Once your little one is six months old, your baby will need some ‘solid’ food in his/her diet to provide for the additional nutrients needed for your baby’s growth and development. Weaning is the process of introducing complementary foods in your baby’s diet, alongside your breast milk, around the age of six months. Weaning is often referred to as a change from one type of food to another. 

Remember, up until now, your baby has only had breast milk (also known as mother's milk, is the milk produced by mammary glands located in the breast of a human female) or formula milk (top feed), so the taste and texture of any food you give your baby will be a totally new experience for him/her. He/she may not like it at first and spit it out immediately,  or he/she may love it and demand more – both reactions are quite normal.

Weaning can be difficult and confusing for your child as well as for you; stay patient and enjoy every moment of this beautiful process. Read on to know more about weaning.

Start Baby Weaning Slowly

Weaning your baby should be done gradually, starting with a teaspoon or two, once a day. These first solids are not a main source of nourishment and your baby should continue with normal milk feeds. Your baby will cope better if the food is smooth, so give puréed or mashed, cooked fruit and vegetables, or baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk. Offer the food halfway through a milk feed so that your baby isn’t too hungry or too full to want to try it. 

At first, you should offer no more than one or two new tastes every few days. Once your baby is happy with these, you can introduce new foods and eventually start mixing different foods together. Don’t try to force your baby to eat something that he/she obviously dislikes, wait for a week or two, and then try that food again.

Foods to Include When Weaning 

The first foods you give your baby should be bland and smooth. Baby rice is good first food, or you could try root vegetables like potato or carrot, and fruits such as banana and cooked apple or pear.

Once weaning is established, your baby should be having foods such as the ones listed below, from the following groups each day.

  • Starchy foods - Bread, cereals, rice, and potatoes.

  • Dairy products - Cheese, yogurt, and full-fat fromage frais (a type of smooth soft fresh cheese). Cows’ milk shouldn’t be given as a drink to your baby until after one year but can be used to mix with rice.

  • Meat and fish - Lean meat, poultry, and white fish – or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, pulses, and grains. Shellfish isn’t suitable for babies.

  • Vegetables - Root vegetables (yams, turnips, and beetroots), beans, and cauliflower.

  • Fruit - Apples, plums, apricots, pears, and bananas.

  • Citrus and berry fruits like strawberries should be introduced with caution as they can cause sensitivities in some children. Foods from this group should be introduced into your baby’s diet, gradually, ideally one at a time to check if your child has an intolerance to any of them. 

Foods to Avoid When Weaning Your Baby 

  • Salt. Don’t add salt to your baby’s food. It can overload his/her immature kidneys and cause digestion problems. Avoid processed foods that haven’t been made specifically for babies.

  • Sugar. Too much sugar can encourage a ‘sweet tooth’ and lead to tooth decay, so don’t add sugar to your baby’s food, and avoid all other high-sugar foods. 

  • Fruit juices should be well diluted with one part juice to 10 parts water. Cereals can be sweetened with mashed bananas or other fruits.

  • Honey. Honey contains a type of bacteria that can cause infant botulism (a rare bacterial infection that occurs in the large intestine of babies), so it shouldn’t be offered before your baby is one year old. 

  • Eggs: Egg whites (the clear, thick liquid that surrounds the bright yellow yolk of an egg) shouldn't be given before your baby is eight months. Egg yolks (the yellow part at the center of an egg) can be given earlier but must be thoroughly cooked to avoid any risk of salmonella (an infection with salmonella bacteria, commonly caused by contaminated food or water).

  • Tea, coffee and soft drinks. These are not suitable for babies as they contain caffeine and should be avoided. Soft or fizzy drinks are filled with gas and can trouble your baby’s stomach. 

  • Nuts. Foods containing nuts can be introduced once your baby is six months old. But you should keep a careful check for any reaction to these foods. You can offer baby peanut butter or nut butter instead, as long as your little one is not allergic. It is advisable to discuss the introduction of nuts in any form with your paediatrician.

Whole nuts should not be given under five years because of the risk of choking.

Allergies to be Aware Of 

If there is a family history of food allergy, eczema, asthma (obstructive disease of the airways), or hay fever, or your baby has eczema (also called infant eczema or atopic dermatitis), your baby is at a higher risk of food allergies. 

The most common food allergies in babies are from cow's milk, eggs, and peanuts. If there is a risk of food allergy, ask for advice from your general physician/paediatrician before you start weaning.

Equipment to Consider For Baby Weaning 

First foods need to be puréed – this can be done using a blender or liquidizer, although a sieve and spoon will give you similar results. Once your baby has learned to chew, he/she will be able to cope with lumpier foods, which can be mashed with a fork. 

Your baby should have his/her own feeding utensils and these should be sterilized until he is at least six months old. You’ll need a bowl and teaspoon, a feeding cup, and a supply of bibs (also known as onesies), and tissue paper/handkerchief.

Important Baby Weaning Tips 

  • If a particular food is rejected, try something different and then reintroduce it again later. 

  • Gradually build up to lumpy textures.

  • Offer lots of different food to get your baby used to different tastes and textures.

  • If you use jars, tins, or packs of baby food, make sure that they are appropriate for your baby’s age.

  • Never feed your baby straight from a baby food container. The digestive substances in saliva can find their way into the container and make any remaining food unsuitable for another meal. 

  • Always decant (gradually pour) the food into your baby’s bowl.

Incorporating Weaning Into Family Meals 

Once weaning your baby has been established, your baby will enjoy sitting with you and joining in family mealtimes. If you are giving your baby food that you’ve cooked for the rest of the family, make sure you remove his/her portion before adding any salt or seasoning. You may prefer to make your baby’s food separately, in batches. This means that you can freeze the food in ice-cube trays, then the frozen cubes can be stored in freezer bags, ready to be defrosted when you need them.

Weaning can cause a lot of stress, and anxiety for your baby, and for you, too. You may feel a sense of relief once breastfeeding has ended (at around 1 to  3 years of age), but you may be surprised to find that weaning can be a very emotional and happy experience.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.