Weaning From 6 Months +
Updated: May 13
Weaning for all mums and dads can seem a little complex and a getting it right a big responsibility, but here break it down, so you can enjoy the experience and all the funny facial expressions, as new textures and flavours are introduced and of course the messy mealtimes.
Your baby requires around half the number of calories you need each day and can get sufficient from calories from milk and from healthy meals that include fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Vegetable fats are preferable.
From 6 months you can begin to introduce baby yogurts and cheese. It is not appropriate to give your baby cow's milk or made-up skimmed milk powder in the bottles until 12 months of age. From 6 months you can however begin to use cow's milk in cooking. Choose full-fat milk, as the calorie content of skimmed or low-fat milk is insufficient. You can introduce cheese such as Cheddar or Lancashire, but don't give soft or blue cheese such as Brie or Stilton because of the risk of Listeria.
As well as calories, your baby will also require vitamins and minerals, protein and a small amount of fibre. Breastmilk and formula milk offer all these constituents and a well rounded diet with appropriate quantities of white fish, vegetables, beans and pulses will provide this. Vitamin supplements are also nationally recommended.
Gluten and wheat
You can introduce foods containing wheat and gluten before the fist year, but are advised to try and keep the gluten content low. Exceptions may be made if there is a history of allergies in your family, in which case the advice from allergists has changed in recent years from waiting until the end of the first year to trying a drip drip approach of introducing small amounts of a food to see if tolerance can be built up over a period of time.
Avoid large amounts of granary and high-fibre bread and wheat bran, which are too difficult for your baby to digest. If you give your baby rusks, check the ingredients because some are high in sugar.
Gagging and choking
Many babies are sensitive to lumps in their food and gag and cough. This is especially the case for many babies with a history of gastroesophageal reflux - or having been tube fed as a younger baby, for example due to being born prematurely. If milk feeding has been traumatic then these sensitivities to lumpy foods are more frequent.
For most babies this soon passes with experience, but for some the stage persists. Try going back to purees and give finger foods, like bread or apple. A very small number of otherwise healthy normal babies remain sensitive to lumps and the help of a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) is needed.
Balancing your baby's diet is important and can make a difference to general mood and sleeping pattern. Once weaning is established it is optimal to give solid food every 3 to 4 hours. A 3-meals-a-day rhythm may be more readily established if your baby is bottle-feeding; if breastfeeding it is normal to snack from the breast at intervals as well as having 3-meals-a-day. This is normal for 18 months or more.
Milk, age 7-9 months
Your 7-9 month old baby needs to consume at least 600 ml (21 fl oz) of milk a day. This is a reducing proportion, as this makes up for the fluid content in the solid food intake - which will all contain water in varying amounts. You may give some milk as part of the cooked meals, for example 30 or 60 ml (1 or 2 fl oz) in a cheese or creamy vegetable or pasta sauce) but most will come from your breast or a bottle. Between 6 and 9 months most babies have 3 or 4 milk feeds a day, usually at breakfast, mid-afternoon and bedtime with an optional extra mid-morning.
If your baby goes through a growth spurt or goes off food when teething or unwell, allow feeding as often as wanted from the breast and if you are bottle feeding, you may compensate for reduced solids by a small increase in the amount of milk in a feed until keen to eat solids again.
The final milk feed before bed is the most leisurely. If your baby is still hungry after a large bottle or after feeding at both your breasts, look back over what has been eaten during the day: you may need to increase the size of the meals.
Playing and eating
All babies have a strong urge to play and to explore: discovering food is part of this and it is perfectly normal for your baby to touch, squeeze, feel, taste and spit out food (and smear it on their face and yours!). Your baby does not have the capacity to be naughty and taunt you with "bad behaviour before the age of one - but does have the capacity to be playful. Playing with food is part of the natural process of growth and exploration.
Infant vitamins drops are currently recommended from the age of 6 months for breastfed babies and from 12 months for bottle fed babies, until the age of 5 years. This is primarily because of the inadequacy of vitamin D and to ensure each child has adequate vitamin stores throughout childhood. Children who have a good appetite and eat a wide variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, probably receive adequate vitamins in their diet, but are recommended to continue taking vitamins until age 5.