The Weaning Stages Explained
10 min read
Tips for the weaning journey, from our family to yours.
Weaning can be an incredibly exciting time, as you introduce your little one to a world of new tastes and textures. Your baby’s first tastes can shape their future relationship with food, so it helps if you have fun with weaning and introduce them to a variety of nutritious foods at their own pace.
The weaning journey is one that will be unique for every baby and parent. However, there are some tried and tested methods that can help your little one get everything they need from the experience.
Here at Babease, we love supporting parents as they begin this exciting time in their little one’s foodie development! Here, we provide you with practical, evidence-based weaning advice so you can feel confident throughout the whole journey.
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What is Weaning?
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing your baby to solid foods. This journey is a crucial part of their development, as it is their first contact with the delicious foods that they will go on to enjoy for the rest of their life!
It’s important to note that weaning is a gradual and unique process. In the beginning, they will simply be learning how to eat solids, with almost all of their nutrition still coming from milk feeds. It’s definitely not a race; just go at your baby’s speed and, with plenty of help and encouragement, they’ll get there!
What are the Stages of Weaning?
The weaning journey is about the gradual introduction of new tastes and textures as your little one develops. This development over time is usually broken down into three stages:
- Stage 1 – Introduction of solid foods – from around six months.
- Stage 2 – More textures and tastes – from around seven months.
- Stage 3 – Wider variety and family food – from around 9-12 months.
The dates above and throughout are a guide – some little ones might be ready to move through the stages faster, while others may take more time.
The important thing is to introduce your little one to new textures when they’re ready. Parents often know best, but speak to a healthcare professional if you’re ever unsure.
What are the Signs My Baby is Ready for Solids?
It is recommended to start with solids from around six months of age. However, every baby is different and it can be helpful to look for some signs of readiness rather than fixate on the calendar!
The following signs will indicate that your baby is ready for solids:
- Your baby can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
- Your baby can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at food, pick it up and bring it to their mouths.
- They have less of a tongue thrust reflex so they should be able to swallow more food than they push out with their tongue when you start.
Ideally, you want to look out for multiple signs happening on multiple occasions for your baby, not just a one-off. It can help to make a note of each time you see the three signs above and then start when you’re seeing them regularly and your baby is close to six months of age.
Babease Top Tip
The following signs are often mistaken as signs of readiness, but they are normal behaviours and not necessarily an indication of being ready to start solids:
- Waking at night for feeds.
- Demanding to be fed more often.
- Sucking on fists and chewing toys.
When to Start Weaning for Premature Babies
Premature babies might be ready for weaning at a slightly different age to full-term babies. This can be anywhere from 5 to 8 months (uncorrected age). If your little one was born prematurely it is best to speak to your health visitor or doctor to find out what is right for your baby.
What to Expect When Starting Weaning
The weaning journey will be slightly different for every baby and parent. However, there are some common things that most parents will come across.
Weaning, especially at Stage 1, is mainly about introducing your baby to new tastes and textures. There will likely be times during the weaning journey where your little one doesn’t appear to like what you’re offering them or doesn’t want solids at all.
The main thing if this happens is to not worry – this is perfectly natural. Your little one will sometimes be unsure about new tastes, and sometimes they might just be tired and want their usual feeds. Stick to what you know best but work with your little foodie and be patient when they’re uncertain.
One of the most concerning things for parents during weaning is gagging.
Gagging is a natural part of the weaning journey and is particularly noticeable during the transition from purees to lumps. Your little one is learning how to handle new foods, after all.
To avoid any risk of choking, make sure to keep the size of any lumps and chunks small and always keep an eye on your little one when they’re eating.
Not Just Solids
You may feel anxious during the weaning journey if your little one continues to not eat much food. Don’t worry – as mentioned above, this is as much about exploring and playing with food as anything else.
During the weaning journey, your little foodie will still get most of his nutrients from milk, either breast or formula. This balance between solids and milk feeds will slowly change as your little foodie goes through the stages. Therefore, don’t worry too much if your little foodie is unsure at first – they’ll get there!
Feeling ready to begin the weaning journey? Take a look at the different stages below!
First Stage Weaning
The first stage of weaning is all about ‘first tastes’ and exploring the flavours and textures of foods. This stage will usually start from around six months and last for around one month.
How to Start Weaning
Begin with one meal a day. Your baby will only be eating tiny amounts of food at this stage, maybe one or two teaspoons. You should not expect their milk (breast/formula) intake to decrease yet.
What Should Babies Eat During Stage 1 Weaning?
The best foods to start with are soft, cooked vegetables; things like:
- Pureed peas
- Butternut squash
You can also give some cooked or soft fruits and starchy foods such as banana, mango, pureed berries, potato, cooked pureed oats, rice or other grains. Try to introduce as much variety as possible. You can offer a new food every day to help your baby learn about lots of different foods.
Babease Top Tip
To start with, offer a small amount of food once a day at a time when your baby is well-rested and you are not too rushed.
