, as his little face is so astounded by the new experience,” says dad, Tim. “And of course we’ve got the obligatory photo of his face covered in spaghetti bolognese.
“The novelty does wear off but we’ve got a few tricks like feeding him in just a nappy whenever possible. And we know only to give him certain foods, like tuna, if we can get him straight in the bath afterwards, because it goes everywhere and stinks!”
11. Remember – Real Food = Real Poops
Don’t be alarmed if one day your baby’s poop is one colour and the next day another while weaning. This is absolutely normal as changes in colour, smell and texture can be expected due to their digestive system adapting to the world of solid foods. At first, it may be thicker, darker and smellier but will slowly begin to change as they try new things.
Breastfed babies’ poop is typically runny and does not have a strong smell.
Formula-fed babies’ poop might be dark brown, solid and smell.
Infant formulas can make your baby’s poop green but this depends on the formula.
It is always important to change your baby’s nappy as soon as possible if it is dirty as leaving it on your child may cause your little one to feel uncomfortable or their skin to become irritated.
12. What to do if your baby is constipated after weaning?
Constipation is never fun but constipation for babies is even worse as they have no way to tell you how they feel – other than with crying. If your baby is constipated after weaning, here are some ways to relieve your little one:
Increase their fluid intake – If you're still breastfeeding try to nurse them a little more or try to give them small amounts of water or formula throughout the day.11
Feed them more fruit and vegetables – These are high in fibre which can encourage them to poop. Plums, papaya and pears are two fruits that are high in fibre that can be prepared and given to your baby.
Avoid constipating foods – Some foods, when eaten in high amounts, can lead to constipation. Stop feeding your baby foods like bananas, yogurt and applesauce until they start to poop normally again.
Apply Vaseline to their bottom – Take some Vaseline and apply this around their anus, this should stop any pain or tearing when they do poop.
“Edie got constipated when we first started weaning her, which is apparently pretty common because their stomach is just getting used to digesting food,” says mum, Megan. “I hated the thought of her being uncomfortable though, so I looked it up and one food that’s meant to help is papaya. Suffice to say it worked so well it’s been renamed papooya in our house!”
As well as constipation babies can get diarrhoea too, because new things are being introduced to their digestive system. This usually is nothing to worry about although if you ever are concerned, do speak to your doctor.
Weaning may take a while but don’t force it. Let your baby go at their own pace, stay positive and keep praising them as you go along. Next thing you know they will be joining you at the dinner table and requesting their favourite meals.
If you found our baby weaning tips useful, take a look at our Parenting Community Hub for more guidance when it comes to baby milestones like bathing your newborn, teething, your baby's first words and your baby's first steps.