How to wean your child onto solids

Weaning your child onto solids is a key part of their development.  However, it can seem a little daunting.  Here we set out some guidelines on the key weaning milestones.  All children are different, so please accept the ages set out below as guidelines.

Signs that your baby is ready to start weaning are:

  1. they can sit upright unsupported
  2. they can coordinate their hands, eyes and mouth – allowing them to pick up foods
  3. they can swallow food, rather than spitting it back out

Historically parents were advised to start the weaning process by spoon-feeding their child with purees; increasing the lumpiness of the foods as the child developed; and finally offering the child finger foods.  Now parents are increasingly moving towards Baby Led Weaning, where they parent offers the child finger foods at the start of the weaning process.

Baby Led Weaning v Spoon-feeding

When a parent is looking into weaning, they may see two different approaches – baby led weaning, which is focused on offering children finger foods from the start of the weaning process; and spoon-feeding.  There are pros and cons to both approaches.  Baby led weaning: helps independence and confidence; allows the child to regulate their own quantity of food; and supports the development of hand to eye coordination.  Spoon-feeding helps to ensure that the child is receiving the right nutrients in their diet.  There is no right or wrong way to wean.

Our view is that a mixture of the two approaches has the greatest benefit – ensuring that the child is receiving the right nutrients, whilst encouraging hand to eye coordination, and enthusiasm and interest in food.

General Points

When weaning and throughout a child’s development, it makes sense to offer a variety of foods, to not cook with salt or spices, and to not add salt or sugar to the foods.  In terms of drinks, stay away from drinks with sugar, which includes: fruit juices and fizzy drinks.  Finally, stay with your child as they eat to ensure they do not choke and to monitor what they are eating.

At six months a baby only needs a small amount of solid food, once a day.  A great way to start weaning is with single vegetables and fruits – try blended, mashed, or soft cooked sticks of parsnip, broccoli, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear.  It is recommended to not overdo sweeter vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, as this can lead to a child being fussier at a later stage.  You could also try baby rice mixed with your baby’s usual milk. Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby.

It’s important to introduce foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time, in very small amounts, so that you can spot any reaction. These foods can be introduced from around 6 months as part of your baby’s diet, just like any other foods:

  • cows’ milk (in cooking or mixed with food)
  • eggs (eggs without a red lion stamp should not be eaten raw or lightly cooked)
  • foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
  • nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
  • seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
  • soya
  • shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
  • fish

When your baby is ready, try moving on to mashed and finger foods . This helps them learn how to chew, move solid food around their mouth and swallow solid foods. Give your baby a spoon and let them try feeding themselves – you might need to stick a mat under the highchair though!  Babies love picking up bits of food and feeding themselves, so provide some finger foods too; it’s great for their hand to eye co-ordination too! Always stay with them when they are trying lumpier food, to ensure that they are swallowing it safely.

At seven to nine months your baby will gradually move towards eating three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and tea). Babies under 12 months don’t need snacks.  If you think your baby is hungry in between meals, offer extra milk feeds instead.  Make sure that you offer a wide variety of different foods and don’t add salt or sugar to their food, including when cooking.

Remember, it may take 10 tries or even more for your baby to get used to new foods, flavours and textures. There’ll be days when they eat more, some when they eat less, and then days when they reject everything! This is perfectly normal. Just be patient, keep offering a variety of foods, even the ones they don’t seem to like, and let them get used to it in their own time.

At 10 to 12 months your baby will be on three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and tea. Breast milk or first infant formula milk is still important for energy and nutrients during the first year, and should be their main drink until 12 months.  At this stage your baby may be down to about three milk feeds a day. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will adapt their feeds according to how much food they’re having. If your baby has first infant formula, they may need around 400ml per day, but just use this as a guide.  They should also be showing some confidence drinking water from a sippy cup.

At 12 months your toddler  should be having three meals a day, but they may also need two healthy weaning snacks in between (for example fruit, vegetable sticks, toast, bread or plain yoghurt).  As your child eats more solid foods, the amount of milk they want will decrease. Once they’re 12 months old, first infant formula is not needed.  Your toddler can now drink whole cows’ milk and have full-fat dairy products. Choose full fat for children under two years old, as they need the extra energy. From two onwards, they can have semi-skimmed milk as long as they’re eating and growing well. From five years old, 1% or skimmed milk is fine.

If you have any questions about weaning your child, please speak to a member of our Honeybear team.