We believe it’s best to look for signs that your baby is ready. He or she should be able to:
• Sit confidently and hold up their head steady
• Show good hand—eye co-ordination, getting all their favourite toys — among other things, into their mouth
• If your little one pushes the food back out with their tongue, just wait a week or two + try again
There are some common myths about weaning signs, too. The following aren’t necessarily indications that your baby is ready:
• Chewing fists — they've probably just discovered their little hands
• Grabbing for other people’s food — they're just inquisitive and learning about the world around them
• Waking in the night — they're babies, night-waking is what they do
• Wanting more milk — they're growing or they might just be thirsty
All babies are different and advice about when to begin weaning varies all over the world. Our packaging labelling follows guidance from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who have reviewed the most recent research on European babies: they recommend starting weaning between 4 – 6 months [the EFSA Opinion made it clear that it is safe to wean between 4-6 months]. In keeping with this we offer foods that are suitable for little ones from 4 months; by labelling from 4 months parents have the choice to start weaning when their baby is ready.
The Department of Health follow global recommendation which take into account babies in developing and developed nations, they conclude that the solids should be introduced around 6 months. Everyone agrees that weaning before 4 months (17 weeks) is too young. Not only is your baby’s tummy not ready then, his or her kidneys aren’t yet strong enough to cope with an increased workload.
If you feel your baby is ready to wean but is younger than 6 months have a chat with your health visitor or GP.
Once your little one is confidently eating a variety of foods, from around 6 months of age, you may find they’re less interested in their usual milk. Milk still offers a reeeally important source of nutrients to help babies grow, so try to offer around 600ml usual milk a day as well as a range of nutritious foods.
When it comes to dropping milk feeds, be led by your baby. They will often want less and less of a particular feed, for example, the lunchtime one, especially if it’s given close to a mealtime, so this feed may be the first one you drop. Your baby will probably still enjoy milk when they wake and just before bedtime.
If you find your little one is still drinking a lot more milk than 600ml and not taking much food, try offering food first and then milk, or separating milk and food feeds completely. Even when babies are 10m of age, they still need around 400ml usual milk, so it’s still super important!
To find out when it's safe to give your baby certain foods and allergens such as cow's milk, peanuts and citrus fruits, take a peek at our introducing food allergens article.
The more variety of tastes you give your little one when they're weaning, the more likely they are to be a good little eater when they're older. A good way to check if you're giving lots of variety is to eat a rainbow of colours of veggies + fruits each week. Why not colour in a rainbow chart with crayons or stickers each week with your little one? When they're old enough, they can have fun with colours and stickers as they tick off all the healthy colours they've eaten.
Try to offer variety from other food groups too so your little one gets a wide range of nutrients and tastes.
- Starchy carbohydrates: pasta, oats, bread, rice, polenta, quinoa
- Protein foods: meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt (or non-dairy alternatives) + cheese, pulses (beans + lentils), soy products
- Healthy fats: oils like olive or rapeseed oil, nut + seed butters, avocado
Try not to get too stressed if little ones don’t eat well at a meal and never force them to eat if they're not interested. Just take the food away + try again at the next meal. Even after the weaning journey, little ones are still learning about eating, so encourage them to listen to their appetite so they don't routinely learn to overeat.
If you’re worried about your little one’s weight, have a chat to your health visitor or GP.
Little ones are really good at knowing when they've had enough to eat. Unlike us, they don't eat when they're bored or stuff in a dessert when they're full up just because it looks tasty!
So if your little one pushes food away or turns his / her head, they're telling you they don't want any more. It's really important to avoid forcing them to eat more than they want, even if it seems they've not eaten that much. They'll probably make up for it later or in a day or two. Every baby is different, so their appetites will vary and this is usually completely normal for them.
If you think your little one’s weight isn’t right for their age, have a chat with your health visitor or GP.
Don't worry! This is really common when little ones first experience textures.
Gagging is a normal reflex response to new textures and, while it can be worrying, it isn't a cause for concern. Your little one will pretty quickly get used to new textures if you keep trying.
When first introducing texture, make sure foods are mashed finely so that the lumps are really small and soft. This will help your little one get used to eating more textured foods. You might want to blitz up more challenging textures more finely, if your baby struggles at first, gradually introducing larger lumps, at your baby’s pace. Introducing finger foods alongside pureed and mashed food can also help little ones become more confident eaters, as well as help develop motor skills.
