Ultimate Guide to Baby Weaning First Foods (Growth Stages, Recipes and More)
Is your baby ready to start eating solids?
Are you looking for the best way to transition your special little one from bottle or breastfeeding as smoothly as possible?
Do you want to provide a healthy and safe switch that won’t leave your baby struggling and unhappy?
If so, you’re in luck! This article is here to help you learn everything you need to know about weaning your baby.
When it comes to your baby first weaning foods are very important. You don’t want to choose something unhealthy or unsafe for your baby to eat, right? In this article, you’ll learn all about the 21 best foods to get your baby started weaning the right way. You’ll also learn how to prepare them properly so your baby can eat them easily.
If you aren’t sure whether or not your baby is ready for weaning, we’ve got tips to help you figure that out, too! By the time you finish reading, you’ll be armed with plenty of information to help you get started with the best foods to wean a baby.
Let’s get started!
What is Weaning?
If you’re a new parent or you’ve been raising your baby for a little while already, you probably know something about weaning. However, if you’re just starting to do some research, this may be a relatively new idea to you. Before you get started learning more about the weaning process, it’s a good idea to understand what weaning really is.
Basically, weaning refers to the transition your baby makes from drinking from a bottle or breastfeeding to eating solid food. However, it’s not so simple as just putting away the bottle and offering your baby some cereal. This is a lengthy process that can sometimes be stressful for both the baby and the parents, and learning how to successfully get through the weaning process is an important step in parenthood.
Some parents worry that weaning means their child no longer needs them as much or is growing up too quickly. If you feel this way don’t be alarmed! It’s normal to have these feelings, but weaning doesn’t mean your baby is suddenly going to be grown up and have no need for his or her relationship with you anymore.
As a matter of fact, you’ll still need to support and help your baby in many ways. The only thing that’s really going to change is the way in which you feed your child. And just think of how exciting it will be when one day you’re making PB&J sandwiches for your little one instead of warming up a bottle!
When it comes down to it, a weaning baby is proof that you’re doing something right. You’re raising your child and helping him or her slowly but surely grow into an older infant, toddler, and beyond.
When to Start Weaning
The most important thing to remember about weaning is that every baby is different. Even if your cousin’s baby weaned at 18 months and your best friend’s baby weaned at 3 years, your baby might wean at 6 months or 2 years. There’s no real way of knowing until your baby seems to be ready for weaning, and that’s okay!
Remember, too, that weaning takes a long time, and just because you start the weaning process at a certain age doesn’t mean your baby will be ready for completely solid foods by any specific time, either. It may take months for your baby to completely go off of bottle or breastfeeding, and that’s alright too.
Some parents choose to encourage babies to wean by a certain age. This has been a common practice for a long time, and it’s generally believed to be pretty healthy for the baby. If you feel like you’re ready to start working with your child toward eating solid food, you can usually start progressing that way anywhere from four to six months of age.
Other parents believe it’s better to wait and let babies self-wean when they’re ready. This is getting more and more common as parents change their approaches to raising children. This is also believed to be a healthy way to raise a baby, and there aren’t a lot of serious risks involved with waiting until your child is ready to wean without your encouragement. All babies will eventually wean, whether you start them on it or not.
Signs that Baby is Ready to Wean
Selecting the best food to wean baby with actually begins with your baby showing you that he or she is ready for weaning in the first place. There are many ways you can tell if your baby is ready to wean. Be sure to keep a look out for them so you know how to respond when the time comes. And remember: just because your baby is weaning away from breastfeeding or bottle feeding doesn’t mean you’re losing your bond with your child! Feeding time will change, but your relationship with your child doesn’t have to.
- Can your baby sit up and hold up his or her head? If your baby isn’t old enough to sit up without your help and stay upright without assistance, then it isn’t time to start weaning just yet. Your baby must be able to keep his or her head upright without help. Otherwise, weaning could be potentially dangerous.
- Is your baby putting toys in his or her mouth regularly? This is a very good sign that he or she is ready for solid food. When your baby starts exploring the world even more by mouth, this means it’s time to start introducing things that have different textures into your child’s diet.
