Weaning

How to start weaning
Moving on
Next stage
From about 9 months
Fussy eating 
Vegetarian
Vegan 
Foods to avoid giving your baby
Drinks
Some meals to try
Bought baby foods
Food allergies
Health and Safety

‘Weaning’ means to introduce a range of ‘non-milk’ foods gradually until your baby is eating the same foods as the rest of the family.Weaning onto solid foods should begin at 6 months (26 weeks), if you choose to wean before then it should be no earlier than 4 months (17 weeks) because:

  • This will allow your baby’s digestive system and kidneys to develop well enough to deal with solid food.

  • Early weaning can increase the risk of infections and allergies developing.

  • From 6 months breast and formula milk alone can not provide all the nutrients your growing baby requires.

Try introducing solid foods when your baby:

  • Shows interest in solid foods

  • Appears to still be hungry even after you have increased milk feeds for a few days.

When introducing your baby to solid foods before 6 months you should avoid the following foods (speak to your health visitor or doctor for advice):

  • Wheat-based foods which contain gluten, for example, wheat flour, bread, breakfast cereals, rusks (there are gluten free rusk brands available), etc.

  • Nuts and seeds including ground nuts, peanut butter and other nut spreads.

  • Eggs

  • Fish and shellfish

  • All dairy products

  • Liver

  • Citrus fruits and juices

Remember - solid foods should NOT be introduced before 4 months (17 weeks). 

Healthy Start vitamin drops should be given to your baby from 6 months of age (if your baby is breastfed or has less than <500ml of formula milk) to help provide your baby with all the nutrients required .

Back to top

How to start weaning

 Choose a time of day when you are both relaxed and any time during a feed.

  • Begin by giving your baby 1-2 teaspoons of solids at a time and gradually build up the amount.

  • Solid foods you might try at first:

    - mashed cooked vegetables such as carrot, parsnip, potato, rice or yam.
    - mashed banana, avocado, cooked apple or pear.
    - baby rice mixed with your baby’s usual milk.

  • Use mashed-up home-cooked family food when you can – do not add salt. It is best to cook your own food for your baby. This way, you will know the ingredients of the food. You will be getting your baby used to eating what you eat and will enjoy a wider range of tastes. Do not add salt, sugar or honey to your baby’s food.

  • Go at your baby’s pace. Allow plenty of time for feeding, particularly at first. Your baby will be finding out about different tastes and textures and learning that food does not come in a continuous flow.

  • Let your baby touch the food in the dish or on the spoon.

Back to top

Moving on

Allow your baby to feed themselves, using their fingers. Finger foods will help encourage your baby to chew even if they do not have teeth.

Examples of finger foods to try are:- cooked green beans

- cooked carrot sticks
- cubes of cheese
- toast
- baby rice cakes or bread sticks
- peeled ripe pear and banana

Avoid sweet biscuits and rusks so that your baby does not get into the habit of expecting sweet snacks.

  • Do not rush or ‘force feed’. Most babies know when they have had enough to eat. How much your baby eats is less important than getting them used to the idea of food other than milk.

    Babies are telling you they have had enough when they:- turn their head away
    - keep their mouth shut
    - push the bowl or plate away
    - scream or shout
    - spit food out repeatedly
    - hold food in their mouth and refuse to swallow it

  • Always stay nearby when your baby is eating to make sure they do not choke

  • Preparing larger quantities than you need and freezing small portions for later can save time and effort. Heat food really thoroughly and allow it to cool. Stir it well and test before offering it to your baby. Throw away any food your baby has not eaten as it is not safe to reheat previously warmed food. Do not refreeze warmed food if it is not used.

The main aim at first is to get your baby interested in foods and used to the idea of taking food from a spoon. Your baby will still be getting most of the nourishment they need from breast milk or infant formula milk.

Back to top

Next stage

Gradually increase the amount of solid food you give your baby.

  • Try to follow your baby’s appetite.

  • Give the amount that seems to be wanted.

  • Move gradually from solid food at one feed in the day to solid food at two and then three feeds. You will find that as your baby eats more solid food, their milk intake will start to decrease.

  • Once your baby is taking solid foods three times a day, if you are breastfeeding you may find that they want to be breastfed less often.

  • If you are bottle feeding you can drop a milk feed but continue to give infant formula milk to your baby until 12 months of age.

You can start to offer your baby:

  • Starchy foods with each meal, i.e. potatoes, yams, rice, bread, plantain or unsweetened breakfast cereals.

  • Fruits and vegetables at two or more meals each day.

  • One serving of soft cooked meat, fish, well cooked egg, tofu or pulses, such as beans or lentils, a day. The introduction of meat and protein into your baby’s diet is very important and pureed/minced forms should be added early on in weaning.

Back to top

From about 9 months

Offer your baby three or four servings of starchy food a day.

  • Three to four servings of fruit and vegetables.

  • One or two servings of meat (or vegetarian alternatives) a day.

By now your baby should be eating a variety of ordinary foods and fitting in with the family by eating three meals a day along with milk. Your baby should also be having two or three additional healthy snacks such as fruit in between meals. Offering a wide variety of foods now may help avoid your child being fussy later on.

