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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. Watch this video from Start 4 Life to hear a mum's experience of getting started with weaning.

  • 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;

    • High chair. 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 high chair. 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 are gentler on your baby's gums.
    • A small plastic bowl. You may find at first that it helps 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.
    • An old shower curtain is great to place on the floor to catch any spills and can be wiped down really easily when mealtime is over.
    • Plastic containers and ice cube trays can be helpful for batch cooking and freezing small portions.
  • You should still continue to carry on sterilising your baby’s bottles and teats and do this until they are one year old. Make sure you wash and rinse your baby's bottle-feeding equipment thoroughly 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 thoroughly before preparing food for your baby. When your baby has finished his food, wash the bowls, plates and spoons in hot, soapy water, and rinse them afterwards. Or wash them in the dishwasher.

  • 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.
    Offering solid foods alongside their breast or formula feeds is sometimes called ''complementary feeding''. As they 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.

    At 6-9 months your baby will work up to eating 2-3 meals per day. Water can be offered with these meals and your baby can continue to be breastfed on demand. The recommended amount of first formula at this age is 500-600mls per day.

    At 10-12 months your baby will be having 3 meals per day with a mid morning or afternoon snack, breastfeeding on demand or being offered the recommended amount of first formula of 400mls per day

    At 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 and breastmilk on demand. 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 when giving them solid foods 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.

  • Offer your baby a drink of water with each meal in an open or free flow cup without a valve. When your baby begins weaning it is a good time to introduce a cup so that they can get used to drinking from this. It is recommended that babies do not drink from bottles by the time they are 1 year 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 to have is water or milk. Up to 1 year their main milk drinks need to be breastmilk or first infant formula, but 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.

    *Click here* for more advice on drinks for babies.

  • So what can your baby have to eat when they first start weaning? Confusion about what is ok can lead to you feeling that ready prepared baby foods are an easier option, but they are not as cheap, nutritious and 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 soft - banana, mashed veg, ripe avocado, well cooked carrot fingers - and as finger feeding skills develop add raw veg sticks, toast fingers, cooked pasta and broccoli/cauliflower florets to give more opportunity for bite and chew. You can offer food on a spoon to begin with or as finger foods right from the start ,or you can offer a mix of both. Babies love to play with food and this is how they learn to eat themselves so be prepared for mess and lots of fun!

    Click on the image below to watch a video with some suggestions for easy fresh foods you can prepare for your baby.

    Remember babies love to eat with others - eating is a really social activity most of us enjoy together - so eat as a family with your baby in their highchair at the dining table and they will copy you. 
    *Click here* for some great recipes with portion sizes and other good advice for babies and children from 7 months.
  • 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.

    Please *Click here* to see the NHS guidance on foods to avoid.

    Please *Click here* to see the NHS guidance on drinks to avoid.

    You may be worried about introducing foods that may cause an allergic reaction such as eggs or cows milk. Please *click here* to see the NHS guidance on how to introduce these foods and signs of allergic reaction to be aware of. 

  • Weaning is an exciting time but can be worrying as you will want to stay safe. Some of our most common questions from parents about worries around weaning can be seen here.

    Making sure you prepare and store food you are going to give to your baby carefully will make it much safer. *Click here* to find out more about preparing food. *Click here* to find out about storing and reheating your 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 food such as 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. 

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. 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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