- Is your baby still hungry after you feed him or her, even if you’re giving a lot more milk than you used to? Eventually, your baby will reach a point where milk alone just isn’t enough to satisfy him or her. When this happens, you’ll need to start supplementing the milk you offer your baby with solid foods, and this is a great time to get started on the weaning process.
- Is your baby watching you and other adults and older kids eating with interest? Children mimic what they see other people do, and all babies will eventually notice the people around them eating solid foods. They’ll notice the use of utensils and plates, and they’ll be interested and want to try it too. If your baby seems interested in solid foods, why not start offering them?
- Is your baby getting distracted while breastfeeding or bottle feeding? This is similar to watching others eating with interest. If your baby is losing interest in feeding the “old-fashioned” way, then it’s probably time for solid foods.
- Is your baby teething? Teething usually means it’s almost time to start weaning. Your baby won’t be ready for solids until he or she has a few teeth with which to chew them. Once the teeth start coming in, you can begin thinking about the next step in your baby’s eating habits.
How to Choose the Best First Food for Baby
If you’re looking for information on the best foods to start weaning baby with, you’ve come to the right place. You’ve probably heard a lot of information from people in your family and well-meaning friends hoping to offer you advice about what to feed your baby first. While you can always take some experienced advice to heart, you should also remember that your baby is different than theirs and that your experiences might not end up being the same. With that said, there are a few tips you can keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right weaning foods for your baby.
- Babies need iron-rich foods. After about six months of age, babies need more iron than they can get from breastmilk. For this reason, most types of formulas that have been made commercially available during the past several decades are fortified with extra iron. When choosing a first food, select something rich in iron to help fight against infant anemia.
- You don’t have to start with rice cereal. This is a common practice because it’s easy on the stomach, easy for babies to eat, and full of iron. However, if you’re worried about starting your baby on something high in carbs and sugars so early, you don’t have to go this route.
- Meat, fruit, and veggies can all potentially be a first food. You might have heard that babies started on fruit will get a taste for sweets and have a hard time learning to eat vegetables, but this isn’t always the case. And yes—you can start your baby on meat if you want to! Meat is very iron-rich and is recommended by some organizations as a baby’s first solid.
- You can try your baby with allergenic foods as early as you want. You might want to wait in the event of food allergies developing, but there’s no evidence to suggest waiting to introduce allergenic foods will keep your baby from developing an allergy. If he or she is allergic to peanuts, that allergy will be present regardless of when you offer peanuts to your baby.
Food Preparation Methods for Baby’s First Foods
When choosing what foods to wean a baby on, you need to take preparation into consideration as well. Your baby isn’t going to be able to tear into a steak for his or her first bite of solid food, after all! There are a few preparation methods that are most commonly used for weaning babies.
- Puree – At the beginning of weaning, stick to purees. Blend everything into a mush and make sure it’s very soggy and uniformly free of lumps. It might not look too appetizing, but it’s the safest way for younger babies to eat solids.
- Mash – As your baby gets more used to pureed food, you can introduce lumpy food. Mash cooked vegetables and fruits with a fork instead of putting them in the blender to leave a few lumps behind.
- Finger foods – Finger foods are a fun stage! As your baby gains more teeth and becomes more capable of processing mashed food, try finger foods. This helps with your baby’s coordination as well as with feeding.
- Minced – Wait until your baby is at least nine months old (or a few months into the weaning process) before you try minced food. These smaller pieces of solid food can be dangerous for younger eaters.
The 21 Best First Foods for Babies
Okay—are you ready? It’s time to learn about the best first foods you can give to your baby no matter what age he or she starts to wean at. Remember that, although the ages given here correspond to what works best for the majority of parents, every child is an individual. You might find that these ages are far off from the weaning stages that work for you and your baby, and that’s okay! As long as you progress from one set of foods to the next, you should be able to wean your baby perfectly with no trouble.
Four to Six Months
1. Rice cereal
You don’t have to start your baby on rice cereal, but you also can’t go wrong with a classic. If you choose to go with rice cereal, be sure to choose something organic made from brown rice. Don’t use something made from bleached white rice, and be careful not to use anything that has added sugars or other unwanted ingredients.
- If you like, you can make your own rice cereal by boiling a cup of water and stirring in a fourth-cup of rice powder.
