How to wean a baby
Let us show you how to wean a baby and what you need to introduce solids to your little one
At a glance
At six months your baby will show signs they are ready to try solid foods
Start with single vegetables
Baby-led weaning means letting your child feed themselves
Follow hygiene rules when storing and reheating food
Weaning babies is a big milestone that comes with as many questions as it does excitement. So we’ve compiled a guide to the three stages of weaning that will help make it healthy and nutritious for your baby, and easier for you.
What is weaning?
At around six months, your baby needs more than breast or formula milk to meet their nutritional needs. Weaning isn’t just about new tastes and textures, it also helps:
- Support continued growth and development
- Lay the foundations for a healthy, balanced diet
- Develop communication and independence
- Speech development through chewing and swallowing
When to start weaning babies
It’s not recommended to introduce solids until around six months, but all babies are different, so check with your health visitor or public health nurse. Before weaning starts, your baby needs to:
- Have good eye, hand and mouth co-ordination, enabling them to pick up food on their own
- Stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
- They need to be able to swallow food
Some signs that can be mistaken for a baby being ready for solid foods are:
- Sucking and chewing on fists and toys
- Waking in the night when they have previously slept through
- Wanting extra milk feeds
These are all normal behaviours and are not necessarily a sign of hunger or being ready to start weaning.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a method of weaning which allows babies to feed themselves. If you want to know more on how to wean a baby follow our handy tips below:
- Remember to cool hot food and test it before giving it to your baby
- For safety reasons always watch your baby when they are eating to help encourage them to eat as well as to help them if they’re struggling
- Encourage your baby to hold and touch the food
- Allow your baby to feed themselves when they show an interest in food
- Don't force your baby to eat or finish their food
- If you're using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food. Your baby may like to hold a spoon, too
What do I need for weaning?
There are all kinds of equipment to help you wean, but you don’t need all of it. Here are a few things you might find useful when weaning your baby:
- Small, smooth round-tipped plastic spoons – these are gentle on your baby’s delicate mouth and gums
- A colourful plastic bowl that's easy to clean and will get your baby’s attention
- Soft plastic bibs that can be wiped clean
- A wipe-clean splash mat or shower curtain to help keep your floor clean
- An apron to keep your own clothes clean
- A hand blender, food processor or sieve for making purees
- Ice cube trays to freeze individual portions of purees and freezer bags to store the cubes
- A feeding schedule stuck on the fridge to track what your baby has tried, and how often
Soft plastic bib that can be cleaned
Apron to keep your clothes clean
What about hygiene?
Your baby’s immune system is still developing, so hygiene is still very important:
- Wash yours hands before you prepare food
- Sterilise feeding bowls and spoons until your baby is six months old. After that, wash in the dishwasher or very hot water
- Dry your baby’s feeding equipment with clean tea towels or paper towels
- Wash your baby’s hands before feeding, even if you’re not offering finger foods, as it’s natural for them to play with spoons and their food
- Keep all surfaces clean using hot soapy water or a suitable antibacterial cleaner — don’t forget the floor once baby is on the move
- Always throw away any uneaten food that your baby’s spoon has touched as saliva contains enzymes and bacteria
How do I store and reheat foods?
Take care when storing foods for your baby. Here are some tips to remember:
- Cool food as quickly as possible (ideally within one to two hours), cover with tight-fitting lids or seal into bags and put into the fridge or freezer
- Store in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Use the coolest part of your fridge making sure it is less than 5°C. Avoid the door compartments
- If freezing food, cool it quickly and freeze straight away, making sure to name and date the containers. Use within three months
- Fill ice cube trays with puree and freeze. Decant into freezer bags once they are frozen
Always stick to the following guidelines when reheating foods:
- Thaw foods thoroughly before reheating. Leave it in the fridge overnight or using the defrost setting on a microwave
- Never refreeze meals or reheat food more than once
- Make sure food is heated until piping hot, then cooled down before serving
- You can use a microwave to reheat baby food, but be careful. Stir to avoid hotspots and cool down and test before giving it to your baby
- To cool food quickly, put it in an airtight container and hold it under a cold running tap. Stir it occasionally so that it cools all the way through
Ready for step 1? Let’s begin with first weaning foods.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health.