Weaning your child can seem like a daunting task, whether you’re a nervous newcomer to the kitchen or a keen cook. Discover what to cook, how to cook it and practical advice on hygiene and storage.
Introducing your baby to new foods can feel like a big responsibility, but the good news is it really is a lot easier than you might think. Deciding which foods to put in front of your child and how to combine them draws a great deal on the flavour combinations we enjoy as adults, and thankfully the techniques needed to get the food on the table are equally as simple.
First flavours - from around six months
Weaning begins with single fruit or vegetable purées or soft finger foods. Get your little one used to a variety of different flavours and textures by trying the following:
- Steamed cauliflower or broccoli, either in florets or puréed
- Steamed or roasted carrot, swede or parsnip, peeled, in thin batons or puréed
- Boiled or roasted sweet potato, peeled, in wedges or puréed
- Boiled peas and beans, as well as green leafy veg like spinach puréed
- Boiled lentils, puréed
- Roasted or steamed butternut squash or pumpkin, puréed
- Steamed apple or pear, puréed
- Steamed stone fruits (like peach, nectarine or plum), skin and stone removed, puréed
- Mango or papaya, skin removed, puréed or in slices
- Banana, skin removed, in chunks or mashed
- Ripe avocado, mashed
- Cucumber, skin removed, in sticks
- Stoned fruit, skin and stone removed, in small pieces
- Very ripe pear, peeled, in slices
- Finely grated carrot
Berries, citrus fruit, kiwi, pineapple, celery and tomatoes are best avoided to begin with due to potential allergies. Kiwi is not a highly allergenic fruit but it is associated with cross reactivity and so if a baby has a sensitive tummy or suffers rashes then it is best to introduce a little later. When to introduce does to a certain extent depend on whether the family has atopic tendencies - so introduce for most babies at around eight months, whilst those with atopic tendencies should wait until around 10 months. When you do introduce them, do so one at a time and in small amounts so that you can notice and pinpoint any adverse reactions. Firstly try foods you know your baby is fine with, then leave three days before you try the next new food. Gradually introducing foods in this way makes it easier to identify adverse reactions.
Let your baby play with their food and generally explore what they’re eating. A lot more may come out than goes in but this is all part of the process. They may reject certain flavours initially but babies may need to try foods over and over again before they accept them, so don’t be disheartened. You’re laying the groundwork for a broad palate later on.
Flavour pairing - from around eight months
Once your little one has got the hang of eating some solids you can start to get more creative. Think about flavour combinations often found in soups or simple comfort food dishes. You can start to add meat and fish as well as eggs, dairy and tofu as long as there are no allergy issues. Speak to your Health Practitioner if you're concerned about food allergy. Stirring through whole milk, yogurt, butter and grated cheese adds another dimension.You might also want to introduce the odd extra from time to time to really expand their tastes: try a tiny pinch of ground spice, finely chopped fresh herbs or roasted garlic.
Combination inspiration: carrot and parsnip, carrot and swede, celeriac and apple, parsnip and apple
How to prepare root vegetables:
Peel and cut the vegetables into chunks. Put in a steamer and cook for 15-20 mins until soft (putting apple in halfway through cooking time). Put the vegetables/fruit in a blender. You can add a splash of baby’s milk or butter to enrich and loosen the purée a little if you like.
Combination inspiration: leek and potato, courgette and potato, cheese and potato, spinach and potato.
How to prepare potatoes:
Peel and cut potatoes into large chunks, then boil for 15-20 mins. Alternatively, wrap a baking potato in tin foil and oven cook at 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6 for 1 hour 15 mins – 1 hour 30 mins depending on the size. Scoop out the flesh and mash. Try leek & potato or courgette & potato – boil the potato as above, adding a chopped leek or courgette halfway through cooking time. Drain, put in the blender adding a knob of butter, a tablespoon of grated cheese or a dollop of yogurt. For spinach and potato, put a knob of butter in a small saucepan, add the spinach and gently cook for a few minutes until wilted. Blend this with cooked potato – you can add a very small pinch of nutmeg too. As in soup, potato works well with more or less anything so don’t be shy to add a little to vegetable, fish or meat purées.
Combination inspiration: sweet potato and carrot, sweet potato and lamb, sweet potato and chicken, sweet potato and spinach.
How to prepare sweet potatoes:
For sweet potatoes, heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Prick the potatoes in several places and bake for 45 mins-1 hour until soft. Scoop out the flesh and mash. Sweet potato is equally versatile and works well with carrot, lamb, chicken or spinach.
