Baby weaning advice

Weaning basics

When to start weaning?

The time for starting weaning varies from baby to baby. However, current recommendations are that babies only require breastmilk or infant formula until 6 months old (26 weeks). After this age, babies begin to need solid food to supplement their milk.

How will I know when my child is ready to be weaned?

By six months, babies are physically ready to begin eating solids. At about six months old, babies can sit up with support, control their heads and move food around their mouth. Their digestive and immune systems have also had time to develop so are stronger. Babies are often interested in your food and want to chew.

Some babies seem to become a bottomless pit for milk around this age. If your child is finishing their usual feeds and still ravenous, this is often a good indicator that your child is ready to be weaned

Common weaning problems?

Weaning can be a frustrating process for both parents and the baby. Having been used to a delicious bottle of milk at meal times, baby is now faced with some weird tasting stuff and not surprisingly, might not always be receptive to this new foodstuff!

Patience and allowing your baby to gradually adapt to solid foods are the key. Pressurising your child to eat solids or trying to force food on your child are a recipe for disaster. Both you and your baby will become frustrated and mealtimes will become a battle zone.

Read our Baby weaning Guide for more information on avoiding weaning problems.

How to start

Weaning you infant is a gradual process made up of four steps or stages:

For more detailed information, please try our Baby weaning how to guide

My baby doesn't eat!

Many children either eat very little or refuse to eat at all. This can be worrying as a parent but experience has usually shown that most children will eat when they are hungry.

Weaning can be a very slow and gradual process. Remember to remain calm even when you are really frustrated. Showing you are frustrated will only make matters far worse by either making mealtimes a traumatic time for both you and your baby or by showing your child that not eating is a great way to get extra attention.

Unfortunately your baby does not realise that you have spent hours making many exciting and varied recipes for them to try. All they see is something they are either not expecting or suspect might not taste quite as good as milk coming towards them on a spoon.

NOTE: Obviously if your child is not eating at all for long periods and is visibly losing weight, it is worth seeking professional medical advice! The odd few days of faddy eating is very frustrating, but something more serious may need other help.

Variety of tastes and textures

If you child refuses a particular food try alternating that with one they will readily eat. This will encourage your baby to experience a variety of flavours.

Some foods have textures which are do not appeal to certain children. Try varying the consistency of the food until you find what your child prefers. Some babies like runny purées whilst others prefer a thicker consistency.

Other things to try are foods at different temperatures, chilled, cold, and warm foods can offer very different experiences to a baby.

Distractions

Children often eat better when there are others doing the same around them.Copying their parents or siblings is a great way of teaching them to eat solids.

When faced with a constantly refilling spoon it is difficult to maintain your infants attention. Often giving them their own spoon to hold or some finger food as they get older can help focus them on eating. Whilst they try to feed themselves, parents can often sneak food in with another spoon to gain valuable mouthfuls.

Offering a sip of water from a drinker can also break up feeding and keep your babies interest too. It provides a welcome break from solid foods and also distracts them as they learn to drink from a drinker/cup.

Patience

We all had friends who said they could just shovel food into their child in vast quantities without any trouble at all. This is definitely not always the case!!

Many times our baby will have happily eaten something the previous day or week and then refused it completely the day after. Often all food offered would be spat out or thrown on the floor. This is common but it sometimes feels like it only happens to you.

As babies get older, they will sometimes refuse food even though they are still hungry. Giving a few seconds to have a drink, check that they can see their favourite toy/light shining/tree out of the window or tell you in baby babble how delicious the food is, can really help to encourage them to eat more. Afterall, not many adults just sit at the table in silence and shovel food down unless they are really hungry!

With all babies, especially in the early weeks of weaning, there might be days when you child will not eat. If you have tried several different foods without success at one meal time, it is better to try again at a later time rather than try to force food on your baby.

Food requirement cycle

Like adults, children require different amounts of food depending on if they are having a growth spurt, how active they are, if they are teething, if they are feeling ill, the weather, etc. It is common for children who eat well most of the time to have odd days when they eat like a sparrow. Most of the time, they make up for lost time a few days later.

Snacks between meals

Once your child has started to eat finger foods and family food chopped up, there will be times when they eat very little at meal times. If you are worried they haven't eaten anything for just one meal, try to avoid offering them extra snacks in between meals as babies will eat better when they are hungry. If they have had lots of little snacks between meals, they will not want to eat at the next proper meal and again will only eat a little.

Rewards

As your baby becomes a toddler, they will start to prefer some foods over others. It is difficult to explain to a child that they should eat a variety of foods when one appears much tastier. Try to give you toddler options of different foods even if they eat very little of them. Make the food on their plate look more interesting or exciting by making shapes or pictures. Tasting and trying a bit of everything helps to develop a wider taste in food.

Remember to give your child plenty of encouragement when they eat well and do not make a big issue out of eating poorly.

Don't give them their favourite foods all the time or hold back their favourite component of a meal until they've eaten some of the rest of the food.

Avoid giving some of the family one food which your baby loves when they have something else.

NOTE: Obviously if your child is not eating at all for long periods and is visibly losing weight, it is worth seeking professional medical advice! The odd few days of faddy eating is very frustrating, but something more serious may need other help.