When and how to wean

From around six months old, the Department of Health recommends you start the introduction of solid foods.1,2 It’s comforting to know that, at this age, the most important thing is for your baby to learn about and get used to holding food - it is not about how much they actually eat. They will continue to take their usual milk, which will still provide the nutrients they need, whilst they are exploring new tastes and textures.

Going from milks to solid food is a big step, so to help your baby’s digestive system to develop and cope with different foods, you need to take small steps with:

  • Portion sizes
  • Textures
  • Tastes

If you have any concerns, please discuss these with your healthcare professional.

Signs that your baby is ready to be weaned

All babies will be ready to start eating solid foods at different stages, but common signs that your baby might be ready include:1

  • Sitting upright: Being able to sit up by themselves and hold their head steady
  • Hand – mouth coordination: Being able to look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth…all by themselves
  • Swallow foods: Babies who are not ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths

Signs commonly mistaken for a baby being ready to wean are if your baby wants extra milk, is chewing their fists or waking in the night when they’ve previously slept through. It’s important to note that these are normal behaviours and may not be indicators that your baby is ready to be weaned.

If you have any concerns, please discuss these with your healthcare professional.

Reference

  1. NHS Choices, 2013: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx#close Accessed 14th August 2013.

Before you begin weaning

Before you start experimenting with some tasty recipes, here are some useful tips on preparing food as well as feeding your baby:1

  • Always stay with your baby when they are eating solid foods to reduce the risk of choking
  • Let your baby enjoy touching and holding the food – it’s a learning experience for them so they need to enjoy and embrace it. Try not to worry about the mess!
  • Allow your baby to feed themselves using their fingers when they show an interest in doing so
  • Don’t force your baby to eat, if they are not interested then try again at the next meal
  • If you are using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food
  • Start by offering just a few pieces or teaspoons of food, once a day
  • Cool hot food, and test the temperature before giving it to your baby
  • Don’t add salt, sugar or stock cubes to your baby’s food or cooking water

If you have any concerns, please discuss these with your healthcare professional.

Reference

  1. NHS Choices, 2013: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx#close Accessed 14th August 2013.

Tips on what foods to give your baby as they grow

Here are some tips on what foods to give your baby if they have cow’s milk allergy.1

From 6 months

When starting complementary foods after 6 months of age, good first foods are baby rice, cooked fruits and vegetables. You may also give meat, fish, wheat and other grains, pulses and hard boiled eggs. Always seek professional advice if you’re not sure.


Your baby’s foods can include…


First foods:

  • Mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables like parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear, all cooled before eating
  • Soft fruit like peach, melon, soft ripe banana or avocado as finger foods or mashed
  • Baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby’s usual milk

Top tip: start with one meal a day and keep providing breastmilk or infant formula as well.


Next foods:

  • Increase the number of meals you offer to twice then three times per day.
  • Initially the amount of food consumed will only be a few teaspoons
  • Soft cooked meat such as chicken, mashed fish (check very carefully for any bones), pasta, noodles, toast, pieces of chapatti, lentils, rice and mashed hard boiled eggs
  • If your baby has cow’s milk allergy, ensure you provide protein and calcium rich meals. Refer to a table of foods which details the calcium content for your reference
  • Olive oil can be used in cooking and recipes to give your baby enough fat in their diet (one – two teaspoons of olive oil per day)
  • A fruit based dessert can be offered as your baby’s appetite for food increases
  • Offer finger foods at each meal time, to begin with most of it will end up on the floor, but your baby will get used to what food looks like and feels like

Cups: introduce a cup from around six 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. This is also better for your baby’s teeth. Read more about drinks and cups for babies and children

From 8-12 months

During these months, your baby will gradually start to move towards eating three meals a day. These should contain a mixture of soft finger foods, mashed and chopped foods.


Your baby’s diet should be varied and contain the following types of food: fruit and vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, meat, fish, eggs, beans, and other non-dairy sources of protein.


Read more about understanding food groups.

From 12 months

Your baby will now be eating three meals a day. This will be in addition to breastmilk or a hypoallergenic infant formula, if they have cow’s milk allergy. They should also be eating healthy snacks like fruit, vegetable sticks, toast and rice cakes. You can give your baby:

  • Three to four servings a day of starchy food such as potatoes, bread and rice
  • Three to four servings a day of fruit and vegetables
  • Two servings a day of meat, fish, eggs, dhal or other pulses (beans and lentils)

To ensure your baby has sufficient fat in their diet add a little extra olive oil to their meals and use a non-dairy spread instead of butter.

If you have any concerns, please discuss these with your healthcare professional.

Calcium2

Calcium is needed to help build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. If your baby is on a milk-free diet it is important the calcium intake normally derived from dairy sources is replaced with appropriate non-dairy sources. If you are breastfeeding a child who has cow’s milk allergy and on a cow’s milk exclusion diet, you are at risk of calcium deficiency.

Daily calcium requirements

Infants (under 12 months of age)

525 mg

Breastfeeding mums

1,250 mg

Refer to this food factsheet for more information and examples of foods that can contribute to calcium intake.

If you or your baby are unable to meet the recommended daily intake, it may be appropriate to take a daily calcium supplement. This should be done in consultation with your healthcare professional.

References

  1. NHS Choices, 2013: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx#close Accessed 14th August 2013.
  2. British Dietetic Association 2012: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals/pages/calcium.aspx Accessed 14th August 2013.

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RXANI140098 Date of preparation: March 2014