3 Stages of Weaning – Step by Step Guide

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

During 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 foods. They’ll get to try so many different tastes and textures.

Here is a quick summary of the 3 stages of weaning. Read on below to find a detailed breakdown of what to expect at each one.

3 Stages of Weaning – Quick Summary

Stage 1 – First tastes (4-6 months)

Baby will experience their first tastes of solid foods. If your doctor has advised that you can wean baby before 6 months, then you can offer them smooth pureed food from a spoon.  This might be just one or two spoonfuls at first. Your baby will still get most of their nutritional needs from their usual milk feeds.

After 6 months if baby is ready, you can choose between offering purees and soft finger foods.

If you are deciding between purees and baby led weaning, see our article Purees vs Baby Led Weaning here where we discuss the pros and cons of each method.

Stage 2: Introduce a broad range of foods gradually (7-9 months)

You can offer baby a wider range of foods, tastes and textures. If you have begun with purees, you can introduce your first finger foods at this age as well.

By 9 months of age your baby will gradually eat more at each mealtime and slowly decrease the amount of milk they drink. 

Stage 3: Baby can enjoy 3 balanced meals a day (10-12 months)

Baby can enjoy 3 balanced meals a day. By the end of this stage your baby will need much less milk and will get most of their nutrition from solid meals. They will also start to each most of their meals with their hands as finger foods.

It’s an exciting adventure for both of you!

When to Start Weaning – Weaning Guidelines

Official advice for parents in the UK is to start weaning your baby at‘around 6 months’ according to the NHS.

This is based on advice issued by the World Health Organisation back in 2001. However a number of parents feel that their baby is ready for solids before 6 months of age.

You can read more about the somewhat controversial topic of early weaning in our article here.

If you do decide to wean before 6 months, speak to your health visitor or GP first. And never introduce solid foods to baby before 17 weeks of age. Any solids introduced before 6 months of age must be in a smooth pureed form and not as finger foods.

Weaning Stage 1

4-6 months (not before 17 weeks)

stages of weaning - the 3 stages of weaning explained - how to introduce those first foods to babyIn this first stage of weaning your baby will get their first tastes of solid food.

They will be getting used to the brand new feeling of eating off a spoon and experience some wonderful new flavours too.

Offer Soft, Smooth Foods

The key to preparing first foods for baby, is to make them soft and smooth so that they can easily manage it with their mouths. Cooked and pureed fruit and vegetables or baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk, are ideal for those very first meals.

Make it Quite Runny at First

Not all, but some babies prefer to start off with a runny texture. This is because up to now, they’re used to drinking milk which is liquid.

So for those first few days it can help if the puree has a thick, liquid-like consistency. You can do this by adding baby milk or water to pureed fruit, vegetables or to baby rice. As they get used to eating foods from a spoon, you can gradually thicken the consistency of the puree to that of a thick soup.

What to expect

Your baby may start by trying only one or two weaning spoons of solid food at first. This can build up to 1-2 tablespoons of food at each mealtime, but follow baby’s appetite. They should still have their usual milk feeds.

This stage is all about getting used to the brand new feeling of eating. And enjoying the amazing new tastes that your baby is encountering for the very first time.

Weaning Stage 1 Foods

Here are some first foods you can give to your baby in this first stage of weaning:

  • Baby rice mixed with either breast or formula milk.
  • Apple, steamed and pureed.
  • Pear, steamed and pureed.
  • Avocado, very ripe and mashed well. You can mix this with baby’s milk for the first taste, if you like.
  • Carrots, steamed and pureed.
  • Sweet potato, steamed and pureed.
  • Have some less sweet vegetables, such as broccoli or peas (cooked soft and blended). This helps baby get used to different tastes, and enjoy some more savoury tastes too.

Remember to peel and then cook your fruit or vegetables until soft. Then puree them with a blender and leave to cool.

Your baby doesn’t need any added salt or sugar (even to the cooking water).

To make the food the right consistency for your baby, you can blend foods with your required amounts of water, breast or formula milk.