Back to top

Fussy eating

Fussy eating in children and how to cope!

It is normal for children to go through stages of ‘fussy eating’ as they grow up.  This may include:

  • Refusing to eat certain foods they previously ate without a problem

  • Refusing certain foods due to their appearance or texture

  • Only eating a limited range of foods

Usually these phases are temporary and given time and encouragement the child will start eating normally again. The following tips may help you through this phase:

  • Try to keep a daily routine of three meals and two to three snacks – children cope better with routines.

  • Keep relaxed at mealtimes. Rewarding bad behaviour with any attention will encourage your child to continue misbehaving.  A firm but calm approach works best. 

  • Offer plenty of praise for behaviour you want to encourage, however trivial this seems, “well done for trying the broccoli!” 

  • Set a good example.  Children learn by copying people around them so they are unlikely to eat something that no-one else will eat!

  • Limiting meal and snack times can be helpful. This clearly defines eating times from time for play, relaxation and other activities. After the mealtime remove any food that has not been eaten and wait until the next planned snack or meal time until food is offered again.

  • Limit large drinks of milk, juice or squash one hour before a meal as this will reduce their appetite.

  • Give small portions.  If these are finished, give praise and offer more.

Additional tips to encourage your child to eat:

  • Involve your child in food shopping and meal preparation, such as setting the table.

  • Involve them in simple cooking and food preparation.

  • Change the venue of meal times.  Try a picnic outside or even a ‘teddy bears picnic’ indoors – seeing how much teddy enjoys his food may encourage your child to eat.

  • Consider using a ‘sticker chart’ to reward your child by putting a sticker on the calendar as the reward.  The child can “add up” the stickers towards a special treat, such as watching a video or a day out. 

 

 The following websites have a selection of factsheets that you may find useful:

Infant and Toddler Forum - www.infantandtoddlerforum.org
The British Dietetic Association - www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts
 

So remember, children usually grow out of this phase and start eating normally however if the problem persists and you are still worried about your child’s feeding habits, consult your health visitor or GP who will advise you on what help is available.

Back to top

Vegetarian

 If you decide not to give your baby meat or fish as part of a vegetarian diet, make sure that you include plenty of nutrient-rich foods containing protein, iron and vitamin B12 in your baby’s diet:

Protein - Pulses, chickpeas, beans, tofu, soya, nut spreads and eggs are a good source of protein in a vegetarian diet. You should give your baby these foods twice a day.

Iron - Wholegrain cereals, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach, green beans and peas), dried fruit, nuts, eggs, pulses, soya and soya products are all good sources of iron.

Vitamin B12 - Fortified breakfast cereals, milk and dairy products. Breast milk and formula milk are also good sources of vitamin B12 and your baby should continue to have some breast milk or formula until at least their first birthday.

All vegetarian babies should have a minimum of 350mls breast or formula milk every day until they are 2 years old.Healthy start vitamin drops should be given to vegetarian babies from six months of age.

Back to top

Vegan

The Food Standards Agency says: ‘Vegan diets, which contain no foods from animals, can not easily give babies all the energy and nutrients they need. For this reason, vegan diets are not recommended for young babies.” If you want to give your baby a vegan diet, you should speak to a dietitian first.

Back to top

Foods to avoid giving your baby 

  • Salt. Do not add any salt to foods for young babies as their kidneys can not cope with it. When you are cooking for the family, leave out the salt so your baby can share the food. Infant formula contains a similar amount of salt to breast milk.

  • Sugar. Do not add sugar to food or drinks you give your baby as it can encourage a sweet tooth and lead to tooth decay when the first teeth start to come through.

  • Honey. Do not give honey (even to soothe a cough) until your child is 1 years old, as it can occasionally contain a type of bacteria which can produce toxins in the baby’s intestines and can cause a very serious illness (infant botulism). After the age of 1, the bacteria are not able to grow in the baby’s intestine.

Remember that honey is also a sugar and can lead to tooth decay.

  • Low fat foods. Low fat foods whether yoghurt, fromage frais, cheese or fat spreads are not suitable for babies or children under two. Fats are an important source of calories and some vitamins which they need.

  • Nuts. See the food allergy section

Back to top

Drinks

When your baby is 6 months and solids are established, you can give water or dilute, unsweetened, pure fruit juice (diluted 1:10) – with a feeding cup at mealtimes only. 

  • Full fat/whole cow’s milk can be given as a main drink from 1 year of age.

  • Do not give ‘Diet’ and ‘No added sugar’ drinks to babies and toddlers.

  • Do not give tea or coffee to children under the age of 5.

Back to top

 Cows milk

  • For babies less than 6 months

    • Do not give your baby anything containing cow’s milk

  • For babies between 6 months and 1 year

    • You can use cow’s milk to mix foods for your baby

    • You can give your baby food made from cow’s milk such as

      • Cheese

      • Yoghurt

      • Fromage frais

      • Milk puddings

    • But cow’s milk isn't suitable as a drink until your baby is 1 year old, this is because it doesn't contain the right balance of nutrients to meet your baby's needs.

