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’s best to 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 tried, tested and approved methods that will ensure your little one gets 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 our best weaning advice so you can feel confident throughout the whole journey.
What are the Stages of Weaning?
The weaning journey is about the gradual introduction of new tastes and textures as your little one develops. That’s what the term weaning means, after all!
This gradual 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 9-12 months.
The dates above and throughout are a guide – some little ones might be able 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?
Most babies are ready to start with solids from around six months of age. However, this date is just a guide – it is best to look for developmental signs 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 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.
- Do they have less of a tongue thrust reflex so they should (when you start) be able to swallow more food than they push out with their tongue?
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 baby is close to 6 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
Unfortunately, not enough research has been conducted to provide an accurate answer when it comes to starting weaning with early babies.
The guidance from nutritionists is to listen to your little one and follow their lead. Look for the signs before starting weaning and don’t panic if they start later than the guidance above.
What to Expect When Starting Weaning
The weaning journey will be slightly different for every baby and parent. However, there are some things that every parent 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 to 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 the sound of gagging, which can be confused with choking.
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, just 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 experiencing nutritious 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 you’re little foodie is being a fussy eater 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 six months and last for around one month, although some babies can start earlier.
How to Start Weaning
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 by very much.
Weaning at 6 Months
Some babies may show the signs to start weaning before six months. However, Public Health England recommends waiting until your little one reaches this age before moving to solids.
The main reason for this is because your baby’s digestive system needs time to mature. However, all babies develop at different stages, and some show readiness for weaning after just four months.
If you feel like your little one can start the weaning journey before six months, we recommend talking to a healthcare professional first.
What Should Babies Eat During Stage 1 Weaning?
The best foods to start with are soft, cooked vegetables, things like carrots, pureed peas and butternut squash.
Try to introduce as much variety as possible. You can also give some cooked or soft fruits and starchy 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.
It is a good idea to give a little bit of their milk feed first and then offer solid foods so that they are not too hungry.
Second Stage Weaning
From around 7 months, it is important to start introducing iron-rich foods. Babies born at full term and of a healthy weight have enough iron stores to last approximately 6 months.
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 three.
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.
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.
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.
Babease Top Tip
Cook the meats slowly to make sure they are very soft. For some little ones, you may need to puree them as well.
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, you will increase the variety of foods and textures offered to your baby.
What Foods are Good for Stage 3 Weaning?
Here, you can start to give slightly harder and 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 flavours and textures.
Babease Top Tip
You should aim to have your baby eating family foods (chopped/appropriate texture) 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 etc.
- Baby-Led – Weaning where parents allow baby to self-feed.
Baby-Led Weaning is a more modern approach which can help your little one develop their independence and also lead to a positive relationship with food. 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.
Tips for Combining Milk Feeds with Weaning
During weaning, your little foodie will still require milk feeds for their nutrition. Combining these milk feeds with their new solids can help to make weaning a more enjoyable adventure, for you and your little one!
Here are some 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. You can then provide the rest of the feed after.
- 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.
- Work towards gradually reducing milk feeds and increasing solids 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.
How Dads Can Support the Weaning Process
Weaning can be a team effort for parents! There are many ways dads can support both mum and baby through the weaning journey:
- Try to help with 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, 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.
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.