How do I start weaning?
Step-by-step guide with essential info for the first few days and weeks of starting solids, including what time of day to start and what foods to give
Step 1 - Check that your baby is ready to wean
OK, sounds easy. But how can you be sure it's time to start giving solids? First, there are the Government guidelines:
- The Department of Health recommends that you wait until your baby is 6 months old before you start weaning.
- Never give solids to a baby under the age of 17 weeks
However, as we know, all babies are different. Some babies may be ready between 4 and 6 months. Here are the main signs to look out for:
- Good neck and head control
- Can sit well when supported and can sit in an upright position when held on your lap
- Reaches out to grab objects and puts them in her mouth
If your baby can do all these, now read the full 7 signs of readiness. If you think your baby is ready before 6 months, talk to your health visitor or doctor before starting.
Step 2 - Decide which weaning method you want to use
There are 2 different methods of starting solids:
- Spoon feeding - start with purees that gradually change texture, introducing finger foods between 7-8 months
- Baby led weaning - starting straight away with solid food, missing out purees, and most importantly letting your baby take the lead on food and involving your baby in eating when you eat
Find out the pros and cons of each method to help you choose what's right for you
Which way is most popular?
Baby led weaning is fast growing in popularity, while spoon feeding is the traditional way, so still used by more mums. Most interesting, is that many mums now use elements of both methods. They do some purees and some solid food, right from the start.
When we asked 500 mums, nearly two thirds (60%) did purees only, 31% did a mix of both, while 9% used pure BLW.
Step 3 - Check you have the right feeding equipment
You don't have to re-kit out your kitchen, in order to introduce solid food. We believe there are 4 essential products:
Plus there are 7 other useful weaning products which, if nothing else, may make your life easier and less messy. And given you're going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen and doing a lot of clearing up over the next few months, that's got to be good.
Read the full list of 11 feeding products, plus mums' recommendations on what to buy
Step 4 - Decide what time to start
It’s up to you what time you start weaning, and will depend on what type of weaning you’re doing. All the experts are agreed that you start when your baby isn’t desperately hungry. Your baby (and you) need to be relaxed. If your baby is anxious for a milk feed and you offer a spoonful of puree or a soft vegetable chunk, your baby is likely to be confused and frustrated.
Parenting expert Gina Ford, in her top-selling Contented Little Baby Book of Weaning, recommends in the first week, you introduce the first taste of solids at the mid-morning feed, after giving your baby half a milk feed first.
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If you’re doing baby led weaning, you’re encouraged to start when your baby is keen to eat some of your food – so most likely at lunch or tea time.
Remember, at the beginning of weaning, your baby is still getting most of his nutritional needs from milk.
Step 5 - Choose first foods
At the very beginning, if you're spoon feeding give foods that don't have very strong or bitter tastes, such as apple, banana, sweet potato and normal potato. Some mums like to use baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk, as the very first taste of solids. This is fine as a halfway house, but baby rice is very bland and it's good to move on within the next day or so, to introduce foods with different flavours.
If you're doing baby led weaning, choose soft fruits (banana, melon) or softly baked vegetables (carrot, broccoli).
What are the most popular first foods?
We asked 412 mums which was the first food you gave your baby...
- 21% Apple
- 14% Banana
- 6% Porridge
- 5% Pear
- 4% Sweet potato
- 2% Potato
- 33% Other
Step 6 - Make your baby's first food
5 quick steps to making a puree
- Wash and scrub the vegetables or fruit you’re using
- Peel and chop into chunky pieces
- Put the pieces into a thick-bottomed saucepan and cover with water
- Boil until the pieces are soft
- Strain off the cooking water and keep it. Puree the softened fruit or vegetables with a blender. Add some of the cooking water to make the puree thinner if desired.
5 quick steps to making soft roasted vegetables
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
- Choose from a range of root vegetables, such as carrot, sweet potato, parsnip or swede. Wash vigorously, peel or scrape and cut into long chunks.
- Peel and de-seed a pepper, then chop into chunky sticks about 1.5cm wide.
- Spread the root vegetables out on a greased baking tray and brush them with the olive oil until evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Then add the pepper sticks and continue roasting for a further 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
Step 7 - Start slowly and go at your baby's pace
"Start with just one meal a day," says GP Dr Philippa Kaye. "This is because when you start weaning, most of your baby’s nutritional needs will still be met by breast or formula milk."
The Expert View - how much food should I give my baby?
"Try to match your baby's pace," says our expert, health visitor Dawn Kelly. "Begin by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day. If you are using a spoon, wait for your baby to open his mouth. Watch carefully to see when he’s ready for the next mouthful; try to match his pace. Stop when he has had enough, whether you’re spoon feeding or offering pieces of food. Never be tempted to sneak in another mouthful; mealtimes should be relaxed, enjoyable events."
Mums' experiences of starting to wean
"I started weaning at around 21 weeks. he was very active early on and showed signs of wanting food. He was interested in the food we were eating, doing the chewing movements with his mouth, waking up more during the night, sitting up, reaching out for food off our plates," says Harjeet
"So I started feeding him baby rice mixed within breast milk once a day around 5/6pm. Then about 2 weeks later started giving him puréed carrot, sweet potato, red lentils. Then from 6 months, I started him on 3 meals. day. He would still have his normal milk feeds while he was being weaned.
"At first I fed him on my lap or sofa and then moved him into the high chair from around 6 months. But leading up to him, I feign fed in the high chair, I used to sit him in while I was cooking so he got used to the chair.
Sparkly140404 started weaning just shy of 6 months: "We started weaning Joshua at 22 weeks- he was a big baby but seemed very content on his bottles ( x5 8oz bottles) then at 22 weeks he started waking earlier in the morning and was fussy soon after his feeds so we started him off on baby rice and went on from there.
"He's now 27 weeks old and eats pretty much what we eat and has x3 8oz bottles a day and 3 meals a day and sleeps 7pm-7am. The AK book is fab with great recipes. The DoH don't recommend you wean till 6 months so if you start before then introduce a new food every couple of days but milk is till the most important thing to have so try not to reduce the amount of milk too quickly.
"I'm sure your little one will let you know how much they want to eat. Good luck and have plenty of protection on hand...for you, lil on, kitchen, table, chairs, etc. LOL!"
And Peeptoe1 shared her experience of weaning her son Hugo, who was breastfeeding: "I started weaning him at just under 26 weeks (25 plus a few days I think) but we had to stop as solids really aggravated his reflux.
"So I exclusively breastfed him until he was just over 7 months and tried again with solids. Thankfully we did much better this time around.
"He was given purees and finger food from the start and goes through funny phases now where he'll either ONLY want to feed himself, or ONLY want me to spoon feed him."
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