  • For babies over 1 year

    • You can give your baby cow’s milk as a drink as well as cow’s milk products.
      Remember to use whole/full fat milk

    • Semi skimmed milk should not be given to children under 2 years of age

    • Skimmed milk should not be given to children under 5 years of age

Back to top

Some meals to try

 Breakfast

  • Porridge or unsweetened cereal mixed with whole cows’ milk or baby’s usual milk with mashed ripe pear

  • Mashed banana and toast fingers

  • Boiled egg and toast fingers with slices of ripe peach

  • Stewed apple, yoghurt and unsweetened breakfast cereal

Lunch or tea

  • Cauliflower cheese with cooked pasta pieces

  • Plain fromage frais with stewed apple

  • Mashed pasta with broccoli and cheese

  • Stewed fruit and custard

  • Scrambled egg with toast, chapatti or pitta bread

Dinner

  • Mashed boiled sweet potato with mashed chick peas and cauliflower

  • Shepherd’s pie with green vegetables

  • Rice and mashed peas with courgette sticks

  • Mashed cooked lentils with rice

  • Minced chicken and vegetable casserole with mashed potato

  • Mashed canned salmon with couscous and peas

  • Fish poached in milk with potato, broccoli and carrot

Back to top

Bought baby foods

Pre-prepared jars or packet foods are convenient, especially if you are visiting friends or travelling and need to take something for your baby. If you do give your baby ready-made food, try to mix it with fresh foods.When buying ready-made foods:

  • Choose 'sugar-free' foods or those that do not contain added sugars or sweeteners (check the label).

  • Check the seals on cans and jars have not been broken and they have not exceeded their sell-by date.

  • Check they are suitable for your baby's age.

  • Buy gluten-free and egg-free food for babies under six months.

  • Check that they do not have added salt.  

  • Check drink labels carefully, even baby drinks labelled 'low sugar' or 'no added sugar' often contain some sugar and may harm your baby's teeth.

Back to top

Food allergies

The Food Standards Agency states “If you are concerned that your baby might develop a food allergy, it is a good idea to introduce the foods that are most likely to cause food allergies one at a time from the age of six months (26 weeks) and to start with just a small amount.” These foods are:

  • Egg

  • Milk

  • Soya

  • Wheat (and other cereals that contain gluten such as rye, barley and oats).

 

Nuts

You should try to exclusively breastfeed your baby until about six months of age (see advice above for women who are breastfeeding).

If you choose to start giving your baby solid foods before six months (after talking to your health visitor or GP), don’t give them any peanuts, other nuts (such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts etc.), seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, or foods containing these ingredients until after six months of age. This is because these foods can sometimes trigger development of a food allergy.

When you give these foods to your baby for the first time, it’s a good idea to start with one at a time so that you can spot any allergic reaction. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction, you should seek urgent medical attention. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include one or more of the following: coughing; dry, itchy throat and tongue; itchy skin or rash; diarrhoea and/or vomiting; wheezing and shortness of breath; swelling of the lips and throat; runny or blocked nose; sore, red and itchy eyes.

You may have heard about previous advice to avoid giving a child foods containing peanuts before three years of age, if there was a history of allergy in the child’s immediate family (such as eczema, hayfever, food allergy or other types of allergy). This has now changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence to say that this will help to reduce the risk of your child developing a peanut allergy.

If your child already has a known allergy, such as a diagnosed food allergy or diagnosed eczema, or if there is a history of allergy in your child’s immediate family (if the child’s parents, brothers or sisters have an allergy such as asthma, eczema, hayfever, or other types of allergy), then your child has a higher risk of developing peanut allergy. In these cases you should talk to your GP, health visitor or medical allergy specialist before you give peanuts or foods containing peanuts to your child for the first time.

Whole peanuts or whole nuts should never be given to children under five because of the risk of choking.

For further information on allergies visit Allergy UK: www.allergyuk.org

 

Cows' milk allergy

Speak to your doctor if you are concerned your baby might have an allergic reaction to cows milk.

Back to top

Health and Safety 

  • Always wash your hands before preparing your baby’s food.

  • Wash your baby’s hands before feeding.

  • Keep surfaces clean and prevent pets from coming near food or surfaces where food is being prepared.

  • Keep raw and cooked meats covered and away from each other and other foods in the fridge.

  • Thoroughly wash all bowls and spoons for feeding in hot soapy water.

  • Cooked food should not be re-heated more than once.

  • Foods should be cooked thoroughly all the way through and allowed to cool before giving to your baby.

Related websites:

Weaning your child

Foods to avoid giving your baby

Understanding food groups

Food allergy and Intolerance

Food allergy testing

Intolerance to cows milk

Fussy eaters

Vegetarian children

Drinks and cups

Meal ideas for children

Teething and tooth care

HarmoniDocHarmoniDoc
HarmoniDoc startDoc  
HarmoniDoc
 NHSDirectDoc