Breast or formula milk has all the nutrients, energy and liquid that a baby needs. But teaching your baby to eat solid foods is a big part of their development.
As well as giving babies more nutrition than milk can provide on its own, weaning teaches them how to eat different foods. It also means babies can start to eat with other people, and try lots of new flavours.
It’s a good idea to start gradually. Start with fruit or vegetable purées, mixed with breast or formula milk, alongside normal feeding. This way, your baby can get used to brilliant new textures and flavours slowly.
Once they’re a bit older, you can start trying other foods. Just remember never to add salt or sugar to baby food, or high-salt foods you might use to flavour your own meals (like stock or soy sauce). Also, if you’re serving cooked food, make sure you test the temperature.
Try following your baby’s pace. Learning about new tastes and textures is a big deal for them, so don’t force it. Wait for your baby to open their mouth when you offer food. And if your baby isn’t hungry, just try again later.
Babies love touching food and holding their own spoon, and anything that helps them learn about food is a good thing. Hold a spoon each, and you can get on with feeding (and it might stop a few tears, too).
Just make sure your baby’s sitting up straight or in a high chair, and that you stay with them in case they choke.
Prepare for a lot of mess - put a newspaper or plastic sheet under the baby’s chair to help with the clear up. And try to eat together, because babies learn by example. You might find you both have a lot of fun, too.
The Department of Health advises parents to start weaning when their baby is about six months old. But this is just a guide - although the very earliest you should wean is 17 weeks, all babies are different. There’s no rush.
Try watching your baby’s behaviour for clues. They might try to sit up and grab food, and be hungrier than usual (when giving them more milk feeds for a few days hasn’t worked).
Your baby might also be a bit grumpy, and chew toys before their next feed is due. And that adorable drooling? It could be a sign that they’re interested in your food and want to try something new.
Baby weaning Q&A
Should I stick to feeding my baby bland foods?
This is a great chance to get your baby interested in new flavours, so go for it. They should really enjoy trying all sorts of new tastes. If they don’t like something the first time, try it again another day. It can take a few tries before a baby gets into a new flavour, but don’t give up. Variety is the spice of life.
Is it true that babies should only be weaned on fruit and vegetables?
It’s true that fruit or vegetable purées are great for the start of weaning. But after the first couple of weeks, you can move onto all sorts of purées and finger foods. Just like adults, babies need a balanced diet, including a range of carbohydrates, fats and protein. If you avoid giving your baby certain food groups, they could be missing out on nutrients.
My baby has started teething – are they ready for solids?
Even if your baby’s teeth have started to come through, it doesn’t mean they’re old enough for solid food.
Are there any high-risk foods?
Only if you have a family history of allergies. If you do, make sure you speak to your GP before introducing any foods that might trigger a reaction.
My baby’s appetite has slowed down – should I be worried?
Babies grow really fast in their first year, but as that growth spurt slows down, so does their appetite. So if this happens, don’t worry.
Always wash your work surfaces, cutting boards, cooking utensils and hands before and after preparing food and after throwing away packaging. Wash any fruit and veg before use, especially if you’re planning on eating it raw.
Make sure stored poultry like chicken or duck is properly wrapped, and kept at the bottom of the fridge, so it doesn’t drip onto other foods. It should be kept at or below 5°C, and you must make sure it’s cooked right through before you eat it.
Don’t wash raw poultry - it doesn’t need to be cleaned, and you could splash bacteria onto your work surfaces. Keep the knives you use for raw meat separate.
Raw or lightly cooked eggs aren’t suitable for babies and young children, pregnant women, elderly people or those with weakened immune systems. Remember they can also be found in some products like mayonnaise - check the labels carefully.
Did you know?
We’re really proud of our fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, which are mostly provided by British farmers. And it’s such high quality it’s great for feeding your baby (and the rest of the family, too). Every three weeks at the Co-op, we offer a different ‘fresh three’ fruit and veg at special low prices. Which means you can give your family fresh meals, at a great price, that will always be the best quality.
You’re weaning your baby, you’re heading to the Co-op for some lovely fresh veg, and you’re all ready to puree. But while you’re there, don’t forget to stock up on ice cube trays and freezer bags. Just freeze extra homemade purées and food in small portions (making sure you label them). Then just grab and defrost one to make busy days that little bit easier.