Frequently Asked Questions
Why is weaning important?
Weaning is the gradual introduction of solid foods into your baby’s existing milk-only diet. Thanks to the essential nutrients it provides, milk will still continue to form an important part of your baby’s diet, but in addition to the extra nutrients and energy that the gradual introduction of solids will start giving them, the process of weaning will also start to develop your baby’s speech development muscles, not to mention their nascent social skills and sense of independence.
When is the right time to start weaning?
It is recommended that weaning should begin for bottlefed babies between 4-6 months of age. For developmental and nutritional reasons weaning should not begin before 4 months (17 weeks) and should not be delayed beyond 6 months (26 weeks).
My baby was born prematurely. When should I start to wean them?
Of course, with those age brackets in mind, what’s also very important is that your baby is showing the signs and skills which should indicate that they’re actually ready themselves to begin the transition to solids.
Your healthcare professional should usually be available for guidance and advice in all aspects of your baby’s growth and development, so if you think that your baby is displaying some or all indications of being ready to wean, contact them for advice.
What do I need to start weaning?
• Baby spoons – small flat weaning spoons will be needed initially
• Small, durable plastic bowls
• Beaker. A beaker should only be introduced from 6 months
• Liquidiser or hand blender
• Ice-cube trays. If puréeing large quantities, you’ll want to freeze some to use later
• Sieve. For smaller quantities of food, you can use a standard fork and sieve to purée.
• Highchair/car seat. Your baby will need to be in an upright position and well supported
What are the best foods to start weaning my baby with?
Thin & runny -
• Start with a runny, liquid like consistency similar to milk and gradually make the consistency thicker as your baby gets used to eating from a spoon
• Baby Rice is recommended by healthcare professionals as an ideal first food because of its gentle flavour and runny consistency. Baby rice is also very easy to digest
• Pureed vegetables and fruit, such as carrots, sweet potato, apples or pears are also recommended.
Smooth to start -
• Your baby does not yet have the ability to chew, so ensure there are no lumps and their food is smooth throughout. You will find a hand blender helpful.
Introduce one new food at a time -
• Foods should be introduced one at a time, leaving a few days between the addition of each new food. In this way any adverse reaction to a new food can be spotted more easily. As your baby has a natural preference to sweet foods, it is better to start weaning with savoury purees first. If they get used to sweet foods first they may be reluctant to accept savoury tastes later on.
My baby is just spitting out food. What should I do?
Don’t be surprised if the first few spoonfuls come straight back out again. Be patient and keep trying, they’ll soon get the hang of it.
When do I move on from pureed foods to more textured varieties?
The thicker purees will teach your baby to move the food from side to side in the mouth. This is one of the skills needed later on to move food to the gums or teeth at the back of the mouth to gum or chew (at approximately 9 months).
Between 6-9 months, food no longer needs to be of pureed texture but can be minced or mashed with soft lumps, depending how far along the weaning process your baby is.
My baby doesn’t have any teeth should I hold off from introducing lumpier foods?
How can I look after my baby’s teeth?
Even before milk teeth have begun to erupt it is good to get into the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums. Wipe your baby’s gums with a soft wet cloth, if your baby is teething, this will also help to soothe painful gums.
The same things that damage our teeth as adults will also damage your baby’s teeth, even if they haven’t appeared yet! Try to avoid giving them sugary snacks (sweets, sweet biscuits, chocolate etc.), even if they’re of a smooth enough consistency for your baby to cope with.
Care for your baby's teeth by cleaning gently each day from the time of their appearance with a small soft brush and tap water. Toothpaste is not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Children over 2 years may use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Adult toothbrushes are not suitable; a toothbrush made solely for babies is required. These toothbrushes should be small enough to fit into your baby’s mouth, with soft bristles to avoid scratching their delicate gums.
Showing a good example is a good way to encourage good dental care, brushing your teeth in front of your baby will encourage them to be more obliging to the brushing of his/her teeth.
Never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his/her mouth and never dip your baby’s soother in sugar, honey or anything sweet. Also, try to choose sugar-free medicines whenever you can.
As the “drinks” section of this FAQ will tell you, your baby should not need any liquids other than breast milk or formula, and boiled, then cooled, water, so sweetened drinks should definitely be avoided. However, if you want to, you can give your baby pure fruit juices – but only at mealtimes with food, from a cup only, and in the ratio of one measure of juice to 4 or 5 measures of cooled boiled water. You should never give your baby fruit juice in place of milk, from their bottle or at bedtime.
If you are worried about your baby’s dental health, contact your dentist or healthcare professional for advice.
What foods are rich in iron?
How should I start weaning?
Start with giving a spoon feed once a day at a quiet time of day, as it helps if both you and they are relaxed and in good form ahead of this brand new experience. Lunchtime is often a good time to start. Ideally, you should give your baby their usual milk feed first, so they are not too hungry. Once they’ve had their milk feed, offer them just one or two teaspoons or baby spoons of for example pure baby rice, mixed with their usual milk. At the beginning you are just getting your baby used to a spoon and introducing texture to your baby’s mouth (Check out our 4month+ meal planners for ideas for the first few weeks of your baby’s weaning journey).