If you want to read more about preparing those very first foods, we also have this guide to the 10 best first foods to give to your baby, including cooking guidance and recipes.

Weaning Stage 1 in Practice

Offer your baby a few weaning teaspoons of solids to start with. Start with one solid meal on the first day.

After the first few days or weeks – depending how your baby is taking to their new meals- you can offer solid meals twice a day. This could be at mid-morning and mid-afternoon so that it’s served between bottle feeds. However you can find the time that works best for you both and give a few spoonfuls each time.

Some things to remember with this stage are:

  • Introduce new foods one at a time.
  • After your baby has tried it remember to keep introducing that food regularly in between other new foods.
  • Continue to breast or bottle feed as usual.


Week One

Pick a time when your baby is content and alert to give them their first taste of solids. Offer a baby spoonful at first. They might yum it down or spit it out. It’s all about trying at this early stage.

Over the next few days keep offering a spoonful or two of solid foods at the same time. You can mix new tastes of fruit or vegetables with baby milk to dilute the flavour. This might make them more appealing for those very first tries.

Continue with your usual milk feeds.



Week two

In your second week you can offer solid foods twice a day. You might give your baby a milk feed at breakfast time and then an hour or two later give them a few spoonfuls of solids. In the late afternoon baby could have another few spoonfuls of solids for their second meal.

If you started offering purees that were quite runny at first, you can gradually make them creamier over.

Remember to keep introducing new foods to baby. After they’ve had one you can move onto the next but make sure you regularly offer that food again to them. You can also start to make combinations of foods that they’ve tried already, like a pea and avocado puree, or a steamed apple and pear puree.



Week three

In the third week you can increase the amount of solid foods you offer baby at each mealtime while continuing with the milk feeds. Remember to spread the solid mealtimes out between milk feeds so that they’re not too full to eat. Be guided by baby as to how much they want.

Don’t worry if your baby isn’t keen on a new fruit or vegetables you give them. It can take up to 5-10 tries to get used to a new taste. If they spit it out just wait a few days and introduce it again. They may well enjoy it then!

There might be days when baby eats more or less. There might be the odd days when they seem to reject everything. Don’t worry. This is all completely normal.

Eating is a brand new skill and it might take a while for your baby to get the hang of it. Be patient and keep offering new age-appropriate foods (even those they might have spat out before). Let them get used to them at their own pace.

How much your baby eats depends on their appetite, so let your baby guide you on how much food they need – never force them to eat. In the same way you follow your baby’s cues when offering them breast or bottle feeds, be responsive to your baby when giving them solid foods, and learn to recognise when they’re hungry and when they’ve had enough. Start 4 Life NHS

For more details about starting weaning including equipment, first foods and a sample baby eating schedule take a look at our article Ultimate Guide to Starting Weaning.

Weaning Stage 2

7-9 months

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

In Weaning Stage 2 you want to introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods and tastes. You also want baby to slowly get used to more textures and start to eat some foods with lumpier, chunkier textures.

Baby will eat more with their fingers and explore soft, easy to chew finger foods.

What to expect

As well as their usual milk feeds, your baby will now be eating solid foods 2-3 times a day. Over time they will start to enjoy a small bowl of about 2-3 tablespoons for each solid feed.

Continue with your baby’s usual milk feeds, spacing them out between solid feeds. However, as your baby eats more solid food you might need to reduce milk feeds slightly as they approach 9 months of age.

As a guide at 8 months your baby still needs about 700-900mls of breast milk or formula in a 24-hour period.

Weaning Stage 2 Foods

By now your baby has got used to pureed fruits and vegetables. You can begin to introduce a wider variety of solid foods.

You can start making them a little lumpier too, so they can begin to get used to chewing foods in their mouths before swallowing.

Foods to give your baby at this second stage might include:

  • More textured food – like mashed, cooked fruit or vegetables rather than pureed.
  • Dairy products, such as yoghurt or soft pasteurised cheese.
  • Soft cooked white meats – chicken, turkey or white fish, such as cod – cooked until it’s flaky and checked for bones.
  • Finger foods such as cucumber batons, steamed vegetable chunks or baby biscuits.
  • Cooked pasta pieces that your baby can pick up.
  • Oatcakes or rice cakes.

