The Introduction of Complementary Foods
Weaning means introducing a range of foods
gradually until babies are eating the same
foods as the rest of the family. Until
months, babies need only breast milk or
infant formula milk. This is to reduce the
Introduction of food is not
recommended before the age of 4 months
because an infant's digestive system is not
able to cope properly with solids before
this age. It is, however, important to start
at around 6 months. By 6 months, breast or
infant milk will not be able to satisfy most
babies' nutritional needs and it is
important from a developmental point of view
to start giving other foods.
Baby seems hungrier. Before 26 weeks
this is not a helpful sign. It may be a
growth spurt and it usually best to
increase the amount of milk given for a
Baby is not sleeping through. There is
no evidence that giving solids increases
Baby seems unsettled and is putting
their fist in their mouth. This may be a
development stage or teething rather
than a sign of hunger.
How Should Parents Wean?
Start off by offering a small amount of
mashed vegetable, fruit or cereal mixed with
milk after a milk feed, or in the middle of
one if this works better. If the food is
hot, allow it to cool, stir it and test it
before giving it to your baby. Some babies
take time to learn to eat new foods. Your
baby will be finding out about different
tastes and textures and learning that food
doesn't come in a continuous flow. Be
patient, let your baby touch the food if
they want to and be prepared for some mess!
Start off by offering just a few
teaspoons of food once a day
Use a little of your baby's usual milk
(breast or formula) to mix the food to
the desired consistency
Allow your baby to feed themselves using
As soon as they show an interest, give
your baby an range of food and textures
Don't force feed your baby if they don't
seem to want it - wait and try again
If you are using a spoon, wait for your
baby to open their mouth when the food
Let your baby touch the food in the dish
or on the spoon
If you are bottle feeding, don't add any
foods, including Rusks, cereal or sugar
Acceptable First Foods
Cereals such as baby rice with milk
Mashed, cooked vegetables such as
parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato or
Mashed banana, avocado, cooked apple or
Pieces of soft fruit or vegetables small
enough for baby to pick up
Use mashed up family food when you can.
It's best to cook your own food for your
baby as this way you'll know the
ingredients of the food and you'll be
getting your baby used to eating what
Don't add salt or sugar to food for your
What 'Finger Foods' Can Be Given?
After 6 months it is fine to offer SOFT
finger foods - e.g. sliced banana, well
cooked vegetable, toast fingers etc.
Foods Which Should NOT Be Given At First
Most foods are fine from 6 months, however
if weaning early, gluten free, dairy free
and egg free foods should be avoided. Salt
should not be added to any infant food.
Whole nuts should not be given until the
child is around 5 but nut products can be
given at 6 months (unless the child is at
risk of an allergy when 3 is recommended).
Should Infants Be Given Drinks Other Than
Milk During Weaning?
This is not necessary for breast fed infants
as breast milk is a drink as well as a food.
However it is helpful if parents introduce a
cup of water to their child at this age.
Babies fed on infant formula will need
additional water which should be given in a
Fruit juice is not usually necessary but can
make up part of a balanced diet. If fruit
juice is given, it should be diluted with
water to a maximum ratio of 50 percent fruit
juice. Keeping fruit juice to mealtimes and
further diluting with water is better for
dental health although dilution will reduce
the nutritional benefit. Vegetarian
children, in particular, may benefit from
Vitamin C in fruit juice helping them to
absorb iron which is less bio-available from
non meat food sources.
How Much Milk Should Babies Be Drinking?
Breast milk or infant formula should still
be the main source of nutrition for infants
up to the age of one. Milk intake will
decrease gradually as solids increase. As a
general rule solids should be offered after
a milk feed at 6-9 months and can be offered
before a milk feed from 9 months. This is to
ensure that the introduction is gradual or
'complimentary' to breastfeeding/formula.
Follow On Formula
If formula feeding, it is not necessary to
introduce follow-on milk formula at 6
months. Although promoted as being higher in
iron they have no nutritional advantage over
regular infant formula. Follow-on formulas
are a clever way of infant feeding companies
beating marketing laws on the advertising of
breast milk substitutes as this law only
bans the advertising of basic infant food.
It is normal for your baby to spit and
dribble the food out at first. Your baby
will take time to learn to take food from a
spoon and may cry between spoonfuls as they
have been used to a continual flow of milk.
If your baby is nearer to 6 months old when
they start to wean, they may move through
the puree stage more quickly.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Simple things such a fork, sieve and spoon
are all that is needed to prepare most
foods. You will also need a plastic spoon
and shallow plastic bowl which can be
leave your baby alone with food
Never add solids to a bottle
Sterilise all feeding utensils and bowls
until your baby is at least 6 months
Always wash your hands before preparing
food or feeding your baby
Ensure all work surfaces are clean
before you prepare food
Store food at the correct temperatures
Throw away any half eaten food
Do not re-heat food more than once
Can I Freeze Food?
When preparing your own foods for weaning it
is easier to prepare larger quantities. Most
foods will freeze except bananas, melon,
baby rice. After food is cooked, divide it
into suitable sized portions, cover and
leave to cool thoroughly before freezing.
Never put warm food into the
freezer. For young babies, freeze in small
quantities in a sterilised ice cube tray.
Once frozen, transfer into bags labelled
with the date by which the food should be
used. As your baby gets older, freeze food
in plastic dishes - e.g. yoghurt pots
covered with foil - again, label with the
date by which the food should be used.
In a freezer marked **** foods will
keep for the following length of time:
To thaw frozen foods, do not defrost in a
Remove from freezer a few hours before
it is required, or;
Heat gently in a heatproof container in
a saucepan of hot water
How Do I Reheat Food?
Warning! Using a microwave to
reheat food for your baby can cause
uneven heating and hot spots, therefore
if you use a microwave always stir food
during cooking to ensure an even spread
of heat and ALWAYS check the
temperature before giving it to your
Can I Use Commercial Baby Foods?
There is a wide variety of jars, tins and
packets of baby food available. These can be
useful if you are out for a day or on
holiday but try to use home prepared food
most of the time. If you do use jars, tins
or packets, follow the storage advice
on labels carefully.
How Quickly Should I Be Making Progress?
After a few weeks of having solids at one
meal, try offering a second meal, then a
third after another 2-3 weeks. This will
encourage your baby to fit in with your
family meal times.
Gradually make the food thicker and lumpier.
By the age of 7-9 months
Start to introduce finger foods. Try
foods which are soft or easy to chew,
e.g. banana, pear, melon, cooked
Start to introduce a wider variety of
foods, e.g. breakfast cereals, pasta
Try giving finely minced food
By the age of 9-12 months
Start to give chopped food and harder
finger foods, e.g. raw vegetables,
apple, sandwiches, bread sticks
It is important that by this age your
baby is having a balanced diet so try to
include foods from each of the following
Meat and alternatives:
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses,
Tofu, nuts (finely ground), seeds,
Bread and Cereals:
Bread, rice, cereals, pasta,
Fruit and vegetables:
Apples, bananas, fruit
juice, carrots, cauliflower, tomato
Milk and milk products:
Milk, cheese, yoghurt,
By the age of 1 year
Your baby should be joining in with family
meals, three times a day with drinks and
Fun First Foods