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Weaning

Getting Ready To Start Weaning

As your baby approaches 6 months you may want to start getting ready to introduce solid foods. It is a really exciting time as your baby starts to try their first foods alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula. 

Being prepared will make the job of starting weaning easier and less stressful for both you and your baby, so you can all really enjoy this new experience together. It is messy but fun!

Below you will find guidance on the equipment you need to start weaning; ideas for first foods you can prepare in advance; advice about drinking, first portion sizes and foods to avoid.

Dive Deeper

Weaning Equipment

Making sure you have the right equipment before you start to wean your baby will help make this important time in their lives much smoother. Here is a list of equipment that you may need when starting to wean your baby;

Highchair

Your baby needs to be sitting safely in an upright position (so they can swallow properly). Always use a securely fitted safety harness in a highchair. Never leave babies unattended on raised surfaces. Do not feed your baby in a bouncer chair or propped on a soft surface such as a sofa as this is a choking hazard

Plastic or pelican bibs

It's going to be messy at first!

Soft weaning spoons

These are gentler on your baby's gums.

A small plastic bowl

At first, you might find it is easier to place food directly onto the tray of the highchair that has been thoroughly cleaned first. There are also bowls with non-slip bases in most supermarket baby aisles that you can buy.

First cup

Introduce a cup from around 6 months and offer sips of water with meals. Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve, will help your baby learn to sip and is better for their teeth.

Other helpful items

An old shower curtain is great to place on the floor to catch any spills and can be wiped down easily when mealtime is over.

Plastic containers and ice cube trays can be helpful for batch cooking and freezing small portions.

Do I Need To Sterilise?

You should continue to carry on sterilising your baby’s bottles and teats until they are one year old. 

Make sure you wash and rinse your baby's bottle-feeding equipment really well before you sterilise it. 

After your baby is 6 months old you do not need to sterilise their other feeding equipment such as bowls and spoons. Your baby's digestive and immune systems are more mature and the risk of infection is less likely.

From 6 months your baby can be offered tap water to drink which does not need to be boiled and cooled first.

Hygiene is still really important. Always wash your hands before preparing food for your baby. When your baby has finished their food, wash the bowls, plates and spoons in hot, soapy water, and rinse them afterwards. Or wash them in the dishwasher.

How Much Food & Drink?

To begin with your baby may not seem to eat much. Don't worry as at this stage babies are getting most of their nutrients from their breastmilk or first infant formula.

As your baby increase the amount of food they eat they will usually naturally reduce the amount of milk they drink and food will become their main source of energy.

6-9 months

Your baby will build up to eating 2-3 meals per day. Water can be offered with these meals and your baby can continue to be breastfeed on demand. The recommended amount of first formula at this age is 500-600mls per day.

10-12 months

Your baby will be having around 3 meals per day with a mid morning or afternoon snack. Continue breastfeeding on demand or offering the recommended amount of first formula of 400mls per day.

1 year

Most children are having 3 meals per day with 2 snacks (1 mid morning and 1 mid afternoon) with water offered at these times.

Full fat cows milk can be offered from 12 months and the recommended amount of milk or dairy at this age is 360mls per day.

Let your baby guide you on how much food they need, they will eat if they are hungry – never force them to eat. In the same way you follow your baby’s cues when offering them breast or bottle feeds. Be responsive to your baby and learn to recognise when they're hungry and when they've had enough.

Watch this video from Start 4 Life to hear parents experiences of weaning and advice from a nutritionist.

Drinking

Offer your baby a drink of water with each meal in an open or free flow cup. When your baby begins weaning is a good time to introduce a cup. It is recommended that babies do not drink from bottles after they are 1 year old as these can be held in the mouth and increase the risk of tooth decay, even in teeth that have not yet broken through.

The only drink that babies need is water or milk. Up to 1 year old their main milk drinks need to be breastmilk or first infant formula. From 12 months they can be offered full fat cows or goats milk as a main drink. If your baby has a diagnosed cows milk allergy, their dietician will advise you on what they can drink.

Read more about drinks and cups for babies

First Foods

What can my baby have to eat when they first start weaning?

It can be confusing to know what is ok and this can lead to you feeling that ready prepared baby foods are an easier option. They are not as cheap, nutritious or tasty as home cooked food. Often ready prepared baby foods do not offer babies the opportunity to chew due to their smooth texture and can be bland in taste. 

Start with soft foods

  • Banana
  • Mashed veg
  • Well cooked carrot fingers.

As finger feeding skills develop start to add;

  • Raw veg sticks
  • Toast fingers
  • Cooked pasta
  • Broccoli/cauliflower florets

These give your baby more opportunity for bite and chew.

You can offer food on a spoon to begin with or as finger foods, or you can offer a mix of both.

Babies love to play with food and this is how they learn to eat themselves. Be prepared for some mess and lots of fun! Remember babies love to eat with others - eating is a really social activity! Try and eat when your baby is eating in their high chair, and they will copy you.

First Steps Nutrition have more information about portion sizes for babies and children from 7 months. 

Food & Drink To Avoid

There are some foods and drinks to avoid when you start weaning you baby. Some foods carry a high risk of food poisoning or a choking risk and some drinks are not good for your baby as they contain sugars that will damage their teeth or do not enough of the nutrients your baby needs. 

Here is some helpful guidance to make sure weaning is safe for your baby.

Read more about foods to avoid

Read more about drinks to avoid

You may be worried about introducing foods that may cause an allergic reaction such as eggs or cows milk. The NHS has guidance on how to introduce these foods and signs of allergic reactions to be aware of. 

Staying Safe

Weaning is an exciting time but can be worrying as you will want your baby to have a happy and safe experience. 

Making sure you prepare and store food you are going to give to your baby carefully will make it much safer. Start for Life has more information on how to prepare food safely and how to store and reheat food.

Here are some more tips on how to be safe when weaning your baby

  • Make sure your baby is in a highchair, strapped in and well supported.
  • Check the temperature of food and drinks before giving them to your baby. Be very careful if using a microwave to heat food/drinks as this can cause hot spots which can burn your baby's mouth.
  • Only reheat cooked food once and then throw it away if it is uneaten. 
  • Always sit with your baby when they are eating and do not leave them until they have finished.
  • Follow the guidance for foods and drinks to avoid.
  • Make sure all bones, pips or stones are removed from foods like fish, meat or fruit.  
  • Cut pieces to finger size so your baby can hold and manage them safely.
  • Peel skin off fruit and vegetables.
  • Cut round foods such as cherry tomatoes or grapes in half lengthways to reduce choking risks. 

Find out more about common weaning worries and questions

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum.

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