Weaning tips to get your baby on solids

Weaning is the process of introducing your baby to solid foods as an alternative to breastmilk or infant formula. The NHS advises that weaning should start when your baby is around 6 months old.

Gradually introducing solid foods into your little one’s diet is the first step towards promoting a lifetime of healthy eating, with the end goal being to replace the energy and nutrients in milk with a variety of food groups.

Why wait 6 months?

First of all, breastmilk or infant formula are the best source of nutrition for your baby until they are 6 months old. Breastmilk in particular helps to protect your baby from infections. Also, at 6 months old your baby has reached a developmental stage where they are more capable of dealing with solid foods. They are better at moving food around their mouth, chewing and swallowing.

Getting started

The first stage of weaning (also known as complimentary feeding) involves feeding your baby a combination of breastmilk or formula and solid foods. This helps them to slowly get used to new tastes and textures as well as chewing and swallowing food.

It’s best to follow your baby’s cues on when and how much they want to eat. Learn when they are hungry and never force them to eat.

Remember it can take 10 tries or more before your baby gets used to a certain food and rejection at times is normal, so try to follow their pace and be patient!

Baby-led or Spoon-fed?

This is a very common question from parents as they prepare for weaning. Both are recommended methods to try, depending on confidence and your baby’s stage of development.

Baby-led weaning – Allowing your baby to feed themselves by slowly introducing “complimentary” and easy to handle foods into their diet. It encourages oral development and control in an interactive way.

Spoon-fed weaning – Involves spoon feeding pureed and mashed food to your baby, progressing to more textured food over time. It’s a controlled and easier method of weaning that first times mums may feel more comfortable with.

Tip: If your baby has any dietary conditions or was born prematurely, speak to your GP for advice on when and how to start weaning.

Weaning supplies

The following items will prepare you and your baby for weaning;

  • High chair – your baby needs to be sitting safely and upright
  • Open cup – a cup without a lid teaches your baby how to sip and is better for their teeth
  • Soft spoons – made of rubber or plastic
  • Plastic bowls – ideally with a suction base
  • Ice cube trays – for batch freezing small portions of food
  • Bibs – ideally plastic as they are easy to clean

6 month meal ideas

The following include baby-led and spoon-fed weaning options:

  • Fruit stew and fruit sticks  (GF, LF)
  • Bean dip with breadsticks or pitta bread fingers  (LF) Always check the label
  • Broccoli (GF, LF) May not be suitable for those with bitter taste
  • Crustless mini quiche
  • Scrambled egg or hard-boiled egg slices  (GF)
  • Falafel  (GF, LF)
  • Root vegetable mash  (GF)
  • Plain chicken strips (GF, LF)
  • Plain cooked pasta (LF)
  • Sweet potato patties (GF, LF)

7-9 month meal ideas

The following include baby-led and spoon-fed weaning options:

  • Thick lentil soup (GF, LF)
  • Baked plantain (GF, LF)
  • Beef curry with rice (GF)
  • Fruity porridge
  • Cheesy toast fingers
  • Rice-based cereal (GF)
  • Fish risotto with veg (GF)
  • Pasta Bolognese (LF)
  • Tender lamb strips (GF, LF)
  • Sweet potato patties (GF, LF)

10-12 month meal ideas

The following include baby-led and spoon-fed weaning options:

  • Beef or vegetable Bolognese (GF, LF)
  • Cheese and mushroom patties (GF)
  • Eggy toast fingers
  • Macaroni cheese with peas
  • Jacket potato with veg  (GF, LF)
  • Ratatouille (GF, LF)
  • Fruit and veg sticks (GF, LF)
  • Salmon risotto  (GF)
  • Mashed beans on toast (LF)
  • Vegetable and ham bake

Managing intolerances and allergies

It’s important to introduce a variety of food groups in small quantities, including dishes that contain gluten and lactose. But what if your baby is already showing signs of an intolerance or allergy? Here are our advisory steps to keeping your baby happy and healthy at mealtimes.

Step 1. Speak to your GP

An experienced nurse or doctor should be your first port of call to discuss any signs or symptoms of a dietary intolerance.

Step 2. Take a post-natal screening test

If your baby is at risk of developing an intolerance, a simple and accurate test, like Outlook, screens your baby for four common conditions including lactose intolerance and coeliac disease. The results of the Outlook test identify predisposition to develop these conditions, and can assist your health care professional to reach a diagnosis.

Step 3. Diet adjustment

If their post-natal test comes back as “high risk” for intolerances, there are plenty of food alternatives to match your baby’s dietary needs. However, always discuss your baby’s dietary requirements with your GP before introducing any alternative foods

Avoid Example alternatives
Gluten intolerance (Coeliac disease) Foods containing Wheat, Barley and Rye:

Pasta, bread, crackers, cereals, couscous

Potatoes, rice, quinoa, beans, buckwheat, maize based cereals
Lactose intolerance Foods containing Lactose:

milk, cheeses, whey, cream, yoghurt

Soya, rice or almond milk, non-dairy creamers, margarine, oils
Bitter taste Cruciferous vegetables:

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, horseradish, turnips

Fresh fruit, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, lettuce, beetroot, onion

 

Tip: Don’t want your child to miss out on their favourite foods? Look for gluten-free and lactose-free brands, or substituted ingredients on food packaging.

 

Weaning safety

It’s very important to ensure that your baby’s weaning process is safe and hygienic. Taking the following steps will keep your baby healthy and happy as they try new foods;

  • Avoid giving certain foods to your baby e.g. salty food, sugary snacks and drinks, saturated fat, mould-ripened cheese, seafood and whole nuts
  • Wash your hands before preparing food and keep worktops clean
  • Wash and peel raw vegetables or fruit
  • Cut round food into pieces to minimize the choking risk
  • Remove pips, stones, bones and other hard textures
  • Always supervise your baby while they are eating