By the time your baby is around 6 months old, they need more than breast milk or infant formula to meet their needs. At this stage they need solid foods as well – not as a replacement, but alongside their usual breast milk or infant formula (which is why it’s also known as ‘complementary feeding’). Weaning teaches your baby how to move solid food around their mouth, chew and swallow solid foods.
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.
The best time of day is the one that suits you both, when you don’t feel rushed and your baby is not too tired. Your baby may take to weaning like a duck to water, or it might take them a while – don’t forget, eating is a whole new skill, so lots of smiles, claps and praise please! Allow plenty of time, go at your baby’s pace and stop when they show signs that they’ve had enough.
It may take 10 tries or more for your baby to get used to new foods, flavours and textures. There will be days when they eat more, some when they eat less, and then days when they reject everything. Don’t worry – this is perfectly normal. Be patient and keep offering a variety of foods, even the ones they don’t seem to like, and let them get used to it in their own time.
High chair – your baby needs to be sitting safely, in an upright position (so they can swallow properly)
First cup – encourage your baby to sip water from a cup with their meals (instead of a bottle). Open cups or free-flow cups (without a valve) help your baby learn to sip and is better for their teeth
Spoons – soft weaning spoons, usually made of rubber or plastic, are easier on your baby’s gums
Plastic bowls – ideally the ones with a suction base, otherwise they’re likely to end up on the floor!
Ice cube trays – very useful for batch cooking and freezing small portions
Bibs – easy to clean plastic or pelican bibs are best in the beginning
Messy mat – or even newspaper under the high chair, handy for messy eaters!
Babies on a vegetarian diet can get all the energy and nutrients they need, as long as they are offered a wide variety of foods. Their diet should include meat and fish alternatives, such as eggs, pulses (beans, peas and lentils), ground nuts and seeds, cereal foods and soy products (such as tofu).
Advice on how to introduce solid foods is the same for vegan and non-vegan babies. In addition to the usual supplements recommended for babies, vegan babies needs fortified foods and specific supplements (such as vitamin B12) to ensure they get all the nutrients they need. Speak to a health professional for advice.
Have a look at the NHS website to see which foods and vitamins should be included in your baby’s diet.