- Simmer this for ten minutes while whisking constantly and you have a perfect baby cereal to mix with breast milk.
Lots of parents enjoy introducing bananas as a first solid food for their babies. They’re sweet, so babies are a little more inclined to eat them first than they would be with other types of foods. They’re also good for digestion and can help babies’ stomachs get used to eating solids.
- To prepare a banana for your baby, simply puree it (without the peel) in a blender until it’s smooth.
- You can also mash it with a fork when your baby gets more used to eating solids.
Avocados are a superfood, so why not start your baby on the right track early? These yummy treats are easy for your baby to digest and full of essential nutrients and healthy fats that will help your baby grow strong.
- Be sure to peel the avocado and remove the pit before you prepare it for your baby.
- Don’t leave any scrapings from the pit behind in the flesh of the avocado.
- You can usually just mash it up with a fork since avocados are so soft, but you can puree it in the blender if you prefer, too.
4. Butternut squash
Butternut squash is great for your baby since it’s packed full of vitamins and nutrients. Most types of squash are good baby choices—but stay away from spaghetti squash for now, since it can be too stringy and hard to digest, and may be a choking hazard.
- To prepare a butternut squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds.
- Put it face-down on a baking pan with about an inch of water and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.
- Scoop the flesh out of the rind and puree in the blender.
- Let it cool before you feed it to your baby.
Pears are packed with vitamins A and C, and they’re also a good source of calcium. Best of all, babies love them! They’re lightly sweet, so they can be a little more enticing than some other types of baby food choices. However, they’re not so sweet that your baby will get spoiled to having only sweet treats all the time if you feed him or her pears frequently.
- Peel your pears and dice them into small chunks, avoiding the seeds.
- Steam them gently and then place in a blender to puree.
6. Sweet potato
A perennial favorite of babies around the world, sweet potatoes are an incredible source of vitamin A as well as calcium, potassium, and tons of other nutrients.
- To prepare sweet potatoes for your baby, wash each potato and poke holes in them.
- Wrap them in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or until they are soft.
- Remove the skins and place in a blender to puree.
- Let sweet potatoes cool before you serve them to your baby.
7. Green beans
Green beans can be a good transition food when your baby is at the later end of this stage of weaning. Do not use canned green beans for this purpose, because they’re usually packed in sodium. Use frozen or fresh green beans only.
- Steam them gently and let them cool before you give them to your baby.
- If your baby is ready to move on to the next stage of solids, you can offer the green bean cut into tiny pieces. If not, offer the inside portion of the bean only.
Six Months to Nine Months
Some babies love beets and some hate them, but you never know until you try! Beets are a very healthy treat that can be prepared in a variety of different ways.
- While you can certainly boil and puree them in much the same way you would make potatoes for your baby, you can also steam them until they’re very soft and dice them into cubes for a baby who is a little further along in the weaning experience.
If possible, choose grass-fed beef so your baby doesn’t have to deal with any antibiotics or hormones the beef in question might have eaten while it was still alive. Organic meat is also a good option here.
- Broil steaks for about 4 minutes per side at about 4 inches away from your broiler.
- Cut them into small chunks.
- From here, you can puree the beef into crumbles in your blender, chop it into very small pieces, or shred it into small pieces. Just be sure none of the pieces are big enough to choke the baby.
Applesauce is an easy food to feed your baby since it’s widely available in the grocery store. While you can certainly make your own if you want to, it might actually be more economical to purchase a large container of applesauce marketed for adults.
- You can find all-natural applesauce options that don’t contain any added sugars.
- Look on the label to be sure apples are the only ingredient in any commercial applesauce, and it should be perfectly safe for your baby to eat.
Mango is full of tons of vitamins, but it can be dangerous for younger weaning babies to eat. Sometimes babies may be allergic to mango, so be sure you wait until the later end of this weaning stage to give it a try.
- To prepare your mango, simply peel it and dice it into very small chunks.
- You can serve it like this to your baby or you can mash it up with a fork and give it as a more pureed food instead.
12. Mashed potato
Any mashed potato recipe you can find will work for your baby, provided you leave out the extra salt. You might be able to get away with salting the water you boil your potatoes in, but that should be the only salt content—and even that isn’t required.
