The Weaning Stages Explained
5 min read
Tom shares his tips on weaning, from one parent to another.
How do you know when the Baby is ready for first solids? What are the signs?
Most babies are ready for solids from around 6 months but it is best to look for these developmental signs, rather than fixate on the calendar! Look for all these developmental signs that indicate your baby is ready for solids:
- your baby can stay in a sitting position on their own and hold their head steady
- your baby can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and bring it up to their mouths themselves
- your baby can swallow food – babies who are not quite yet ready for solid foods tend to move food out of their mouth with their tongue, as they can only move their tongue forwards and backwards (called the ‘extrusion’ reflex) and not yet from side to side
The following signs are often mistaken as signs of readiness, but they are normal behaviours and not necessarily signs of being ready to start solids:
- Waking at night for feeds
- Demanding to be fed more often
- Sucking on fists and chewing toys
What should babies be eating, when at:
a. First stage weaning
The first stage of weaning is all about ‘first tastes’ and exploring the taste and textures of foods. Your baby will only be eating very small amounts of food at this stage, maybe 1 or 2 teaspoons and you should not expect their milk (breast/formula) to decrease by very much.
The best foods to start with are soft, cooked vegetables – try to introduce as much variety as possible. You can also give some cooked or soft fruits and starchy foods too.
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. It is a good idea to give a little bit of their milk feed (breast / formula) first and then offer the solid foods, so that they are not too hungry.
b. Second stage weaning
From around 7 months of age, it is important to start introducing iron-rich foods to your baby, as babies born at full term and of a healthy weight, are born with enough iron stores to last approximately 6 months. Foods rich in iron include red meat such as beef, lamb or pork and dark poultry meat (chicken legs and thighs) as well as oily fish. Cook the meats slowly to make sure they are very soft and you may need to puree them as well. Vegetarian sources of iron include eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas and hummus, dahl, fortified breakfast cereals, ground nuts or nut butters and green leafy vegetables. 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.
Try to offer soft finger foods at this stage to give your baby plenty of practice chewing foods.
c. Third stage weaning
Increase the variety of foods and textures offered to your baby and you can start to give slightly harder / crunchier finger foods to your baby, such as raw vegetables and breadsticks. Try to offer as many vegetables and other savoury tastes as you can so that your baby is exposed to many different tastes and textures.
Aim to have your baby eating family foods (chopped / appropriate texture) by approximately 12 – 15 months.
How do you know when to move them onto more solid food?
Try to go at your baby’s pace and don’t rush things. As a guide, aim to start ‘stage 2’ after approximately 3-4 weeks of offering tastes and build up from one meal per day to two then three meals per day by approximately 7 months of age.
The third stage will be from around 9 or 10 months of age.
Tips for combining milk feeds with weaning?
- Try to give half a milk feed first before offering solids, so that your baby is not too hungry. Then you can offer the rest of the feed after giving solids.
- Don’t decrease your baby’s breast/formula milk volume too quickly as milk feeds still provide an important source of nutrition to your baby during their first year of life and beyond
- Work towards gradually reducing milk feeds and increasing solids intake so that by 12 -15 months of age; your baby is on 3 meals per day with 2-3 small snacks and 2 milk feeds in the morning and evening.
Dad hacks to get more involved:
- Try to help with the night feeds whenever you can – dad can feed baby expressed breast milk or a bottle of formula milk
- Feed mum! She needs a good supply of nutrient-dense foods, especially if she is breastfeeding, in order to keep her energy levels up.
- There are plenty of other activities dads can get involved in, besides feeding….like playing and cuddling your baby.