As a new mum with a newborn, there’s a whole host of support from family and friends to your midwife and GP.   However, as you settle into a routine (or something resembling it at least!), the support does tend to dwindle, so that by the time you find yourself at the weaning stage it may feel like a bit of a minefield.  What can I feed my baby?  How many times a day?  How much food should I be giving?  Baby-led or not?  It’s a tricky time, and one that many of us struggle with.

Holly Bell is the creator of Recipes of a Normal Mum as well as a mum of three and has recently weaned her youngest too. Here, Holly answers some weaning questions from real mums…

My twins were 6 weeks premature. Should I start weaning according to their due date or actual birth date?

The advice with prem babies is to wean according to their actual birthday – not their original due date. The charity Bliss recommends weaning prem babies between 5 and 8 months and not to be in a rush to wean at the magic 6 months mark as not all prem babies digestive systems are mature enough to cope. However, I would consult your health visitor and GP as all babies are different. Hope this helps.

Current advice is to wean from 6 months, but my 4 month old (17 weeks) is ALWAYS hungry, watching us eat and has started waking in the night again. What would you advise?

The current advice from the NHS is to wait until 6 months. You certainly shouldn’t delay weaning beyond 6 months (mainly due to your baby’s iron supply being too low by this point) though. Ultimately you know your own baby but beware old wives tales of babies being ready for solid food because they’re waking in the night, chewing their fists or wanting extra milk. If you are going to wean before 6 months then make sure your baby can sit upright without support in a highchair and keep their head still, can pick up food themselves and put it in their mouth without help and can swallow. If they’re not able to swallow they’ll push the food back out of their mouth. If you’re worried at all about what to do I would have a chat with your health visitor as it’s very hard to advise without seeing your little one in the flesh! Having waited until 6 months with Lawrence (my 10 month old) one of the positives was that he was VERY ready. He grabbed food and gobbled it up from the first meal. It’s made weaning feel relaxed and easy.

How many ‘meals’ should I be giving my 6 month old? I’m just about to start weaning, but am unsure about how to fit meals in around bottle feeds?

I would start with offering a little something after the first milk of the day, then something at lunch time before the post lunch feed and then again something at dinner time before the last feed and bathtime routine. This has worked for me when weaning all my sons but do be led by your son/daughter as they’ll soon make it clear if they’re interested in food or not at these times. I’d also manage your expectations of what constitutes a meal for a 6 month old. The amount of food they eat is (at first) about the size of their fist – and often more ends up on the floor than in their mouths! Hope this helps.

Please could we have some breakfast, lunch & finger food ideas?

  • Breakfast ideas – Organix porridge is great, toast fingers, slices of boiled egg, banana, pancakes always go down well and of course yoghurt.
  • For lunch my sons have always loved scrambled egg, beans on toast, cheese sandwiches, falafel, strips of pitta bread with hummus and beetroot dip.
  • Dinner time I tend to do a lot of classics like fish pie, cottage pie, meatballs, chicken strips coated in egg and a little flour and baked, homemade fish fingers, potato wedges, jacket potatoes, lasagne, fritters (lots of recipes on my site for these), noodles always go down well and fish pate too.

Hope that gives you a few ideas! Loads more here

I’d really like my little one to join in with family meals as soon as possible – how soon can he start to eat what we’re all eating?

As long as you aren’t adding salt to your food (add it at the table for the adults) or cooking with honey then your little one can easily join in with mealtimes. (Remember stock cubes are high in salt so buy some low salt ones if you use them). If you’re BLW then basically check the food isn’t too hot and then pop it onto his/her high chair tray. If going down the puree route then just whizz up whatever you’re eating and spoon feed. Lawrence has eaten pretty much what we eat from 6 months old. It’s admittedly very messy giving a baby lasagne but he’s much more of a self-feeder these days so the spoons are out and there’s a lot of mess!

When should I stop bottle feeds and how should I reduce them?

This is a huge subject and one that really you should talk to your health visitor about as if there are any health issues or weight gain issues the advice would be different. As a general rule of thumb is that once your baby is eating well at mealtimes you can reduce the milk offered accordingly. Gradually you’ll be able to drop mealtime milk feeds altogether. Obviously there’s no one size fits all age for this as all babies are different in their enthusiasm for solid foods. It is advised by the NHS to introduce a cup/free flow beaker at 6 months for giving water with meals. Then by 12 months to give all milk and water through a beaker or cup to ensure your baby doesn’t get into a comfort sucking routine with the bottle teat.

When should my daughter start to use a cup rather than a bottle? I’ve tried giving her both the anti spill type and the free flowing type, one seems like she can’t get any out and the other drenches her!!

This is such a tough one – my son suffers from the same problem and seems to either shake his free flowing beaker as a toy or doesn’t tip it up far enough to drink. So far we are managing by my helping him heavily. However this week he enjoyed his first drink from a regular cup (he’s 10 months) and he loved it. He got some proper gulps of water and looked quite pleased with himself for having a proper big boys drink. Give it a go and see how your daughter goes. She’ll obviously need some help but it beats watching them struggle with beakers!

What is baby led weaning and should it be used in place of regular weaning or alongside? Is there an ideal age to start?

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is essentially not making any purees or using any spoons and just letting your baby feed themselves. So you pop down a few pieces of food on the high chair tray and your baby picks them up and gnaws on them. The ideal age to start is 6 months old and there’s no need to feed purees at the same time unless you feel you want to. I personally have fed my boys puree at first along with offering finger foods and then have very quickly progressed to complete self feeding. Have a try and see if it suits you and your baby. It is very messy, be warned! A large piece of easy to wash fabric (like an old sheet cut up) is a good idea to pop under the high chair.

