What can my baby eat and when?
Start the weaning process by introducing babies to different flavours and textures while establishing regular meals. Registered dietitian and public health nutritionist Dr Frankie Phillips shares advice
The first few mouthfuls of food mark an exciting milestone for you and your baby. This can be a time of pure delight as your baby expresses their pleasure at the new flavours they're experiencing, whether you choose to start with purée or mashed food on a spoon, or soft finger food that can be chewed.
Where do I start with weaning my baby?
Research suggests it's a good idea to start with a wide variety of tastes and textures, including plain vegetables – this helps your baby gets used to bitter and sour tastes, rather than offering only sweeter foods like fruit. Baby rice or other suitable cereal mixed with their usual milk (expressed breast milk or formula) is also fine, but it does have a naturally sweet taste.
Health professionals recommend offering a wide range of flavours. Studies have shown that variety experienced early in the weaning process means your baby is more likely to enjoy a varied diet as they get older. However, if your baby doesn’t enjoy something, don’t give up – try it again in a couple of days. Sometimes it can take up to 10-15 attempts for a new food to be accepted, so continue to offer a tiny amount, because this will help minimise fussiness later in life.
Should I introduce different food textures during weaning?
Texture is just as important as taste. Most mums start with purées, but it’s useful to move quickly onto lumpier, mashed foods. By six months, your baby should be able to move the food safely around their mouth and chew it. In fact, by offering lumpy foods, studies suggest babies are less likely to be fussy eaters.
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Introducing finger foods like mini rice cakes, soft pieces of fruit or steamed vegetables gives your baby an opportunity to feed themselves. It can also help them fine-tune grip and develop other important motor skills. You could also offer a few peas in a bowl.
How do I move from first foods on to regular meals?
Start by giving your baby just a small taste in between milk feeds – within a couple of weeks, they might be enjoying three small meals with you. Keep up with their usual milk supply, as this is an important source of nutrition.
Consider the specific needs of your baby, because they may need to take it more slowly. For example, they may prefer one or two mouthfuls at one mealtime before adding anymore. It’s a balancing act, because the weaning window – the time during which your baby is more willing to accept new foods – is open for just a short time (up to around nine months). However, don’t be afraid to go at the pace dictated by your baby.
How much should I feed when weaning my baby?
Babies are really good at recognising when they're hungry or full. The amount your baby eats may vary widely; some days they might seem ravenous, whereas other days they may barely touch a thing. That’s fine – just let them guide you and practice ‘responsive feeding’. This is where a baby’s cues or signs are used to respond to their own appetite. If your baby turns their head away and pushes food aside, don’t cajole them into having ‘just one more mouthful’ – accept that this is their way of telling you they’ve had enough. As long as your baby is growing well and is active, relax and take the plate away. It can be frustrating, but go with the flow – chances are they will be demanding seconds tomorrow!
What size portions should I offer my baby?
There are no hard and fast rules about portion size. Roughly speaking, about the size of your baby’s hand is a suitable portion. Their appetite and cues of hunger and fullness are the best way to determine how much they need.
What does a balanced diet during weaning look like?
For adults, there are clear guidelines about what makes up a balanced diet. For babies, these rules don’t strictly apply, but if you're enjoying a balanced diet as a family, chances are that by the time your baby is a year old they’ll be eating a balanced diet, too.
The chart below gives a guide to introducing foods over the first year, with appropriate textures for each stage of weaning. The ages given are a guide, so if you think your baby is ready for the next stage, it’s fine to move on.
Once your baby is having two to three meals on most days, try to offer something from each of the food groups at most meal times.
Stage one (around six to nine months)
Offer thicker consistency textures with some lumps, along with soft finger foods. Try a selection of these:
Stage two (nine to 12 months)
Try introducing mashed, chopped and minced consistencies and textures, along with more finger foods:
Stage three (12 months plus)
Try introducing mashed or chopped family foods and a variety of finger foods:
Food groups for all stages:
- fruits and vegetables
- rice, pasta, potatoes, yams, bread and cereals
- meat, fish, pulses and eggs
Adapted from the British Dietetic Association food fact sheet.
Are there any foods I should avoid giving when weaning my baby?
While most foods are fine, there are a few foods that shouldn’t be given, which include:
- cow’s milk (as a drink – it can be used in cooking)
- whole nuts
Honey and cow’s milk are fine from 12 months, but whole nuts are a choking risk. Ground nuts, including nut butter, can be given safely unless your child has an allergy to tree nuts. Be aware that if eggs are served runny, they should always have the Red Lion logo stamped on the shell, and don’t be tempted to add salt or sugar to foods for your baby.
Should I be concerned about food allergies when weaning?
Very few children develop a food allergy, but it’s important to introduce foods that might cause an allergic reaction after six months of age. These foods include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, nuts, peanuts, seeds, fish and shellfish. Aim to introduce these in small amounts, one at a time, so any reaction can be quickly spotted.
If you have a family history of allergy, eczema, asthma or hay fever, refer to your GP or health visitor. Even if you think your baby has a reaction to certain foods, don’t avoid foods without the advice of a health professional, or your baby might not get all of the nutrients they need.
For more information, read our guide on allergies in children, which is written in conjunction with Allergy UK.
Do I need to supplement my baby’s diet?
Most of the nutrients your baby needs come from their food and drinks. However, we know that food isn't a good way to get all of the vitamin D needed. Babies over six months should be given a vitamin supplement, usually in drop form, containing vitamins A, C and D. The Healthy Start vitamins are free for some families.
Find more inspiration from our weaning recipes, and if you have any concerns or issues, refer to your GP, registered dietician or health visitor.
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This page was last updated in 16 February 2022.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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