Introducing your baby to solid foods, also referred to as weaning, starts when your baby is around 6 months old. Your baby should be introduced to a varied diet, alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula.
Until they’re around six months old, babies get all the nutrients they need from breast milk or infant formula, and these milks continue to be important for babies’ growth and development, so keep offering them alongside solid foods. If you start your baby on solid foods too early, they may not take as much breast or formula milk, needed for growth and development.
As you start weaning, you can start mixing a little cow’s milk with your baby’s food, but don’t offer it as a drink on its own until your baby is one year old. Until your baby is two, go for full fat (whole) milk.
Lots of parents wonder when and how to start introducing solid foods – with so much conflicting advice available it can be very confusing. You should wait until your baby is around 6 months old – this gives them the opportunity to develop the physical skills required to manage solid foods, for example sitting in an upright position and moving food around their mouth to chew and swallow.
Every baby is different. How much your baby eats depends on their appetite, so let your baby guide you on how much food they need – never force them to eat.
There will be days when they eat a lot, and other days when they eat less, and they may reject some foods altogether. Don’t give up, just try again on another day. Be responsive to your baby when giving them solid foods, and learn to recognise when they’re hungry and when they’ve had enough.
There are different ways to offer solid food to your baby. Some babies are happy to start with finger foods they can feed to themselves, while others need longer to get used to the new textures and prefer to try smooth or mashed foods offered to them on a spoon. Try not to worry about how much, or how little your baby eats at first.
To start with, your baby only needs a small amount of solid food, once a day, at a time that suits you both. Try and choose a time when your baby is not too tired or hungry, and when you’re not in a rush.
At around 7-9 months, your baby will gradually move towards eating three meals per day alongside their breast or formula feeds.
From 12 months, you can also introduce two healthy snacks as part of their diet.
Foods to try
You can start weaning with single vegetables and fruits – try mashed, minced or soft cooked sticks, such as:
- sweet potato
You can quickly progress to:
- toast fingers
- cooked pasta and rice
- a range of cooked meat and fish (check for bones!)
- full fat dairy foods like cheese, yoghurt or rice pudding
By offering a range of foods, your baby will learn that foods have different colours, textures, flavours, and develop a taste for the foods you introduce.
Remember to have fun in the weaning process; not all babies will like the taste or feel of a food the first time you try. Let them explore!
Babies on a vegetarian diet can get all the energy and nutrients they need, as long as they are offered a wide variety of foods.
Their diet should include meat and fish alternatives, such as:
- pulses (beans, peas and lentils)
- ground nuts and seeds
- cereal foods and soy products (such as tofu)
Advice on how to introduce solid foods is the same for vegan and non-vegan babies.
Points to remember
- Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby
- Always check fish and meat for bones
- Stay close to your baby when they’re eating, just in case they start to choke
- Avoid soft round pieces, like cherry tomatoes, grapes and cocktail sausages. Cut them in half so that they are not round
Foods to avoid when you’re weaning
- Sugar and sweet foods like chocolate, sweets, cakes and biscuits
- Sweet drinks like squash, milkshakes and fruit juice, including fizzy drinks and fruit tea
- Caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee
- Rice drinks
- Salt, and salty foods like bacon, sausages, crisps and meals made with stock cubes – babies’ kidneys can’t cope with too much salt
- Honey prior to one year old – it contains bacteria which can make babies unwell
- Raw shellfish eg: Prawns as it increases the risk of food poisoning
- Shark, swordfish or marlin as it contains high levels of mercury
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs until they are one. Fully cooked eggs can be given from 6 months
- Unpasteurised cheeses such as stilton or brie.
- Whole nuts (Smooth peanut butter can be tried from six months)
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 six 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 smooth, crushed or ground)
- seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
If you have a strong family history of allergies, or have a concern that your child may have an allergy, speak to your health visitor or GP prior to trying those foods.
- The Department of Health recommend that breastfed babies are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth – whether or not you’re taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself. It’s also advised that babies having 500ml (about a pint) or more of first infant formula a day, don’t require a vitamin supplement. This is because first infant formula already contains vitamin D and other nutrients.
- Some families are eligible for Healthy Start vitamin supplements and vouchers.
- In addition to the usual supplements recommended for babies, vegan babies need fortified foods and specific supplements (such as vitamin B12) to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
- Start4Life- Weaning