If you’d like to learn more about gagging and choking and what to do, check out the brilliant Keep A Beat resources here: https://www.keepabeat.com/content/S637468656249088811/Gagging%20Vs%20Choking%20Poster%202021.pdf
Lots of little ones want to feed themselves at mealtimes, especially once they are a bit older. If your little one really doesn't like being fed and you've tried giving them their own spoon while helping food into his / her mouth then you might want to try finger food meals and picnics. This gives your little one control over what they're eating and can also help them learn great hand-eye co-ordination.
Great ideas include strips of omelette containing veggies + a little sprinkle of grated cheese, meatballs in a little sauce, pasta pieces in sauce, falafel, veggie sticks or pitta slices with dips like hummus, frittata slices, potato cakes, and stir fries with well-cooked veggies and strips of soft, well cooked meat.
You can find lots of yummy recipe ideas on our recipe hub!
It's really tempting to encourage your little one to eat their main meal or their vegetables by promising them dessert or a sweet treat as a reward. Unfortunately, this tells your little one that savoury foods or vegetables are bad + sweet things are good. This can make food refusal + fussy eating a bigger problem and really encourage a sweet tooth. This doesn't mean that desserts + sweet things are bad, but they should always be eaten as part of a balanced diet. Fresh fruit + yoghurts are a great healthier way to top up tiny tums.
Instead of using sweet treats as a reward, try to make mealtimes fun with lots of smiles and encouragement, games with vegetables + colour charts to tick off the different colours of veggies that your little one's eaten this week. If you can sit and eat the same veggies as your little one, they will love to copy you and might even try to steal them off your plate!
Lots of little ones will pull a funny face the first time they experience a new taste. This is completely normal and often happens with vegetables, especially the green ones. Don't worry! Even if your little one doesn't seem to like a new taste at first, keep trying.
Studies show that you may have to try up to 8 times with a new taste before your baby accepts it so don’t give up. Offer a range of single vegetables and keep going until your baby accepts each one.
Remember to keep giving your little one veg throughout weaning and beyond!
Toddlers often go through a fussy phase from around 18 months of age. They can refuse to eat new foods or reject foods they used to eat, especially vegetables or foods with a more challenging texture (meat, yoghurt with bits in, slimy foods).
At this stage, it is still really important to keep offering food by putting it on the plate (but don’t force your toddler to eat it) but it might take around 12 or more tries before it’s accepted so don’t give up!
There are lots of things you can do to help if you have a fussy toddler:
- Make food fun — talk about the different colours of food, the tastes and textures — little ones who experience food using all their senses are much more likely to want to try it! Let your little one get stuck in with their hands to feel the different textures of foods and get messy too.
- Can I help? — involving little ones in the cooking or shopping process makes them feel more involved and they're often more likely to want to try foods if they've played a role in preparing them. Even something as simple as adding some veggies to a pan or stirring with a spoon makes them feel like they're helping.
- Eat together — if your little one sees you eating and enjoying similar foods, especially vegetables, they're more likely to want to try as they love to copy.
- Don’t give up – it can take at least 12 tries of a rejected food before toddlers will accept it, so keep trying but never force your child to eat and don’t offer sweet treats as a reward for eating.
When little ones are under 12 months of age, finger foods are mostly about helping them to learn hand-eye co-ordination and that all-important pincer grip. At 6-7 months, little ones will hold objects like carrot sticks or banana fingers in the middle of their palm, + bring them to their mouth to munch on. These soft textures are great for little gums as they get used to new textures. As they develop finer motor skills little ones will start to curl their fingers around objects and grip them more accurately before developing the pincer grip where they can pick up smaller objects like blueberries between their finger and thumb. This normally develops around the age of 10 months. At this stage, little ones can munch on firmer finger foods like breadsticks or firmer cooked veggies as their chewing skills develop.
Once they’re over 12 months of age, snacks also become a source of nutrition for little ones. As toddler tummies are tiny, they get full very quickly, so it’s important to offer a couple of nutritious snacks a day to keep energy and nutrient levels topped up. Give them lots of variety, including fruits, veggie sticks with dips like hummus, cheese and melty crackers or oatcakes or chopped up salad veg. Keep an eye on texture to make sure snacks are still safe for toddlers by chopping up bigger pieces of fruit (cut grapes and cherry tomatoes into quarters lengthways) and avoid whole nuts or very brittle foods like crisps.
Try to eat together as a family as much as possible, so that your little one can see you eating what they're having (even if the texture is different).
Little ones love to copy, so make sure you show them how much you love eating veg! Make food and eating fun - show your little one how much you love eating the foods you'd like them to eat and make up funny songs, games or stories about food, to make the weaning experience a positive and happy one. There's lots of fun ways to explore cooking + eating together at the big table in our 4 yummy cook books!
Take a peek at our top tips for weaning.
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