There are so many questions that are bound to pop into your head when it comes to baby weaning, so we've created our need-to-know weaning guide and stage-by-stage baby food meal planners to help you along the way.
Read our need-to-know weaning guide and you'll be ready for anything your baby throws at you (probably from their high chair!). We've also spoken to real mums who have been through the weaning process already and have included some of their top tips at the bottom of this article, or you can jump straight to the baby food meal planner you're looking for!
Your 6-7 months baby food meal planner
Your 7-9 months baby food meal planner
Your 9-12 months baby food meal planner
When should I start weaning?The Department of Health recommends that whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you feed your baby nothing but milk for the first six months. It's safe to start weaning when your baby reaches six months old. His digestive system is then ready to cope with solid foods and he'll begin to need the extra nutrients and iron that milk alone can't provide after the first six months. However, some mums start weaning as early as four months old, following health professionals' advice. Never start weaning before your baby is 17 weeks old.
When is my baby ready for solids?Every baby is different but The Department of Health says that you can tell your baby is ready for solids if they:
- Can sit up
- Want to chew and is putting toys and other objects in his mouth
- Can reach and grab accurately
But sometimes it can be hard to tell when your baby is ready for solids and you shouldn't assume that a hungrier-than-usual baby means it's time to wean. If you're worried about slow weight gain or think your baby seems ready for solids earlier than the recommended six months, discuss this option with your health visitor or GP before you begin, especially if your baby was born premature.
How should I start weaning?
Early solids should be fed in addition to your baby's usual milk feeds. Feeding your baby solids isn't really about filling them up to begin with, it's more about getting your baby used to different tastes, textures and a new routine.
Weaning is a new experience for your baby and they need time to get used to it so when you decide to try out solids for the first time, start off slowly. Try a tiny amount of baby rice or a single fruit or veg puree on your finger or on a soft tip weaning spoon and give your baby a little taster every few days.
You can then build up slowly over the next few weeks, offering your baby a few spoonfuls of combined fruit and veg purees once a day, then twice a day and then up to three times a day when your baby is ready.Do this in addition to your baby's usual milk feeds until he is established on three meals a day.
After seven or eight months they'll need 500-600ml or a pint of milk in addition to solids until his first birthday. See our helpful checklist on how much milk your baby needs.
Once weaning picks up at around six to seven months use our stage-by-stage, weekly baby food meal planners to help you plan your baby's meals and feed them a variety of different purees and meals which provide extra nutrients like calcium, iron, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to your baby's diet.
Baby rice and gluten-free cereals mixed with your baby's usual milk, or smooth and runny single fruit or vegetable purees are the best first foods for weaning babies as they're not likely to cause allergies.
Our weaning meal plansIt's a good idea to use our planners to help you organise a week's worth of nutritionally-balanced meals with snacks, desserts and finger foods for your baby. They're packed with recipe ideas and will help you get through a week's worth of tasty meals without any fuss, so you can get on with the fun part.
Our seven day meal planners are nutritionally-tailored to suit your baby during three stages of the weaning process up until their first birthday and come complete with a list of foods to avoid and exciting new foods to try. They're designed with busy new mums in mind, because who's got the time to trawl the web for info every time your baby's hungry.
If you're looking for inspiration when it comes to feeding your little one we're here to help. From homemade baby food and purees to family meals you can enjoy together our downloadable, printable meal plans are sure to help make meal times easier.
Which foods should I avoid?If you choose to start weaning from four months old, avoid whole eggs, meat, fish and poultry until your baby reaches six months old as they could make him ill. It's fine to introduce a whole egg when your baby is six months old, but make sure it's well cooked first. Don't add salt, sugar or honey to your baby's meal until he is a year old.
Can my baby have nuts?
As long as there isn't a family history of nut allergies, it's OK to introduce ground nuts or smooth peanut butter to babies over six months old but whole nuts shouldn't be given to under five-year-olds.
When can my baby have cow's milk?Don't give cow's milk as a main drink until your baby's first birthday as it doesn't contain enough iron, but you can use it in cooking when your baby is six months old.
No rush to mush and Baby Led Weaning (BLW)In traditional weaning, you introduce your child to the practise of eating slowly with purees and weaning spoons, but with Baby Led Weaning your little one feeds themselves and learns to chew straight away.
Some mums like the idea of encouraging their babies to feed themselves from the start and will steer clear of purees altogether, offering their babies easy to hold, bite-sized pieces of food, which their babies can feed themselves and experiment chewing with.
Start 4 Life says that you can tell your baby is ready to feed himself if he can do the following together:
- Stay in a sitting position and hold his head steady
- Co-ordinate his eyes, hand and mouth, look at food, pick up food and put it in his mouth
- Swallow food
Whether you puree your baby's food or go down the BLW route, never leave your baby unattended as there is a risk of choking. From mums' experiences, weaning comes with lots of gagging and choking and your heart will skip a beat when your baby bites off more than he can chew. Don't panic. The gagging reflex is designed to move food away from your baby's airway, to the front of his mouth and he'll eventually spit the food out. Always be on hand to react if food goes down the wrong hole. If you're worried, book a free ‘Save a Life' course through your local Sure Start Children's Centre to learn how to deal with a choking baby.
Top weaning tips from real mums
'My best tip is to freeze everything! I have a drawer in our freezer especially for Finlay's food so it's easy to see what I have, ready for his lunches and tea.'
Glenda, 32, mum of Finlay aged 8 and a half months old
'I knew my baby, who is now 10 years old, was ready for solids because she was always hungry and milk didn't fill her up. I started weaning her at three months old, which the health visitor suggested and then we gradually made it on to solids, but she was a lot happier once we started weaning.'
Jen Bolton, posted this top tip on Facebook
'My baby is dairy intolerant. A dietician told me to cook dairy products through a sauce, like white sauce as this removes most of the proteins that cause allergies and never to give uncooked dairy products before trying this first.'
Andrea Duncan, posted this top tip on Facebook
'Sam loved bananas but after I fed him them for the first time, his stools were filled with what looked like little black worms. Don't worry if this happens to you - they're just banana fibres. Phew!
Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old
'Finlay reacted well when I made things like minestrone soup which had bits of pasta in to let him get used to lumpier foods. I also let him have toast fingers with lighter meals such as soups and his hand-to-mouth coordination has developed really well.'
Glenda, 32, mum of Finlay aged eight and a half months old
'I found that steamed fruit and veg, rather than boiled, made the tastiest meals and I loved the baby food mill I bought from Boots for a fiver for turning Sam's meals into textured purees which weren't too smooth or too lumpy either.'
Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old
'I was told that papaya helps with constipation and it's my baby's favourite fruit too'
Poorvi, mum of Aanya aged nine months old
'I found Baby-led Weaning much easier than pureeing and went straight into sharing our meals with both of my babies.'
Sarah Graham posted this top tip on Facebook
'Sam would sometimes get restless and upset at meal times and I realised it was because he wanted to feed himself. When I gave him a spoon to play with or some finger foods to eat while I fed him, he was as happy as Larry'
Jenny Bounsall, mum of Sam aged 10 months old (pictured above)
'I was really worried about feeding my baby healthily on a budget until I realised I qualified for Healthy Start vouchers for fruit, veg and Harry's milk too.'
Angie, mum of Harry aged 11 months old
Do you have any weaning tips? Comment below and share your top tips!