Introducing your baby to solid foods is often called 'weaning'. This should start when your baby is around 6 months old.
This is the same whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed.
If you are breastfeeding, you do not need to move to formula milk when introducing solid foods.
We recommend you breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Continue to breastfeed after solid foods are introduced, up to 2 years or beyond.
When to begin weaning
Babies develop at different stages. Begin introducing solids when your baby is ready.
This should be when you're baby is about 6 months old.
Do not start solid food before 17 weeks (4 months).
Risks of weaning too soon or too late
You should not give your baby solid foods before 17 weeks because:
- breast milk or formula milk is all your baby needs until they are 6 months old
- introducing other foods or fluids can displace the essential nutrients supplied by breast or formula milk
- their kidneys are not mature enough to handle food and drinks other than milk
- their digestive systems are not yet developed enough to cope with solid foods
- introducing solids too early can increase the risk of obesity in later life
- it can increase their risk of allergy
You should not wait later than 26 weeks (6 months) because:
- your baby's store of iron from birth has now been used up and their iron needs can no longer be met by milk alone
- their energy needs can no longer be met by either breast milk or formula milk alone
- it delays their chance to learn important skills, including self-feeding
- introducing different textures stimulates the development of muscles that are used in speech
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods
Between 17 and 26 weeks (4 to 6 months), your baby may begin to show some signs they are ready to start eating solid food.
Your baby should show more than 1 of these signs before you think about introducing solid foods. Especially if they are 17 weeks.
Signs your baby is ready for solid food:
- They are able to sit up with support and can control their head movements.
- Co-ordination - they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves.
- They can swallow food instead of spitting it back out.
These signs show that your baby is ready for you to introduce foods other than milk.
Some signs can be mistaken for a baby being ready for solid foods.
- chewing fists
- waking in the night when they have previously slept through
- wanting extra milk feeds now and then
These are normal baby behaviours. They are not necessarily a sign of hunger or an interest in 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 food.
What solids to start your baby on
You might want to start with single vegetables and fruits.
Try mashed or soft cooked sticks of:
- sweet potato
Include vegetables that are not sweet, such as broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
This will help your baby get used to a range of flavours (rather than just the sweeter ones, like carrots and sweet potato). It might help prevent them being fussy eaters as they grow up. Make sure any cooked food has cooled right down before offering it to your baby.
As soon as your baby starts solid foods, encourage them to be involved in mealtimes. Let them have fun touching, holding and exploring food.
Offering your baby finger foods at each meal is a good way to help them learn to self-feed. Finger food is food that's cut up into pieces big enough for your baby to hold in their fist with a bit sticking out.
Baby-led weaning means letting them feed themselves from the start with finger foods. This is instead of feeding them puréed or mashed food on a spoon.
Some parents prefer baby-led weaning to spoon feeding. Others do a combination of both.
There's no right or wrong way. The most important thing is that your baby eats a wide variety of food and gets all the nutrients they need.
There's no more risk of choking when a baby feeds themselves than when they're fed with a spoon.
Watch a video on introducing your baby to solid foods
Weaning a premature baby
If your baby was born early (before 37 weeks), introduce solid foods when your baby shows signs that they are ready.
Your baby may have developed all the skills they need to eat solid foods from a corrected age of about 5 to 6 months.
Corrected age is your baby's age minus the number of weeks or months they were born early. For example, if your 7 month baby was born 2 months early, their corrected age is 5 months.
Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP or public health nurse if:
- your baby has a corrected age of 7 months and is not showing signs that they are ready to start solid foods