The 3 stages of weaning – a step by step guide

stages of weaning - the 3 stages of weaning explained - how to introduce those first foods to baby

Over their first year babies move from a diet of just milk to eating 3 meals a day with a wide variety of foods.

Of course there are several steps along the way as they get used to eating solid food and trying different tastes and textures. Here are the 3 stages of weaning explained.

0-6 months: Milk guzzlers

For the first few months of life your baby is happy with milk alone. He gets all the nutrients he needs from an exclusive diet of breast or formula milk.

stages of weaning - the 3 stages of weaning explained - how to introduce those first foods to babyStage 1: 6 months, not before 17 weeks

In this first stage of weaning your baby will be trying his first tastes of solid food. He will be getting used to taking foods from a spoon and experiencing different flavours and tastes.

Start by offering a runny texture. You can either mix baby rice with breast or formula milk or puree soft fruit and vegetables with water into a runny mixture.

Ideal first foods to try include apple, pear, peas and sweet potatoes. You can find our top 10 first foods for baby here.

Peel and then boil or steam your fruit or veg (don’t add any salt to the water). Then puree with a blender and leave to cool. To make the first purees runnier you can mix in water or breast or formula milk.

Offer your baby a couple of weaning teaspoons of solids to start with. You might just try one solid meal on the first day.

After a day or two you can give solids twice a day, say at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. And you can give a few spoonfuls each time.

Introduce new foods one at a time letting your baby try them for a couple of days before introducing the next flavour.

Once your baby has got used to taking food from a spoon you can make your purees slightly thicker, but still with no lumps.

Continue to breast or bottle feed as usual.

stages of weaning - the 3 stages of weaning explained - how to introduce those first foods to babyStage 2 : 6-9 months

When your baby is ready and taking their solid foods well you can start to increase the amount of solid food you give them at each meal.

You can move towards giving them a small bowl of about 2-4 tablespoons each mealtime.

Continue with your baby’s usual milk feeds, spacing them out in between solid feeds.

Start to make their food a little lumpier. You can make thicker purees and then move onto just mashing the food and add water or formula/breast milk to get the right consistency.

You can also give your baby soft finger foods.

Good ideas for first finger foods include a piece of chopped banana, soft cooked carrot sticks or fingers of soft toast.

As well as continuing to offer fruit and vegetables you can start to give your baby soft cooked chicken or white fish, pasta and bread. If you are introducing dairy you can add fromage frais or yoghurts.

The idea is to introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods and tastes as well as slowly getting them used to more texture.

Give your baby 2 meals of solids each day. If they seem to be yumming these down you can move towards 3 meals.

stages of weaning - the 3 stages of weaning explained - how to introduce those first foods to babyStage 3 : 9-12 months

At this stage your baby will be eating 3 solid meals a day, each of a small bowl of food (about 4-6 tablespoons).

Some babies will eat more, some will eat less, so go with what your baby tells you.

It can make sense to give the meals at the same time as your family mealtimes. Eating together is a great way to be together as a family and model healthy eating.

Your baby can also have snacks in between meals, such as rice cakes, oatcakes, fruit and finger foods.

Your baby should now be eating a wider variety of foods and be used to soft lumps and different textures. They can try all sorts of new flavours, including spices and sauces.

Give your baby lots of soft finger foods and chopped food that they can pick up and feed themselves. Always watch them closely when they are eating solids on their own.

Your baby will still need milk. If they are eating a lot then you can begin to gradually cut down on how much milk they are getting.

Breastfeed on demand or aim for at least 600 ml of formula a day. Space out milk and solid food mealtimes.

By 12 months your baby can drink cow’s milk as their main milk drink. Choose full fat as children under 2 need the extra fats and vitamins that this contains.

They will have come such a long way from mini milk guzzlers to joining in family mealtimes and eating a wide variety of foods.

If you’re just starting out with weaning, see our Ultimate guide to weaning baby with everything you need to know to get started.