Gentle Guide to Weaning: Tips for
Introducing Solids with Wisdom

As parents, one of the most exciting yet daunting milestones we encounter is introducing our little ones to solid foods. Transitioning from exclusive breast- or bottle-feeding to incorporating solids into your baby's diet is a journey filled with discovery and, sometimes, a touch of uncertainty. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, let's explore the art of weaning and embrace a gradual approach that ensures a smooth transition for both you and your baby.

What is weaning?

Weaning, simply put, is the gradual introduction of complementary foods alongside breastfeeding or formula feeding. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in your baby's nutritional journey, where they explore a diverse range of tastes and textures beyond milk. Contrary to popular belief, weaning isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Each baby is unique, and the journey should be tailored to suit their individual needs and developmental milestones.

The term weaning can also be used to talk about reducing bottle- or breast-feeding, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

When should I start solids with my baby?

Determining the optimal time to introduce solids to your baby can be a common concern for many parents. While the traditional recommendation was to begin the weaning process around four months old, recent guidelines suggest waiting until around six months for most babies

At this age, your baby's digestive system is more mature, reducing the risk of allergic reactions and digestive issues. However, it's essential to remember that every baby is unique, and signs of readiness should take precedence over a specific age range. Always consult with your paediatrician or healthcare provider before starting solids to ensure they agree with your baby's individual development.

It’s also important to note that milk (breast or bottle) remains the primary source of nutrition for babies until about 12 months of age. Any solid food they have before that age should be for fun, stimulation, exposure to new textures, and practice eating and digesting other food types.

How will I know my baby is ready for solids?

Recognising when your baby is ready to start the weaning adventure is key to a successful transition. While there's no definitive age for starting solids, there are certain cues to look out for:

  • Head control: Your baby should be able to sit upright with minimal support, a sign that their neck muscles are developing well.
  • Lost tongue thrust reflex: Around the age of six months, babies typically lose the instinct to push food out of their mouths with their tongues, making it easier to swallow more solid food. 
  • Interest in food: If your little one shows curiosity about what you're eating, reaches for food, or mimics chewing motions, they might be ready to explore solids.
  • Increased appetite: If your baby seems unsatisfied after milk feeds or starts waking up more frequently at night, it could indicate a readiness for additional nourishment.

Tips for a smooth transition

Embarking on the weaning journey can feel overwhelming, but with the right approach, it can be an enjoyable experience for both you and your baby. Here are some tips to ease the transition:

  • Start slow: Begin with small amounts of puréed or mashed foods once a day, preferably at a time when your baby is alert and content.
  • Choose nutrient-rich foods: Opt for single-ingredient, soft foods such as avocado, sweet potato, or banana, gradually introducing new flavours and textures.
  • Follow your baby's lead: Let your baby dictate the pace of the meal. Pay attention to cues of hunger and fullness, and avoid forcing them to eat if they're not interested.
  • Make mealtime enjoyable: Create a relaxed environment free from distractions, and allow your baby to explore different foods through touch, taste, and smell.
  • Stay patient and persistent: It's normal for babies to reject certain foods initially. Be patient and offer a variety of options, reintroducing rejected foods at a later stage.

Purées vs. baby-led weaning

As you get started feeding your baby solids, you'll likely encounter discussions about the merits of purées versus baby-led weaning. Purées involve feeding your baby smooth, spoon-fed foods, while baby-led weaning encourages self-feeding with whole, soft foods from the start. Both approaches have their benefits, and the decision ultimately comes down to what works best for you and your family, and your baby's preferences.

Pros of purées

For many families, purées are what they are used to in terms of baby’s first foods. Familiarity reduces any anxiety and can help make the transition to solids smoother.

  • Controlled introduction: Purées allow you to control the texture and consistency of the food, making it easier for your baby to swallow and digest.
  • Nutrient-rich options: You can introduce a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods in purée form, ensuring your baby receives essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Gradual progression: Starting with purées provides a gentle introduction to solids, allowing your baby to gradually transition from liquids to more solid foods.

The best parts of baby-led weaning

For every parent who has intended to go the purée route, there will be a few babies who insist on feeding themselves. For other parents, it’s what makes the most sense. No matter where you stand, there are some excellent reasons to pursue baby-led weaning.

  • Promotes independence: Baby-led weaning encourages self-feeding from the start, promoting independence and fine motor skills development.
  • Exploration of textures: By offering whole, soft foods, baby-led weaning allows your baby to explore different textures and tastes, fostering a healthy relationship with food.
  • Family mealtime inclusion: Baby-led weaning involves offering the same foods as the rest of the family, promoting inclusivity and shared mealtime experiences.

Enjoy the journey together

Weaning is a significant milestone in your baby's development, marking the beginning of their culinary exploration and nutritional independence. By understanding the signs of readiness, embracing a gradual approach, and staying attuned to your baby's cues, you can navigate this transition with confidence and ease. Here's to enjoying this new chapter together, one spoonful at a time.


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