How to wean a baby How to start weaning

Baby-highchair 3

Getting started with weaning means you're going to need a high chair

When to start weaning

The recommended start time for weaning outlined by the Department of Health is six months, because younger babies don't have the capacity to process a more diverse diet, and attempting this could lead to complications. Lots of babies go through earlier growth spurts where they’ll start to demand more milk feeds, and this can often be falsely construed as a sign of readiness.

With this in mind, look out for these signs of readiness, as all babies mature at a different rate.

• Your baby is able to hold their head up
• Your baby is able to sit upright when supported (with a chair or on your lap)
• Has good coordination: is able to look at food, hold it and put it in their mouth by themselves
• Is able to chew and swallow

How long does weaning take?

It depends on your baby – it can take up to six months for some babies to wean fully. It will take longer if you try to begin weaning before your baby is ready.

Weaning stages

Weaning stages
Stage 1From 6 monthsIntroduction of first foods: mashed and puréed vegetables mixed with breast or formula milk (try to limit to one type of vegetable per puree, keep things simple initially, as your baby is still getting most of their nutrients from breast or formula milk
Stage 2From 7/8 monthsDiversifying with more tastes and textures: you can now start combining different foods to give your baby more variety, and gradually increase the quantity, change the texture from smooth purées to chunkier mixes, you can start to try and introduce them to soft small pieces of finger food so your baby can start to practice feeding themselves, and get used to being tactile with food
Stage 3From 9/12 months

Getting ready for family foods: by this time your baby should just about be having three meals a day. According to the NHS, your child’s diet should consist roughly of 

  • 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)

Best weaning products

You are going to need to spend out on some kit once you start weaning. An essential is a safe and stable high chair. 

Read our high chair reviews.

Apart from a high chair, there are hundreds of other products that all claim to be Best Buys to help you wean. We surveyed more than 1,000 parents to find out which weaning products they thought were worth splashing out on. 

Browse the best weaning products

Weaning safely

Choking when weaning

In order to minimise the risk of choking during the weaning process, remember to stay with your baby at all times when they're eating, make sure your baby is sitting upright and be wary of choking hazards early on, such as hard or lumpy food, pips, seeds and stones.

Babies have a natural gag reflux which can come into play when first introducing solids, as the sensation may feel unnatural for your baby. This can be a shock for parents but is a common and normal part of the weaning process. Nevertheless, it’s always important to watch your baby when eating to make sure nothing gets stuck.

Foods to avoid when weaning

There are certain foods that should be avoided all together when weaning. Make sure you don’t feed your baby:

• Salt: check labels of pre-packaged food and do not add salt to homemade dishes you feed your baby. Babies under one year can't have more than 1g a salt a day as their kidneys can’t process it properly.
• Sugar: similarly, you should avoid adding sugar to your baby’s food, and steer clear of food with added sugar.
• Honey: babies under a year old are at risk of developing infant botulism if they consume honey.
• Shark, marlin and swordfish: perhaps not the first thing you’d think of serving your baby, but it’s worth noting that they should be avoided because of potentially high levels of mercury.
• Raw or undercooked eggs
• Whole nuts
• Shellfish
• Soft and unpasteurised cheeses
• Liver
• Cows’ milk should not be the main drink for a baby until he or she is one year old.

Once your baby is 12 months they don't need follow-on formula or breast milk.

Healthy eating for babies

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Take your time with weaning for a happy (fingers crossed) baby at mealtimes

Looking after your baby’s nutrition once they’ve struck out from their one-track milk diet becomes a little bit more complicated, so you'll have to keep an eye on nutrients and portion sizes to keep your little one healthy.

Homemade food with no added sugar or salt is best, and try to give them a good variety of healthy foods, while varying tastes and textures when they get to about seven months. Ready-made baby foods can be convenient, but are often in quite large portion sizes, and may not be as nutritious as homemade food.

There is no official recommendation for portion sizing for babies, but the NHS says that most babies will know when they are full, and not to make them finish off a meal if they don’t want to.

You should also stick to full fat dairy products until your child is at least two years old.

Fussy eaters

Babies will often refuse new foods they are introduced to, and you might have to be a bit persistent. Be patient, and re-introduce the food at a different time if they’re not budging.

Be prepared for mess at meal times, this is all part of your baby’s development with food, and letting them touch and pick up food when they are a bit older is important for them to start moving towards being able to feed themselves.

Take your time with feeding, don’t rush your baby and allow them to stop when they want to. And when your baby eats well, praise them – do not punish them for not eating.

More on this...

  • There'll be lots of mess – find a good baby bib
  • Have a look at our best food processors for baby food
  • Get the best high chair by browsing our high chair reviews