- Once your potatoes have been boiled and are very soft, you can mash them with an immersion blender or put them in the food processor to blend.
- You can mix them with breast milk or formula if you like, or you can serve them with no added milk content.
13. Baby carrots
Be careful not to offer whole baby carrots to your child at this stage. They’re a very good snack if you cut them into small pieces first!
- Steam the baby carrots first to be sure they’re nice and soft.
- Slice them into rings and then cut those rings into halves or even quarters depending on the stage of weaning your child has reached.
- You don’t have to puree baby carrots, but you can if you want to.
It’s a good idea to wait until a little bit later to serve fish to your baby in the event he or she has an allergic reaction to it.
- When you serve fish, be sure to steam or bake it well and flake it up nicely before you give it to your baby. Let it cool completely before serving it.
- Always be sure the pieces of fish you give your baby are small and soft enough to be swallowed, and take extra care not to give any fish bones to your child.
15. Shredded chicken
When preparing chicken for your baby, start by cooking it a little more well-done than you likely would for an adult. You don’t have to burn it, of course, but just be sure everything inside is completely done.
- Slice it up into chunks and then shred those chunks into fine pieces.
- As with fish, be sure you don’t give your baby any large pieces that could block his or her breathing. There’s no need to season chicken for babies.
16. Soy products
You don’t have to introduce soy products at this age if you don’t want to, and since they can be potential allergens, some parents opt to avoid them until later on in a child’s life.
- Tofu is a good food for babies because of its soft consistency and tons of protein, so you might be ready at about a year or older to introduce soy into your baby’s diet.
- You can also start him or her on soy milk at this time if you choose.
17. Cow’s milk
Most parents wait until at least a year of age before cow’s milk is introduced into the baby’s diet. Cow’s milk can be an allergen, and some babies may be lactose intolerant.
- If you choose to introduce cow’s milk, be sure to wait at least four days before starting on anything else new afterward.
- This way, you’ll be able to tell if your child is having a bad reaction to drinking dairy products or not.
Once again, these are a common potential allergen, so it’s best to wait until your baby is a little bit older before you give strawberries. Strawberries can also make your baby too attached to sweet fruits in some instances, although this isn’t always the case!
- By the age of one year, you should be able to slice strawberries into small pieces and give them to your baby without having to puree them first.
- Be sure your baby doesn’t eat the greens, but the seeds should be perfectly safe for this age.
19. Peanut butter
Babies often love peanut butter, and if you wait until they are at least a year old, you should be able to give it to them with no trouble. However, if your baby is still having some trouble swallowing larger pieces of food, you might want to wait a little longer. Peanut butter is very sticky, and it might catch in your baby’s throat or mouth.
- If you prefer, you can use organic peanut butter, which has more oil in it than processed peanut butter and is much runnier overall.
When your baby gets a little bit older, you can start offering eggs. It’s not a good idea to offer undercooked eggs at this point, but hard-boiled eggs and scrambled eggs are both excellent choices that are sure to please your little one.
- Prepare scrambled eggs with no added milk for best results.
- Hard-boiled eggs should be chopped into small pieces that your baby may want to pick up and eat on his or her own.
21. Citrus fruit
Save citrus fruit for later on in your baby’s weaning adventure. These fruits may be allergens in some cases, and they are often very difficult for little ones to digest. However, when you wait until later on, your baby is sure to enjoy the flavor of chopped oranges, grapefruit, and more!
- Be sure to finely dice any fruits you give your baby and don’t offer any that are packed in sugary syrup.
- Select fresh fruits whenever possible, or go for fruit cups packed in water.
Now that you know what food to wean a baby on, you can get started with your baby as soon as he or she is ready! Remember not to force weaning, but also try not to force your baby to continue breastfeeding or bottle feeding for longer than he or she wants to, either. Your baby will know when it’s time to get started weaning in most instances, and if it seems to be taking a while for your child to be ready, you can always ask your doctor for more advice before you make any final decisions.
When you’re weaning baby first foods can be complicated and confusing. But when you keep our tips and suggestions in mind, you’ll have plenty of luck helping your child transition to more solid food. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or look around online for more information about a potential first food for your child.
With plenty of research and education to help you out, weaning your baby will be a snap!