How to begin your weaning journey
Weaning, or introducing your baby to their first solid foods, can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Although they may not swallow much
When to wean your baby
Starting solids is a major stage in your baby’s development, and there’s a lot for them to learn. So it is important to let your baby lead the way and wait until they show signs that they are ready for weaning.
The Department of Health recommends weaning should start from around six months of age. Before this, your baby’s digestive system is still developing, and introducing solids too soon may increase their risk of infections and allergies1. From a practical perspective, weaning is easier from around six months, due to your baby’s increased level of coordination.
Some parents consider weaning before six months because their baby seems hungrier than usual, or has started waking more often in the night. However, these changes may well be due to a growth spurt. If your baby shows these signs, extra breast milk or formula should be sufficient and their appetite should return to normal fairly quickly2.
Solid foods should never be introduced before four months. If, after checking with your health visitor or doctor, you decide to introduce solid foods before six months, there are certain foods you should take care to exclude from their diet as they may cause food allergies or make your baby ill. These include foods that contain wheat, gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats), nuts, peanuts, peanut products, seeds, liver, eggs, fish, shellfish, cows’ milk and soft or unpasteurised cheese. You can introduce these foods after six months.
Babies born prematurely should be weaned according to their individual development so please seek advice from your dietitian, health visitor or doctor.
To begin with, weaning is more about introducing the idea of eating rather than consuming lots of calories or nutrients. It’s normal for babies to push food out with their tongue at first as they get used to the sensation and taste of something other than milk. With practice, they will soon get the hang of keeping food in their mouth and swallowing it.
While your baby is getting used to eating food, keep going with your usual breastfeeding or formula feeding routine: it’s an important source of nutrients throughout the weaning stage. And remember that cows’ milk isn’t suitable as a drink until your baby turns one year old.
Cooked, puréed vegetables or fruits are ideal for your baby’s first tastes. Softer fruits such as banana, mango or avocado can be mashed with no need for cooking. First, try offering a few teaspoons once or twice each day. You can then gradually increase the number of feeds over a few weeks until they are eating 3 daily meals.
Many mums offer baby rice made up with breast milk or their usual formula milk in the early stages of weaning. This can also be mixed with fruit or vegetable purées for added flavour and texture. The simple taste of Aptamil Organic baby rice makes it an ideal first weaning food.
It is best to avoid introducing food to your baby when they are too hungry, as they will not be able to eat quickly enough to satisfy themselves and may be left frustrated.
You should also make sure they’re not too full of milk, as they won't have room for the extra feed and won’t be particularly interested. Ideally, offer your baby half their usual milk before trying to feed them solids.
A balanced baby weaning diet
No single food can give your baby everything they need. So once they are used to the idea of weaning, gradually start to offer them a greater variety of foods.
This will help to ensure that they get a good balance of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that will help them develop healthily.
A good way to give your baby a balanced diet is to start their day with a breakfast cereal made specifically for babies, with no added salt or sugar. Aptamil Creamed porridge, Aptamil Creamed banana porridge and Aptamil Creamed apricot porridge are all good options.
After the age of seven months, you can introduce a porridge with a thicker texture, such as Aptamil Multigrain breakfast or Aptamil Multigrain & berry breakfast. Include lots of different vegetables in their main meal, followed by a dairy-based dessert packed with fruit.
The right texture
At this stage, smooth purées are ideal to help your baby learn how to swallow solid foods. Apples, pears, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all easy to cook and blend. Make sure you peel them first to remove any skin that may be too tough for your baby.
The right tastes
Try introducing simple tastes, such as pumpkin, carrot and other vegetables, before moving on to more complex meal combinations. Just cook them as you normally would, but without any added salt, which can be harmful to your baby’s developing system.
Foods to avoid
At this early stage of weaning, there are a few foods that your baby’s developing system may find more challenging to deal with. These include salt, and salty foods such as bacon; added sugar; honey, which isn’t suitable until 1 year as it may contain the bacteria botulism; and nuts, unless these are very finely ground. Learn more in our article about foods to avoid during weaning.
For more information read our allergy advice.
Add these items to your weaning shopping list:
- Sweet potatoes
- Carrots and parsnips
- Baby rice, such as Aptamil Organic baby rice
1. Department of Health. Weaning: Starting Solid Foods [Online]. 2007. Available at: www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Baby_Friendly/Leaflets/weaning_leaflet.pdf [Accessed July 2014]
2. NHS UK. Your baby's first solid foods [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx [Accessed July 2014]
Last reviewed: 5th September 2016
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