What to know about the different weaning stages - from milk-only until 12 months.
Milk-only diet (from birth until around 6 months)
Milk provides all the nutrition your baby needs from birth until around 6 months old.
Breast milk is free, natural and adapts to the changing nutritional needs of your growing baby. It also helps protect your baby from infections because mum's antibodies are passed into the milk. It's convenient as it reduces the need to spend time sterilizing bottles and other feeding equipment. In addition breastfeeding helps the womb return to its normal size and burns calories, so it can help mums get back into shape more quickly after giving birth.
Babies are ready to eat solid foods at different ages although generally weaning starts at around 6 months. But it should never be started before 4 months (17 weeks)!
If you are thinking of starting weaning before 6 months, it is best to talk to your doctor or pediatrician first. But if you do decide to introduce weaning solids before 6 months you should avoid wheat based foods such as bread, rusks and pasta, and also eggs and nuts, though these can be introduced after 6 months.
From about 6 months
Start by introducing one teaspoon of puréed fruit or vegetables, baby rice or pureed pulses mixed with breast or formula milk once a day around the same time as a milk feed.
The nutritional value of the solid food is less important than getting your baby used to the idea of consuming something that is not totally liquid because her normal breast or formula milk still supplies all her nutritional needs.
First foods to try include:
- Baby rice
- Puréed vegetables, cooked until soft such as potatoes, carrots or zucchini
- Puréed fruits, such as banana, cooked apple or pear
After the first couple of weeks you can increase the number of solid feeds to twice and then three times a day. Try new tastes and textures with a wider range of fruit and vegetables like avocado, lentils and green vegetables.
6- 7 months
Although, milk remains the most important food in your baby's diet, it is now time to gradually increase the amount of solid food that is given. By 6 months, babies will have used up their iron stores, so they need to have a source of iron from their solids.
You can provide iron in your babies diet with foods, such as lentils and other pulses (very well cooked), apricots, fortified baby cereals, and green leafy vegetables.
It is important to remember also to include plenty of vitamin C in the diet to aid iron absorption. Vitamin C is found in many vegetables, fruits and diluted fruit juices.
Dairy products like yoghurt and fromage frais as well as can wheat and oat-based foods like porridge can be introduced after six months.
You should continue to feed your baby breast or formula milk throughout her first year of life, but by 8 months, she will be adapting to lumpier foods and a surprising range of new tastes and textures.
Foods that the rest of the family are eating can be offered in mashed or lightly pureed forms providing they have not had extra salt added. The lentils , peas and beans which previously needed to be very well pureed, can now be given well-cooked and mashed.
Weaning stages for vegetarian babies 8-12 months
Raw (peeled) fruits and vegetables can be offered as well as things like bread crusts and breadsticks. As teeth grow and your baby masters chewing, many everyday family foods can be enjoyed, such as toast and sandwiches and by the time he is one year old, your baby should be eating three meals a day plus 2 or 3 small snacks.