Try to offer solid food in between milk feeds when your little one is alert, playful and not too hungry or too full.
Second Stage Weaning
From around 7 months, when your little one has got to grips with solid food and is accepting a variety of different foods, you can begin to get a bit more adventurous for stage two weaning.
What Foods are Good for Stage 2 Weaning?
Try to offer soft finger foods at this stage to give your baby plenty of practice chewing foods. You can also increase the texture of the spoon-fed food to make them thicker and lumpier. Try to move away from purees and include more mashed foods with small soft lumps.
Try combining different food groups together at each meal. For example a vegetable, carbohydrate and a protein-rich food.
Protein-rich foods such as beans, pulses, eggs, meat and fish are a good source of iron which is particularly important for your baby during weaning. Most healthy, full-term babies have enough iron stores to last approximately 6 months. After this, it is important to include some iron rich foods in their weaning diet.
Vegetarian sources of iron are not absorbed as well as iron from meats, but vitamin C in fruits and vegetables helps the body to absorb iron from vegetable foods. Combining a fruit or vegetable with an iron rich food is a good way to help your baby absorb more iron.
Babease Top Tip
Cook the meats slowly to make sure they are very soft. Options like roasted chicken and slow-cooked pork, beef or lamb are great choices for your baby.
Third Stage Weaning
The third stage will usually be from around 9 or 10 months of age, but can be later – every baby is different.
During stage 3 weaning, you will increase the variety of foods and textures offered to your baby even more.
What Foods are Good for Stage 3 Weaning?
Here, you can start to give slightly firmer and crunchier finger foods to your baby, such as gently steamed vegetables, toast fingers topped with avocado or nut butter and breadsticks.
Try to offer as much variety as you can so that your baby is exposed to many different flavours and textures.
Babease Top Tip
You should aim to offer your baby suitable family foods (chopped/appropriate texture with no added salt or sugar) by approximately 12 – 15 months.
Traditional Vs Baby-Led Weaning: Which is Right for Me?
There are different ways you can go about the weaning journey. These are often broken down into two different approaches:
- Traditional – Weaning where parents often feed the baby by spoon
- Baby-Led – Weaning where parents allow baby to self-feed.
Baby-led weaning offers your little one more control over what goes into their mouth and can help them to become independent eaters. However, in reality, both methods achieve the same thing in the long run.
What you choose for your little one is purely up to you – there is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is making sure your baby is introduced to a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Our Favourite Weaning Foods
The first foods you give your little one are hugely important. Here at Babease, we’re huge fans of starting with lovely, nutritious vegetables.
At the start of weaning, your baby’s palate is like a blank canvas. By introducing your little one to vegetables first, they will learn to get accustomed to new savoury or bitter tastes, which can help them love veggies now and as they grow.
Here are some great vegetables to consider for the start of veg-led weaning:
- Butternut Squash
- Sweet Potatoes
Remember, one of the most important things at the start of weaning is variety. Keep offering new foods so your little one can experience a world of tastes and textures.
Tips for Balancing Milk Feeds with Weaning
During weaning, your little foodie will still rely on milk feeds for their nutrition and, at first, their milk intake shouldn’t change at all.
As they adapt to solid food and begin to eat more, their milk intake will gradually reduce to make way for more food. This will happen at different ages for different babies and should be led by your little one.
Here are some tips for balancing milk feeds with weaning:
- Don’t decrease your baby’s breast/formula milk volume too quickly, as milk feeds still provide an essential source of nutrition to your baby during their first year of life and beyond.
- The age at which babies drop milk feeds varies widely and depends on how they are adapting to solid food. Follow your baby’s cues. As they become more established eaters you can gradually decrease milk feeds to make way for solid food. As a rough guide, you can work towards gradually reducing milk feeds so that by 12-15 months of age, your baby is taking no more than approximately 300-400ml of milk daily.
How Dads Can Support the Weaning Process
Weaning can be a team effort for parents! There are many ways dads can get involved and help to nurture their little foodie!
- Get involved in the cooking. Batch cooking and storing some weaning meals in the freezer can be a great time saver. Simply defrost the portions you need in the fridge the day before and you’re ready to go!
- Be a good role model. Babies learn a lot from watching others eat. Sitting and eating food with your baby is a great way for them to learn about food and also the social elements of mealtimes too.
- Help with the cleaning. You will quickly discover that weaning is messy! And so it should be. Mess means fun when it comes to food and playing with food is a great way to nurture little food explorers. It also means that lots of teamwork for the clean up is very welcome too!
Weaning can be an incredibly exciting journey for budding foodies and parents. If you’re at all unsure about what is best for your little one, the best idea is to take it one step at a time. These weaning stages can help to break up the journey into chunks, allowing you to focus on what’s right for your baby at each stage of their development.
Here at Babease, we have a range of organic pouches that are perfect for every stage of the weaning journey. All of our products are packed with vegetables, ensuring they provide all the exciting tastes your little one needs while also being incredibly nutritious!
If you have more questions about the weaning journey, our blog is full of helpful support and advice.