The weaning process is gradual and takes place over 3 stages. During the first stage it's important to remember that breastmilk (or formula) is still the most important food for your baby. Always offer milk first so that daily milk intake doesn't decrease too quickly during the first month of weaning.
Pick a time to start when your baby isn't too hungry or tired. Maybe best after your baby's mid morning milk feed and then you can keep an eye for any possible reactions. One new flavour a day for the first 1-2 weeks is perfect. Make sure to leave plenty of time so as not to rush your baby and just enjoy the experience.
Start with savoury
Starting weaning with green and white vegetables can help your baby get used to bitter flavours first before sweet. It can be more difficult in reverse if your baby develops a sweet tooth.
High fat or high sugar foods
Added salt. Babies under 1 year need less than 1g of salt/ day (1g salt = generous pinch). Processed foods such as pasta sauces, breakfast cereals, stock cubes and often even foods marketed towards babies have added salt in them so be on the look out!
Honey is unsuitable for babies until they reach 1 year old. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can cause infant botulism (food poisoning).
Low- fat foods such as low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese etc are unsuitable for children under 2 years (unless otherwise directed by a medical professional). Babies need good fats as they are an important source of calories and essential for energy and growth.
Whole or chopped nuts as there is a risk of choking
Processed or cured meats (such as sausages, ham and bacon)
Unpasteurised cheese and blue cheese. Soft, unpasteurised cheeses such as brie, camembert and mouldy blue cheeses such as stilton and castle blue carry a small risk of food poisoning and its best not to introduce these until after your baby's first birthday.
Tea or coffee
Foods to avoid:
If there is a history of allergies in the family, seek medical advice before introducing allergens into your baby’s diet.
In the majority of cases it is safe to introduce allergens into your baby’s diet after 6 months of age, including products containing peanuts. Never give whole nuts to a baby or a child under 5 years of age, as they are a choking hazard.
You should look out for any adverse reactions when introducing a new allergen into your baby’s diet. If you observe any side affects you should immediately seek medical attention.
An allergic reaction can consist of one or more of the following:
• diarrhoea or vomiting
• a cough
• wheezing and shortness of breath
• itchy throat and tongue
• itchy skin or rash
• swollen lips and throat
• runny or blocked nose
• sore, red and itchy eyes
In a few cases, foods can cause a very severe reaction (anaphylaxis) that can be life threatening and you should seek immediate medical attention.
Sources: World Health Organisation / Health Service Executive Ireland
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Gluten should be given to your baby from 6 months of age. If you introduce gluten to your baby too early (before 17 weeks) or too late (after 26 weeks) your baby has an increased risk of developing coeliac disease or type 1 diabetes.
Gluten should be gradually introduced in small amounts. Use the below table as a guide.
1 portion of gluten containing foods includes:
2-3 pasta shapes
1/2 slice bread
1 heaped teaspoon couscous
From 6 months of age, gradually aim to feed your baby 3 meals per day (2-4 tbsp per meal) and 2-3 snacks or finger foods in between meals. Food should be offered before a milk feed at each meal time. Finger foods are an important part of your babies diet to develop their hand eye coordination, encourage self-feeding and to increase their range of food and textures.
Below is a table of the suitable finger foods for the various stages of weaning: