Frequently Asked Questions

Whatever stage of the weaning process your baby is currently at, we know it’s a new experience for both of you. That’s why we’ve used our 30 years of expertise to bring you this list of the most frequently asked questions that weaning parents have asked us. We hope they help!
Q:

Why is weaning important?

As the days and weeks go by, your baby continues to grow and become more and more active, they will soon reach a stage when they need more nutrients and energy from their diet than they get from milk alone.

Weaning is the gradual introduction of solid foods into your baby’s existing milk-only diet. Thanks to the essential nutrients it provides, milk will still continue to form an important part of your baby’s diet, but in addition to the extra nutrients and energy that the gradual introduction of solids will start giving them, the process of weaning will also start to develop your baby’s speech development muscles, not to mention their nascent social skills and sense of independence.
Q:

When is the right time to start weaning?

Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. The Department of Health and Children recommends exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life and continue with the combination of nutritious foods for up to 2 years and beyond. The most recent infant feeding guidelines as set by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (2012) recommend that all babies are weaned onto solid foods at about 6 months of age. For developmental and nutritional reasons weaning should not begin before 4 months (17 weeks) and should not be delayed beyond 6 months (26 weeks).
Q:

My baby was born prematurely. When should I start to wean them?

The latest guidelines on weaning healthy premature babies, jointly published in August 2011 by dietitians from the UK and Ireland, state that the weaning process can safely begin somewhere between the ages of 5 months and 8 months from the date of your baby’s birth (in other words, their uncorrected age).

Of course, with those age brackets in mind, what’s also very important is that your baby is showing the signs and skills which should indicate that they’re actually ready themselves to begin the transition to solids.

Your healthcare professional should usually be available for guidance and advice in all aspects of your baby’s growth and development, so if you think that your baby is displaying some or all indications of being ready to wean, contact them for advice.
Q:

What do I need to start weaning?

Once your baby is giving you signs that they’re ready to begin weaning, you should prepare for their first steps on the road to solids by investing in a few simple kitchen and baby utensils. You may already have some of these to hand, but the following is a good list of weaning “must-haves”:

• Baby spoons – small flat weaning spoons will be needed initially
• Small, durable plastic bowls
• Beaker. A beaker should only be introduced from 6 months
• Liquidiser or hand blender
• Ice-cube trays. If puréeing large quantities, you’ll want to freeze some to use later
• Sieve. For smaller quantities of food, you can use a standard fork and sieve to purée.
• Highchair/car seat. Your baby will need to be in an upright position and well supported
• Bibs
Q:

How should I start weaning?

Once your baby’s indicated that they’re ready to start weaning, and you’ve got the necessary utensils to hand, then it’s time to begin - spoon by messy, exciting spoon!

Start with giving a spoon feed once a day at a quiet time of day, as it helps if both you and they are relaxed and in good form ahead of this brand new experience. Lunchtime is often a good time to start. Ideally, you should give your baby their usual milk feed first, so they are not too hungry. Once they’ve had their milk feed, offer them just one or two teaspoons or baby spoons of for example pure baby rice, mixed with their usual milk. At the beginning you are just getting your baby used to a spoon and introducing texture to your baby’s mouth (Check out our 4month+ meal planners for ideas for the first few weeks of your baby’s weaning journey).

Always remember to check the temperature of the food and stay with your baby throughout the feeding process.

Above all else, it’s good to keep remembering that the key word with weaning is “gradual”. Just as each baby is different from the next, each one will have their own timescale for beginning and progressing through their own weaning process. Be patient each time, let your baby react to the food whatever way they will (even touching it is okay) and be prepared for a bit of mess!

Q:

What are the best foods to start weaning my baby with?

First foods should be:

Thin & runny –
• Start with a runny, liquid like consistency similar to milk and gradually make the consistency thicker as your baby gets used to eating from a spoon
• Baby Rice is recommended by healthcare professionals as an ideal first food because of its gentle flavour and runny consistency. Baby rice is also very easy to digest
• Pureed vegetables and fruit, such as carrots, sweet potato, apples or pears are also recommended.

Smooth to start -
• Your baby does not yet have the ability to chew, so ensure there are no lumps and their food is smooth throughout. You will find a hand blender helpful.

Introduce one new food at a time -
• Foods should be introduced one at a time, leaving a few days between the addition of each new food. In this way any adverse reaction to a new food can be spotted more easily. As your baby has a natural preference to sweet foods, it is better to start weaning with savoury purees first. If they get used to sweet foods first they may be reluctant to accept savoury tastes later on.
Q:

What's the best way to heat my baby's food?

You should always heat food properly and then allow it to cool, before feeding your baby. Babies don't normally mind food warm or at room temperature. Heat homemade food using a microwave or in a pan on the hob until it is piping hot the whole way through, stirring well especially if microwaving. Don’t be tempted to warm food partially.
If you’re using jars of baby food, stand them in hot water to heat them up.
Check food is hot all the way through. Then make sure it's not too hot before feeding it to your baby by stirring the food to remove any hot spots.
Never re-heat food more than once and throw away leftovers; food that’s been in contact with your baby’s mouth or cutlery may contain bacteria.
If you’re heating food in advance, don’t leave it to cool at room temperature for too long; bacteria start developing within two hours and multiply rapidly.
Q:

Can I start weaning my baby by putting rice in their bottle?

Even in a puréed form, you should never add baby rice, rusks, cereals or other foods into your baby’s bottle. This makes the feed too concentrated and may be harmful to your baby.
Q:

There is a history of allergy in my family. What foods should I feed my baby?

It’s certainly something that you’ll have to keep in mind. If one or more of your baby’s first-degree relatives (i.e. its parents and siblings) suffers from asthma, eczema, hay fever or a food allergy, your baby will unfortunately have a higher risk of developing an allergy themselves.

In such cases, it’s best to start weaning with the least allergenic foods i.e. baby rice, root vegetables, fruit. Once your baby is taking these foods, potentially allergenic foods such as egg, soya, wheat and fish can be introduced. These foods should be given 3-5 days apart. There is no evidence that there is any benefit to delaying or excluding these foods.
High allergenic foods should be introduced one by one, leaving a gap of 5 days between each one. Regarding peanuts, if there’s a family history of peanut allergy, some experts recommend avoiding peanuts (and products containing peanuts) until the age of 3 years. All children should avoid whole or chopped nuts until the age of five due to a risk of choking.


Additionally, the Department of Health and Children encourages the avoidance of gluten-containing foods up to six months such as bread, pasta, cereals that contain wheat, rye, oat and barley. Recently a European group of medical experts advised to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.

If you are concerned please contact your healthcare professional for advice.
Q:

I am a vegetarian and would like my baby to have a vegetarian diet. Is this possible, and if so, what types of foods should I include in their diet?

Weaning onto a vegetarian diet is certainly possible, although it does require an extra amount of planning to ensure that your baby gets enough energy, protein, vitamins, iron and other minerals that they would otherwise have gotten from meat. So it’s good to know that our entire Milupa range is vegetarian-friendly and that each delicious recipe offers your baby a good source of the vitamins, minerals and nutrition they need. Besides what our range can offer you, here are some other tips for vegetarian weaning:

Firstly, if you are bottle-feeding your baby, consider moving them onto a follow-on milk from six months of age. This will help provide them with the extra iron they’ll require at this stage. The iron in breastmilk is extremely well absorbed compared to any other food/drink.

In terms of foods, meat alternatives will need to be introduced, such as pulses, beans and lentils. You can introduce foods such as: well-cooked eggs (scrambled or hard-boiled); cheese; tahini (sesame seed paste); smooth nut pastes; soya protein; hummus; tofu. You may also be able to give your baby mashed or minced Quorn, but check that the salt content is suitable for your baby’s weaning stage. If in doubt, you can always check with your local healthcare professional, or contact the Spoon by Spoon weaning advice team on freephone 1800 303 541.
Q:

Can I freeze weaning food that I make up for future use?

We’re delighted to reassure you that yes, you can freeze plenty of home-cooked weaning food for future mealtimes! It seals in the goodness of your homemade purées. This is a wonderfully time-saving measure, but there are a few safety pointers to remember when freezing and defrosting food for your baby:

• The food must be properly cooled first, then freeze it as soon as possible so that bacteria don’t have a chance to creep in.
• Check your freezer temperature is set to -18°C or below.
• Small plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids or ice cube trays secured inside freezer bags are ideal for storing small portions (you can tap out the cubes into the bags once frozen).
• Label the containers or bags to remind yourself what the food is and when you made it. Never keep anything longer than three months.
• If you’ve fed directly from a bowl, any food left in it may contain germs from your baby’s mouth. So always throw away the food left in the bowl you fed from.
• Never re-freeze meals that have already been frozen.
Q:

Do I need to give my baby a vitamin supplement?

The Department of Health and Children recommend that all babies (whether breastfed, bottle-fed or taking solid food), should be given a Vitamin D3 supplement containing 5 micrograms (5ug) of vitamin D3 every day until they are 12 months old.Vitamin D3 is important because it helps our bodies use calcium to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.The vitamin D3 product you use should be in liquid form suitable for infants and contain only vitamin D3. Products that contain other vitamins as well as vitamin D (such as multivitamin products) should not be used.If your baby has already been prescribed vitamins you should seek the advice of your doctor before giving your baby any additional vitamin products.Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and give the correct dose. Consult your pharmacist, nurse, doctor, or dietitian for advice.
Q:

Why should I limit my baby's sugar intake?

Sugar can damage your baby’s teeth and may encourage them to develop a sweet tooth, which could affect their long-term health.
Try to choose foods that are naturally sweet such as fruit, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Keep an eye out for ‘added sugar’ in yoghurts or desserts – choose the ones with the least amounts or no added sugar, and look out for sugar or fruit juice concentrate in savoury foods too. Choose foods made especially for babies when you can, as low sugar/no added sugar products designed for adults often contain artificial sweeteners which should also be avoided.
Q:

Is it better to use fresh fruit and vegetables?

Fresh and frozen varieties are nutritionally equally as good. If using fresh varieties, choose those that are in season at the time.
Q:

When can I introduce foods that contain gluten?

The Department of Health and Children recommend that gluten containing foods should be avoided before six months, e.g. foods such as bread, pasta and cereals. All our Milupa 4 month+ cereals are gluten free.

Recently a European group of medical experts advised to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.
Q:

Why shouldn't I add salt to my baby's food when cooking?

Too much salt can damage your baby’s immature kidneys. The recommended daily intake for infants up to 12 months is 1g salt (0.4g sodium).
Sodium forms part of salt. To work out how much salt is in something, multiply the sodium content by 2.5. Some foods naturally contain sodium, avoid those with added salt (always check the labels).
Q:

What is the best drink to give to my baby at mealtimes?

Offer sips of cooled previously boiled water from a beaker with meals. If you choose to give pure juice, dilute it one part juice to 4-5 parts cooled previously boiled water and offer only at meal times from a beaker or cup.

If your tap water is not suitable for drinking, even after boiling, you can use bottled water that contains less than 20mg of sodium (Na) per 100ml (always check the label). Bottled water must still be boiled before use.

Tea, fruit drinks and fizzy drinks are unsuitable drinks for babies and children.
Cow’s or goat’s milk is not suitable as a main drink for children under 1 year.

It is important to note that breastmilk/formula milk will still play an important role in your baby’s nutrition during the weaning process.
Q:

How can I prepare my baby's food safely?

Your baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed yet, so even a few germs can upset their tiny tummy. Always wash your hands before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
Use separate chopping boards and knives for raw meat and fish, and vegetables and fruit.
All equipment and surfaces used to prepare and serve your baby’s food, including kitchen work tops, chopping boards, utensils, blenders and highchair should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.

Don’t forget to wash your baby’s hands before eating too − it’s never too early to establish a good hygiene routine.
Q:

How should I store ready made food such as baby jar meals?

Always check the best before or use by date.
Check the storage instructions on the packaging before freezing leftovers.
Use a clean plastic spoon to transfer a small amount from the jar into your baby’s bowl. You can then safely store the rest of the jar in the fridge, with the lid back on, for up to 48 hours (check the label as some manufacturer’s instructions may differ).
If you feed straight from the jar, any remaining food should be thrown away.
Q:

What foods should I avoid feeding my baby before they reach 12 months?

The following foods should be avoided before your baby is 12 months old:

• Added sugar. It can lead to tooth decay and encourage a sweet tooth.
• Added salt.
• Gravies, stoke cubes and packet/jar sauces, these can have a lot of hidden salt.
• Honey should only be given after 12 months as there is a small risk of botulism.
• Unpasteurised cheese, including soft and mould ripened cheese e.g. brie, blue cheese.
• Avoid whole or chopped nuts until the age of 5 years due to the risk of choking.
• Cow’s milk is not suitable as a drink before 12 months; small amounts may be added to foods.
• Hot spices.
• Eggs should be avoided before 6 months. After 6 months avoid undercooked eggs, cook them until both the yolk and the white of the egg are solid.
• Avoid shell fish until after 12 months.
• Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks should not be given before 12 months, they are not suitable drinks for babies.
• The Department of Health and Children recommend that gluten containing foods should be avoided before six months, e.g. foods such as bread, pasta and gluten containing cereals.* Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, oats and barely.

* More recently a European group of medical experts advise to avoid both early (4 months) and late (≥ 7 months) introduction of gluten and to introduce small amounts of gluten gradually while the infant is still breast-fed.

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