For a more detailed list of what foods are ideal for baby at each weaning stage, take a look at our article Baby Weaning Foods by Age.

Weaning Stage 2 in Practice

Below is an example of what your baby’s meals might look like at this stage. It’s only intended as a rough guide so adapt it as you need to for your own baby’s age and appetite.

You can gradually increase baby’s meals from 2 up to 3 a day.

Morning Milk feed
Breakfast Pureed fruit and/or baby cereal
Mid-Morning Milk feed
Lunch Steamed vegetable puree or soft finger foods
Afternoon Milk feed
Teatime Steamed vegetable puree or soft finger foods
Evening Milk feed


Food Allergy Concerns When Weaning Baby

At this stage it’s all about letting your baby taste a wide variety of new food, textures and flavours. But what about allergies?

In the past parents were advised not to give their babies allergenic foods (such as eggs, dairy products or nuts) until they were much older. Some experts continue to advise this.

However recent research has shown that early exposure to potential allergens may actually reduce the food allergy risk in the future. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends introducing these foods gradually to baby between 6-8 months of age, after other less allergenic solid foods have been introduced without baby having shown signs of a reaction, and providing there is not a history of allergies in the family.

We always recommend checking with your doctor of GP first before introducing allergenic foods to baby. If your doctor gives you the go ahead, offer the new foods to baby in small amounts and on their own so that any reactions can be more clearly connected to that particular food.

It’s also a good idea to offer these new foods at a time when baby will be awake for a while, so that you can more easily monitor them for any symptoms such as a rash or wheezing.

When you’ve seen that they don’t react badly to a particular food, you can feel more comfortable to offer it to them regularly. In this way you can increase the variety of foods that they are exposed to early on and potentially prevent allergies developing in the future.

The NHS advises:

When you start introducing solid foods to your baby from around 6 months old, introduce the foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time and in very small amounts so that you can spot any reaction.

These foods are:

  • cows’ milk
  • eggs
  • foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
  • nuts and peanuts (as a smooth paste)
  • seeds (as a smooth paste)
  • soya
  • shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
  • Fish

Source, NHS NHS

If you are ever worried or have any concerns or questions then do always reach out to your GP or health visitor for advice.

Weaning Stage 3

10-12 months

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

Your baby is really getting the hang of eating solids and will be moving towards enjoying 3 meals a day. They can join in family mealtimes and all the fun of eating together.

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

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

What to expect

Your baby will be eating 3 solid meals a day. Each will now be a small bowl of food, about 6 tablespoons full. Some babies have bigger appetites than others, so go with what your baby tells you.

Spread the meals out evenly over the day so that they have a chance to get hungry between meals. It’s also great if you can make your family mealtimes at the same time as baby’s. Eating together is a lovely way to spend time as a family and also model healthy eating.

Your baby can have light snacks between meals, such as rice cakes, oatcakes and fruit. However it’s worth keeping snacks small or light so that baby will still be hungry at mealtimes. If they are too full with snacks it can lead to some early mealtime battles to get them to eat anything.

Weaning Stage 3 Foods

Baby will be able to enjoy eating a wider variety of foods including heavier foods such as chickpeas and red meats. They will be able to eat most things that you enjoy as a family.

Continue to steer clear of any foods that are choking hazards such as whole nuts or uncut grapes, foods with salt or sugar in them or any raw or uncooked meats, eggs or shellfish. They’re also not allowed honey at this stage.

How much milk should baby be having?

Your baby will still need milk. If they are eating well at each mealtime, then you can begin to gradually cut down on how much milk you are giving them.

Milk will still be important for energy and nutrients. So your baby may still have 2 or 3 milk feeds a day, spaced out between their solid feeds. As a rough guide baby could be having about 400 mls of milk each day.

After 12 months of age your baby can also drink cow’s milk as their main milk drink. Just make sure it’s full fat as children under 2 need the extra fats and vitamins that full fat milk 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 going.

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