Weaning recipe: slow-cooked lamb with veg & sweet potatoes
Combination inspiration: lentils and butternut squash, lentils and carrot, lentils and sweet potatoes.
How to prepare lentils:
Lentils are a great source of protein and iron, they’re cheap and easy to cook, plus most variants can be blended to a creamy, smooth consistency. Combine red split lentils with sweet potato and make it easy by boiling both of them together for 15 mins. You’ll need to peel and chop the sweet potato too. Take inspiration from the earthy flavours of Middle Eastern food, adding a pinch of ground coriander or cumin into the mix.
Weaning recipe: lentil & sweet potato purée
Broccoli and cauliflower:
Combination inspiration: broccoli or cauliflower with small handful of cheese, broccoli or cauliflower with potato, broccoli or cauliflower with white fish, broccoli or cauliflower with salmon.
How to prepare broccoli and cauliflower:
Cut broccoli and cauliflower into florets and steam them for around 8 mins. Think cauliflower and broccoli cheese or fish cakes for inspiration. Try these fish pie bites for Stage 2 weaning.
Weaning recipes: Fish pie bites
Squash and pumpkin:
Combination inspiration: Squash or pumpkin with garlic, squash or pumpkin with red split lentils, squash or pumpkin with swede or squash or pumpkin with parsnip.
How to prepare squash and pumpkin: Cut the squash or pumpkin in half and roast in the oven at 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for 40 mins-1 hour or until tender, depending on the size.
Weaning recipe: Butternut squash & garlic purée
Combination inspiration: Banana and mango, banana and strawberries, banana and avocado, rhubarb and pear, rhubarb and apple, rhubarb and strawberries, rhubarb and banana, peach, banana and mango.
How to prepare rhubarb:
Roughly chop the rhubarb stalks and pop in a saucepan with a generous splash of water and cook for around 15 mins until tender, then purée. To combine it with apple or pear, put a little more water in the pan and cook the fruit together for the same time or until everything is tender. You can also cook the rhubarb on its own and then mash in strawberries or banana.
How to prepare stone fruits:
Stone fruits like plums, nectarines, peaches and apricots can be peeled and stoned and then cooked in a saucepan with a generous splash of water for around 15 mins until tender, then purée. Think about smoothie combinations, like peach, banana and mango. Remember to remove skin and seeds/stones and be aware of potential allergic reactions.
Combination inspiration: Grains and mashed banana, grains and strawberry, grains and stewed stone fruits, grains and ripe mango, grains and papaya, grains and puréed vegetables.
How to prepare grains: Grains are a great carrier for different flavours. Add mashed banana or strawberry, or stewed stone fruits to porridge or pudding and risotto rice. Ripe mango or papaya can be blended into these too. Add any of the fruit or vegetable purées to your grains and go for variety – spelt, basmati rice or pasta. Particularly in the case of rice, its better to cook the quantity you need fresh. You can always mix it together with a purée you’ve already made and defrosted.
Meat & fish:
Combination inspiration: white fish with leek and potato, salmon with leek and potato, salmon broccoli and potato, chicken with peppers and tomatoes, minced lamb with potato and carrot.
How to prepare fish:
For fish fillets, simply wrap them in tin foil and cook in the oven at 200C/gas 6 for 10 mins or until opaque. If you combine them with other baked or roasted veg this really saves time – simply put the fish in towards the end of the cooking time. To expand your baby's palate, think about adding a few fresh herbs – fish goes well with chives, dill and parsley, lamb and beef with cinnamon and cumin. Add the smallest pinch for a hint of flavour.
Weaning recipe: Haddock, cauliflower & potato purée
Hygiene and storage
Hygiene is even more important when it comes to cooking for your baby. Read our guide to learn how to safely prepare and store your baby's food.
Most importantly – relax...
Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. Join your baby in their new adventures with food. Try not to worry too much what or how much actually goes into their mouth. Experiment with combinations – some work better than others, but there is no right or wrong as they all offer different flavours and nutrients. If you give them plenty of choice and variety, the rest will take care of itself, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Ultimately, you’re preparing your baby to eat with you throughout their childhood and to be comfortable and confident to explore the world of food for themselves. This is just the beginning.
You may also be interested in the following guides...
- When is my baby ready for weaning?
- What can my baby eat when?
- Weaning recipes
- More about weaning
- NHS guide to healthy weaning
What's your experience of weaning your baby? we'd love to hear from you below...