The four stages of weaning

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The four stages of weaning

Get some help with the key stages of weaning
from milk to family meals.

Weaning your baby onto solids doesn't happen overnight. Find out what should happen with the experts from SMA.

Stage one

Starting weaning – around six months

What foods are best to start weaning with?

It's best to start weaning your baby with foods that are gentle in flavour at this early stage. Some good examples include:

  • Baby rice, which can be easily mixed to the right texture with your baby's usual milk. It is also quite bland, and takes on the taste of your baby's usual milk. This gives your baby a familiar taste while getting them used to a new texture and eating from a spoon. Mums often give this for the first few days. Do not add food to the milk in your baby's bottle.
  • Purees of fruit or vegetables, such as carrot, sweet potato and parsnip, are also good foods at the beginning of weaning.

What time of day is best to start weaning?
  • It's a good idea to introduce solids at a usual feed time, as your baby will be hungry at this time.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time and can be relaxed. Try to choose a feeding time that will allow this.
  • Your baby may be very hungry first thing in the morning or tired last thing at night, so you probably want to avoid introducing solids because they will be too impatient to take the food.
  • You may find it easiest to let your baby have some of their usual milk before you introduce the solids, as they may be hungry and impatient for their milk. They don't yet understand that what is on the spoon is going to fill them up too.

How much should babies eat in the first few mealtimes?

The first few weeks of weaning really are all about introducing the spoon and new tastes. Milk will still provide the great majority of the nutrients your baby requires and the amount they drink shouldn't be reduced in the first few weeks.

  • To start with, just offer them a couple of teaspoonfuls.
  • Over the next week, gradually increase the amount by a few spoonfuls at a time.
  • Take it slowly and go at your baby's pace – their little tummies need to gradually get used to their new diet!

What about texture?
  • The purees you give your baby to start with should be smooth and runny, a bit like the consistency of double cream.
  • As weaning progresses over the next few weeks, you should gradually thicken the texture so they are ready for the introduction of soft lumps in stage two of weaning.
  • If you are making your purees at home, the texture will vary naturally with foods you use, and this too will gradually get your baby used to slightly different sensations in their mouth.

How frequently should they have solids?
  • In the first week of weaning your baby should be having a few spoonfuls once a day.
  • After about one week of weaning you can increase this to twice a day, for example lunch and teatime.
  • By the end of the fourth week they can be having breakfast, lunch and tea.
  • It is better to build up the frequency of mealtimes ahead of increasing the volume at each meal, so that your baby starts to get used to having regular mealtimes as you do. Once their three meals a day are established you can really start to increase the amount they have at each feed.

Stage two

Lumps and bumps and lots more variety – from seven to nine months

How often and how much food in stage two?
  • By now your baby should be eating three times a day, at breakfast, lunch and teatime.
  • They will also have increased the amount they are eating at each meal and you should now start offering food before milk and avoid giving a milk feed too close to a solid feed to avoid ruining their appetite.
  • You may find the times of milk feeds need to change to fit in with mealtimes.
  • You may find your baby drinks less milk and drops a milk feed. This is fine, as you are gradually moving towards a diet that is more solids than milk-based. Just remember that from six months your baby still needs 500-600ml (about a pint) of breast or follow-on milk a day.
  • You can start to make meal times two courses by including a pudding. Try to aim for one milk-based pudding e.g. yoghurt, rice pudding etc, and one fruit-based pudding a day.

What about texture from seven months?

Your baby will be ready to start experimenting with chewing and may even have a few teeth. Don't worry though if they haven't, as they can use their gums very effectively instead!

To start them off on the road to learning to chew you need to stop pureeing all their foods and make the texture a bit lumpier. You can easily introduce a coarser texture by mashing foods instead of pureeing.

Foods that tend to work particularly well for introducing new texture sensations at this stage include:

  • Well-cooked basmati rice
  • Small pasta shapes
  • Couscous
  • Grated fruits and cooked vegetables

Feeding themselves and finger foods

By now your baby will be able to hold things in their hand and transfer things from one hand to the other. They will be keen to start experimenting with feeding themselves and this should be encouraged.

  • Let your baby have a spoon and try feeding themselves.
  • Continue to help them to make sure enough is actually going in their mouth.
  • Never leave your baby alone during feeding.

Good finger foods include:

  • Softly cooked vegetables, such as broccoli spears
  • Rice cakes
  • Bread sticks
  • Raspberries make a great introduction to texture and finger foods as they squash down easily as well as tasting nice and sweet

Stage three

Chopped foods and shapes at 10-12 months

How much food in stage three?
  • By now your baby will be well established on three main meals a day.
  • It is still important to keep an eye on their milk intake though, and your baby should still be having 500-600ml (about a pint) of breast or follow-on milk a day.

Texture at 9-12 months
  • By now your baby should be ready to have their foods chopped up and should be getting well practised in the art of feeding themselves. Make sure you still keep an eye on how much is actually getting into their mouths though.
  • Cooking times on vegetables needn't be so long now as your baby is ready for crunchier, chopped-up pieces and you should include lots of raw fruit and vegetables in their diet, as these are packed full of nutrients.
  • You can also start to introduce mini sandwiches into your baby's diet, which makes feeding on the go much easier. Try to vary your sandwich fillings as much as possible and limit the use of salty spreads.

Stage four

From 12 months on to family food

What a toddler's diet should be made up of
  • As your baby becomes a toddler, they should become fully integrated into family meals, though they may still need a hand cutting things up for a while.
  • It's really important to make sure family meals are suitable for your child, so add only a very small amount of sugar and salt and strong spices to your recipes.
  • Milk still plays an important role in your toddler's diet, though they need slightly less now, about three servings of dairy foods per day.
  • Providing your toddler is eating a good, varied and balanced range of foods, you could consider using full-fat cow's milk as the main drink. Although remember cow's milk contains virtually no iron.
  • If your toddler is not such a good eater, you may want to consider using a toddler milk such as SMA Toddler Milk to help ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need every day.
  • Your toddler should be eating a wide variety of foods from each of the food groups and you should be aiming for:
  • o 4 servings of carbohydrate foods a day
  • o About 3 servings of dairy foods a day (this includes milk, 1 serving is approximately 200ml)
  • o 1-2 servings of meat or meat alternatives a day
  • o 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Breastfeeding is best for babies. Good maternal nutrition is important for the preparation and maintenance of breastfeeding. Introducing partial bottle-feeding may have a negative effect on breastfeeding and reversing a decision not to breastfeed is difficult. You should always seek the advice of a doctor, midwife, health visitor, public health nurse, dietitian or pharmacist on the need for and proper method of use of infant milks and on all matters of infant feeding. Social and financial implications should be considered when selecting a method of infant feeding. Infant milk should always be prepared and used as directed. Inappropriate foods or feeding methods, or improper use of infant formula, may present a health hazard. This is not a breast milk substitute.

Read more like this:
The benefits of SMA Follow-on Milk
SMA's top baby recipes
About SMA and the SMA careline
SMA's guide to weaning
The benefits of SMA Toddler Milk

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