My 7 month old just doesn’t appear interested in food. Have you got any ideas of how I can tempt him?

My main advice would be to try not to worry, or at least to try not to show your baby you’re worried at all which I know can be hard. (Babies do seem to pick up on anxiety and then you can find yourself in a vicious circle). To tempt your son I’d try some fritters (babies do seem to love them – there are a few recipes on my site including this one and some of the Organix baby biscuits which are sugar free and very easy to hold for little ones. Also try and see mealtimes as a play experience more than anything to take the pressure off. So pop some blueberries, melon wedges, cheese cubes and scrambled egg down on his tray and let him have a play. Sometimes the process of making it fun and having less of an end goal of eating a meal can take the pressure off

Now that we are weaning (and it’s going really well!) should we be swapping formula for cow’s milk?

Depends how old your little one is – if he or she is under 12 months then no. If they’re over 12 months then yes. It must be whole milk though until they are 2 years old.

What are the signs that my baby may have an intolerance to certain foods? Since weaning, she has developed eczema and I’m worried that something she’s eaten may have triggered it.

Food intolerance (now called ‘delayed allergy’ – these names are always changing!!) is usually identified by a baby experiencing eczema, reflux, poor growth, crying in pain during/after eating, constipation and/or diarrhoea after having a certain food. The first thing I would suggest is making an appointment with your GP who will be able to help further. In the meantime make a food diary of everything your daughter eats and when she has eczema. If you see any links then make a note and give the diary to your GP.

Weaning has been going really well for us, but since I’ve started to give my daughter more lumpy food, she refuses to eat it. How can I encourage her to move away from purees?

My first born was like this – he hated lumps! Some babies do seem to have a stronger gag reflex than others and can develop a bit of a fear of anything lumpy. Have you tried offering finger foods? If she is over 7 months then try the Organix Carrot Stix. I’ve yet to see a baby turn them down! Try lots of pieces of soft fruit too – melon, pear, banana, blueberries, kiwi, etc. I would also try offering your daughter something like scrambled egg as it had an inconsistent texture but is also still soft. I hope this helps.

What are the best foods to start weaning with?

One of the most popular foods to start weaning with is baby rice as it’s very mild in flavour and easy to swallow. You can also try very simple purees such as apple and pear and mashed up banana. If you’re going down the BLW route then try pieces of avocado, banana and pear as well as pieces of mild cheese. All babies are so different in their tastes (like us adults) so your little one will soon let you know if he or she prefers one thing to another. Do remember that new flavours take a while to ‘bed in’ though. Try, try and try again (on other days) if something is rejected – take a look at the Organix guide to weaning.

I’ve heard that weaning with fruit can give your child a sweet tooth in later life. Should I stick with vegetables?

I’d be careful not to default to fruit when weaning as it can be harder to tempt your little one with more savoury flavours if they get too used to them. Variety, for me, is key when weaning. I try to offer a savoury ‘course’ then some fruit or a little yoghurt.

Wholegrains and fibre – what is the current recommendation as its changing so quickly for adults! Are there any good resources to help me know how much of each food group my 11 mo should be eating?

The current advice is as follows: Foods that contain a lot of fibre (such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and bran-based breakfast cereals) can fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods. This means that your child can get full before they’ve taken in the calories they need. Bran also prevents important minerals from being absorbed from the diet. It’s good for your child to try different varieties of starchy foods, but don’t give only wholegrain foods before your child is five years old. (Source – NHS)

How long should I carry on sterilising feeding equipment for?

If weaning under 6 months they you should sterilise weaning spoons and other feeding equipment but once your little one gets to 6 months you can stop. Bottles, teats etc for milk feeding should be sterilised until 12 months.

My baby seems really keen to wean, but keeps gagging after a few spoonfuls – am I doing something wrong?!

Some babies have a strong gag reflex – others less so. If your little one is happily eating the first few spoonfuls but then gagging he/she may have had enough. Babies don’t eat huge amounts when they’re first being weaned – sometimes a few spoonfuls fills their little tummies up. Plus solid food is a heavier sensation than milk which can lead to this feeling of fullness.

My son is 28 weeks, should I start weaning now or wait for signs that he is interested? What’s the latest I should start?

You should start weaning at 6 months, by this point your baby’s iron supplies will be depleted enough for him to need an extra source through solids. If your baby is already 6 months then there is no need to watch for signs that he is ready.

My 5 month old has suffered from reflux and posseting, but I’m wondering (and hoping) if this will improve once he starts on baby rice/ solids? Do you have any advice on this please?

I would speak to your GP and Health Visitor who I am sure will have lots of advice on this front. However, from what I have learned from other Mums with reflux babies – they have been big fans of elevating the cot a little at the head end (using a couple of magazines or thin books) to help stop any episodes when nap time and feeding are close together. They have also told me they’ve avoided giving overly fatty foods, oranges, apples, bananas and tomato based stews/foods to their babies. Chocolate causes probs too though I doubt you’re planning on giving that to your little one anyway – well yet! The good news is that all the mums I know told me weaning helped their baby’s reflux – I hope the same goes for your daughter.

I’m not sure that teething and weaning are a great combination! My 6 month old is chewing everything at the moment, including the spoon at mealtimes – the spoon’s a success, but the food isn’t. Any ideas?

We are in the land of teething at the moment so I feel your pain! I would suggest bypassing the spoon and offering foods your little one can pick up and gnaw on. Some pieces of pear, melon, toast with unsalted butter, cheese, carrot fritters and perhaps some weaning flapjacks will all offer a little relief from teething pain and also provide some nutrition too.