Always remember to check the temperature of the food and stay with your baby throughout the feeding process.
Above all else, it’s good to keep remembering that the key word with weaning is “gradual”. Just as each baby is different from the next, each one will have their own timescale for beginning and progressing through their own weaning process. Be patient each time, let your baby react to the food whatever way they will (even touching it is okay) and be prepared for a bit of mess!
What's the best way to heat my baby's food?
If you’re using jars of baby food, stand them in hot water to heat them up.
Check food is hot all the way through. Then make sure it's not too hot before feeding it to your baby by stirring the food to remove any hot spots.
Never re-heat food more than once and throw away leftovers; food that’s been in contact with your baby’s mouth or cutlery may contain bacteria.
If you’re heating food in advance, don’t leave it to cool at room temperature for too long; bacteria start developing within two hours and multiply rapidly.
Can I start weaning my baby by putting rice in their bottle?
How do I know when my baby is full?
What should I do if my baby won’t eat anything for me?
Don’t forget that, especially in the early days of weaning, your baby will only need a few small spoons of puréed solids at each mealtime to get them used to the concept of taking food off the spoon. They don’t need to eat everything you make up for them straight away (although, if you are concerned about their weight gain, you should contact a healthcare professional).
If you find yourself meeting particularly stubborn resistance to weaning, try not to get disheartened; instead, just remember that as with everything where your baby is concerned, this is where it pays to be patient. It could take you up to 10 goes (on different occasions) for your baby to take a particular food off the spoon, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.
Can I feed my baby meat & fish – and when’s it okay to do so?
As soon as your baby is accepting food from a spoon you can start offering meat, poultry and fish (bones removed). Ensure they are in a pureed consistency for the first stage of weaning.
It's also worth noting that initially it's best to feed meat and fish at lunchtime as they are harder to digest which may affect sleep if given in the evening time.
Is it OK to give my baby eggs – and when can I do so?
I’ve heard that iron-rich food is important for weaning, is this true?
Is it better to use fresh fruit or vegetables?
What do I do with a fussy eater?
• Praise your baby when they eat well and don’t get frustrated or angry if your baby doesn’t eat well
• Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t like certain foods, simply leave it for now and try again in a week or so. Babies like familiar foods and sometimes you need to offer a food more than 10 times before your baby will try it
• Set a good example and let your baby see you eating and enjoying a variety of foods
• Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t eat much one day. Appetites vary and what your baby eats over the course of the week is more important.
I am a vegetarian and would like my baby to have a vegetarian diet. Is this possible, and if so, what types of foods should I include in their diet?
Firstly, if you are bottle-feeding your baby, consider moving them onto a follow-on milk from six months of age. This will help provide them with the extra iron they’ll require at this stage. The iron in breastmilk is extremely well absorbed compared to any other food/drink.
In terms of foods, meat alternatives will need to be introduced, such as pulses, beans and lentils. You can introduce foods such as: well-cooked eggs (scrambled or hard-boiled); cheese; tahini (sesame seed paste); smooth nut pastes; soya protein; hummus; tofu. You may also be able to give your baby mashed or minced Quorn, but check that the salt content is suitable for your baby’s weaning stage. If in doubt, you can always check with your local healthcare professional, or contact the Spoon by Spoon weaning advice team on freephone 1800 303 541.
Can I give my baby the same food that I feed my older children?
Although your baby’s a little person, it can sometimes be easy to forget that they’re not mini adults! Even though one of the signs that they’re ready to begin weaning is by showing an interest in what you’re eating (especially smooth foods like yoghurt), your food may contain levels of salt, sugar, fat or other vitamins and minerals which, while fine for us adults, are far too high for a baby’s small digestive system to process.
Instead, you should only feed them home cooked recipes that are appropriate for their age, or foods tailored specifically for their nutritional requirements and that are appropriate for their age.
Remember not to add salt/sugar to food you make for your baby or give to him or her. And be careful not to give him/her foods that aren't made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals and pasta sauces, because these can be high in salt and sugar.
Babies need only a very small amount of salt - less than 1g a day up to 12 months. Their kidneys can't cope with larger amounts of salt.
Babies who are breastfed will get the right amount of salt through breast milk. Infant formula contains a similar amount.
Packet sauces, gravies, adult stock cubes or processed food, are not suitable for babies as they can be high in salt and sugar.
Should I reduce my baby's milk intake now that I am spoonfeeding?
Initially, breastmilk/formula milk remains as the main source of nutrition, providing all the nutrients they need.
Don’t reduce the amount of milk offered straight away. Let your baby’s appetite be the guide. The volume taken will gradually go down as the amount of food taken at meal times increases.
It is important to note that breastmilk/formula milk will still play an important role in your baby’s nutrition during the weaning process.
What foods should I avoid feeding my baby before they reach 12 months?
• Added sugar. It can lead to tooth decay and encourage a sweet tooth.
• Added salt.
• Gravies, stoke cubes and packet/jar sauces, these can have a lot of hidden salt.
• Honey should only be given after 12 months as there is a small risk of botulism.
• Unpasteurised cheese, including soft and mould ripened cheese e.g. brie, blue cheese.
• Avoid whole or chopped nuts until the age of 5 years due to the risk of choking.
• Cow’s milk is not suitable as a drink before 12 months; small amounts may be added to foods.
• Hot spices.
• Eggs should be avoided before 6 months. After 6 months avoid undercooked eggs, cook them until both the yolk and the white of the egg are solid.
• Avoid shell fish until after 12 months.
• Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks should not be given before 12 months, they are not suitable drinks for babies.
• The Department of Health and Children recommend that gluten containing foods should be avoided before six months, e.g. foods such as bread, pasta and gluten containing cereals.* Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, oats and barely.
* More recently a European group of medical experts advise to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.
What is the best drink to give to my baby at mealtimes?
If your tap water is not suitable for drinking, even after boiling, you can use bottled water that contains less than 20mg of sodium (Na) per 100ml (always check the label). Bottled water must still be boiled before use.
Tea, fruit drinks and fizzy drinks are unsuitable drinks for babies and children.
Cow’s or goat’s milk is not suitable as a main drink for children under 1 year.
It is important to note that breastmilk/formula milk will still play an important role in your baby’s nutrition during the weaning process.
How long should I leave between introducing new foods?
How should I prepare meat and fish in the early stages of weaning?
There is a history of allergy in my family. What foods should I feed my baby?
In such cases, it’s best to start weaning with the least allergenic foods i.e. baby rice, root vegetables, fruit. Once your baby is taking these foods, potentially allergenic foods such as egg, soya, wheat and fish can be introduced. These foods should be given 3-5 days apart. There is no evidence that there is any benefit to delaying or excluding these foods.
High allergenic foods should be introduced one by one, leaving a gap of 5 days between each one. Regarding peanuts, if there’s a family history of peanut allergy, some experts recommend avoiding peanuts (and products containing peanuts) until the age of 3 years. All children should avoid whole or chopped nuts until the age of five due to a risk of choking.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Children encourages the avoidance of gluten-containing foods up to six months such as bread, pasta, cereals that contain wheat, rye, oat and barley. Recently a European group of medical experts advised to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.
If you are concerned please contact your healthcare professional for advice.
Can I freeze weaning food that I make up for future use?
• The food must be properly cooled first, then freeze it as soon as possible so that bacteria don’t have a chance to creep in.
• Check your freezer temperature is set to -18°C or below.
• Small plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids or ice cube trays secured inside freezer bags are ideal for storing small portions (you can tap out the cubes into the bags once frozen).
• Label the containers or bags to remind yourself what the food is and when you made it. Never keep anything longer than three months.
• If you’ve fed directly from a bowl, any food left in it may contain germs from your baby’s mouth. So always throw away the food left in the bowl you fed from.
• Never re-freeze meals that have already been frozen.
Do I need to give my baby a vitamin supplement?
Vitamin D3 is important because it helps our bodies use calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
The vitamin D3 product you use should be in liquid form suitable for infants and contain only vitamin D3. Products that contain other vitamins as well as vitamin D (such as multivitamin products) should not be used.
If your baby has already been prescribed vitamins you should seek the advice of your doctor before giving your baby any additional vitamin products.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and give the correct dose. Consult your pharmacist, nurse, doctor, or dietitian for advice.
Why shouldn't I add salt to my baby's food while cooking?
Sodium forms part of salt. To work out how much salt is in something, multiply the sodium content by 2.5. Some foods naturally contain sodium, avoid those with added salt (always check the labels).
Why should I limit my baby's sugar intake?
Try to choose foods that are naturally sweet such as fruit, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Keep an eye out for ‘added sugar’ in yoghurts or desserts – choose the ones with the least amounts or no added sugar, and look out for sugar or fruit juice concentrate in savoury foods too. Choose foods made especially for babies when you can, as low sugar/no added sugar products designed for adults often contain artificial sweeteners which should also be avoided.
When can I introduce foods that contain gluten?
Recently a European group of medical experts advised to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.
How I can I prepare my baby's food safely?
Use separate chopping boards and knives for raw meat and fish, and vegetables and fruit.
All equipment and surfaces used to prepare and serve your baby’s food, including kitchen work tops, chopping boards, utensils, blenders and highchair should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.
Don’t forget to wash your baby’s hands before eating too − it’s never too early to establish a good hygiene routine.
How should I store ready made food such as baby jar meals?
Check the storage instructions on the packaging before freezing leftovers.
Use a clean plastic spoon to transfer a small amount from the jar into your baby’s bowl. You can then safely store the rest of the jar in the fridge, with the lid back on, for up to 48 hours (check the label as some manufacturer’s instructions may differ).
If you feed straight from the jar, any remaining food should be thrown away.
My baby's stools have changed - is this normal?