Weaning & healthy eating

Baby's first year

You may be ready to start weaning your baby, or be thinking about what’s to come. It’s a big step for both of you, and there’s so much information out there, it can be difficult to know what to do.

You may be wondering how and when you should start introducing solid foods to your baby. How much do they need? What foods do I start with? Your baby will react differently to trying new foods. 

Eating

At the beginning, how much your baby eats is less important than getting them used to the idea of eating. They'll still be getting most of their energy and nutrients from breast milk or first infant formula. Giving your baby a variety of foods, alongside breast or formula milk, from around 6 months of age will help set your child up for a lifetime of healthier eating.

Baby being fed in highchair

Gradually, you'll be able to increase the amount and variety of food your baby eats until they can eat the same foods as the rest of the family, in smaller portions.

Waiting until around 6 months gives your baby time to develop so they can cope fully with solid foods.

Tip: If your baby was born prematurely, ask your health visitor or GP for advice on when to start introducing solid foods.

You will know when your baby is ready for weaning when:

  • They stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
  • They co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves
  • They swallow food (rather than spit it back out)

This should all happen by around 6 months, and once you see them doing all three clear signs together, they can start to try foods. 

The following behaviours can be mistaken as signs that their babies are ready for solid foods:

  • chewing their fists
  • waking up in the night (more than usual)
  • wanting extra milk feeds

However, these are all normal behaviours and not necessarily a sign that they are hungry or ready to start solid food. Starting solid foods will not make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night. Sometimes a little extra milk will help until they are ready for solid foods.

This video will help explain the signs that your child is ready, and how to start your food journey together.

Start4Life Top Tips for Weaning:

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You can find some simple recipes for your baby’s first meals on Start4Life YouTube channel

Weaning can be messy – and that’s okay. Your baby will play with their food and probably end up wearing more food than they eat! Your baby learns through their senses, and getting messy with food is part of developing a healthy relationship with food.  

Stay with your baby while they are eating to ensure they are safe and follow the Start4Life advice for safe weaning.

Some food, like grapes, present choking hazards and it’s important to know how to prepare food for your baby to enjoy safely.

There is lots more information about weaning here.

Tooth-brushing

Your baby’s first milk teeth will probably start coming in around the same time as you start weaning – but don’t worry if they pop through a bit later - all baby’s grow and develop at their own pace.

Baby boy with toothbrush in his mouth sitting in a small bathtub

Once your baby has milk teeth, it is time to start tooth-brushing. Sticking to these simple steps will ensure your baby’s teeth grow strong and stay healthy:

  • Brush teeth twice daily for about 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste
  • Brush last thing at night before bed and on 1 other occasion
  • Use children's fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride (check label) or family toothpaste containing between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm fluoride
  • Use only a smear of toothpaste
  • Make sure your baby doesn't eat or lick toothpaste from the tube

If you are not sure how to go about brushing your baby’s teeth, then this video is really helpful:

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You can also find more advice and guidance on taking care of children’s teeth on the NHS Live Well site.

Additional resources 

NHS Start4Life

NHS Pregnancy & Baby - Solid Foods & Weaning 

NHS Live Well - Taking care of children’s teeth