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Weaning your baby: 8 top tips for mums!

Steph Coleman

Written by Steph Coleman

You might feel like you’ve just become comfy with bottle or breast feeding. And seemingly overnight your little one is ready for solid food and the next stage of eating - weaning!

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While the information age is a wonderful time to access any guidance you need, it can also be a little overwhelming reading so many different ways to raise a baby. Everyone from your best friend, NCT pal, sister and mum will have a weaning story and advice on when to start!

We’ve rounded up the most common questions every mum has to successfully wean a baby.

When can you start weaning your baby?

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The NHS and World Health Organisation guidelines say that parents should start weaning their child at the 6 month mark. This is to give their digestive system a chance to develop fully and cope with solid food.

At this age, your baby should be introduced to a varied diet, alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula.

If you are unsure or feel your baby is ready before this time then speak to your health visitor for advice. Babies born preterm may not quite be ready to wean at 6 months and so it’s best to speak with your health visitor before introducing solid foods.

What are the signs a baby is ready for weaning?

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Spot the signs your baby gives you when they are developmentally ready to try solid foods! Babies ready for weaning can usually co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, can look at food, pick it up, and put it in their mouths all by themselves!

Additionally, your little one should have good head control and be able to sit upright.

If your child is chewing his or her fist, wanting extra milk feeds or is suddenly waking up at night more than usual, then it might not be the right time to start.

What are good weaning foods?

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The NHS suggests foods such as single vegetables and fruits. Blended, mashed or soft cooked sticks of parsnip, broccoli, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear are all good weaning foods. Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby.

It's important to introduce foods that can cause an allergic reaction one at a time, in small amounts, so that you can spot any reactions. These foods (cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, gluten, dairy and fish) can be introduced from around 6 months as part of your baby's diet, just like any other foods.

The NHS also suggests that during meal times, you can offer your baby sips of water from an open or free-flow cup. Using an open cup, or a free-flow cup without a valve, will help your baby learn to sip and is better for your baby’s teeth.

How much food should my baby eat?

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At the beginning, how much babies eat is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating. Weaning is sometimes referred to as ‘complementary feeding’ - which illustrates that solid food sits side by side with breastfeeding as the primary 'food' in the beginning.

Babies will still be getting most of their energy and nutrients from breast milk or formula. Focus on nutrient-dense foods to support your baby's healthy growth and eating tastes, and leave out all salt and sugar.

Don’t worry about how much your little one eats! The most important thing is getting a baby used to new tastes, textures, moving solid food around the mouth and then swallowing.

How long does it take to wean a baby?

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Go at your little one's pace! Your baby will show you enough is enough by closing his or her mouth and looking away. Give your baby lots of encouragement and praise and allow plenty of time - especially at first!

It takes a little time for your child to adjust to new food textures and coughing, gagging or spitting is common (even if a bit upsetting). As your baby’s oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.

Is baby-led weaning best?

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Some parents prefer baby-led weaning to mother-led weaning (spoon feeding). Others prefer to do a combination of both. There's no right or wrong way - the most important thing is that your baby eats a wide variety of food and gets all the nutrients they need!

Your little one might enjoy being in the driving seat, however. Which means he or she can start exploring a variety of types of textures of food, and choose what to pick or leave. Offering your baby options is a good way to give them this opportunity.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) suggests trying to avoid putting food into your child's mouth or persuading your child to eat more than he/she wants. 

Let your child put food in their mouth themselves, so they can control it as it moves backwards.

Weaning resources for parents

Check out this super helpful resource from the NHS Start4life website. On this you'll find guidance and information on:

    • Food allergies
    • Gagging
    • Choking
    • Foods to avoid
    • Drinks to avoid
    • Preparing food safely
    • Storing and reheating food

The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make your own decisions on your weaning approach. Our advice? Take what works and leave the rest!

    • The nations favourite PE teacher, and proud Dad Joe Wicks has whipped up a guide for parents on weaning.  Packed with simple ideas, Joe has drawn on his experiences with his little one, combined with expert guidance from a leading registered nutritionist. 
    • With 25 years of food experience, Annabel is a child food expert . Whether you’re about to start weaning, thinking of exploring the baby-led weaning approach or simply looking for new, quick and nutritious meals the whole family can enjoy, this is a great app to explore. 
    • Our friends at NCT provide friendly, trustworthy and up to date guidance for parents. Here you’ll find lots of helpful information on when to introduce your baby to solid foods and tips to make it easier, and what baby-led weaning is. 
    • NHS guidance is often the go-to for parents, whether you are parenting for the first time, or the third.  Check out the guidance which covers what weaning is, getting ready to wean, recipes, and safety guidance.  
    • This is a great resource where you can find weaning tips, recipes, articles, expert answers to key questions and much more.  

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