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a guide to weaning

feeding buyers guide

a guide to weaning

Your baby's nutritional needs change constantly as he grows, so you'll find when he is small he needs feeding more frequently, and when he gets to somewhere between five and six months old he'll seem hungrier for something other than milk. Here is a quick guide to what your baby may require at each stage. It's worth bearing in mind that all babies are different and may require smaller amounts or need weaning earlier than others. Trusting your instincts can help you to decide what your baby needs.

From birth to 6 months

Breast or formula milk provides all of your baby's needs. At this early stage your baby's gut is not ready for other foods. You will be giving around 6-8 breast/bottle feeds per day.

From 6 months

Introduce baby rice, pureed fruit and vegetables. Your baby is learning to take food from a spoon rather than the breast or bottle. Start once a day with one to a few teaspoons - let your baby's interest and appetite guide you. You will be giving around 5-8 breast/bottle feeds per day. Your baby may want less milk after solids.

From 7 months

Widen the range of foods, e.g. pureed meat, fish, chicken, pulses, whole fat yoghurt and custard. Increase the number of meals to two then three a day as your baby gets used to food from a spoon. Your baby will close her mouth or turn her head away when she has had enough. Never force your baby to have more than she wants to. Start to introduce finger foods such as toast fingers, cooked vegetables and soft fruit. You may be giving around 5-8 breast/bottle feeds per day. Your baby may want less milk after solids.

From 8 to 9 months

Your baby should now be having three meals a day - including a range of sweet and savoury foods. Your baby will probably be managing 1/2-1 small bowl/jar of food at each meal. Iron rich foods such as meat and fortified cereals are particularly important because the stores your baby was born with will now be used up. You will be giving about 4-6 breast/bottle feeds per day. You can offer water or well-diluted juice at mealtimes from a lidded cup if desired. At around 9 months start mashing food rather than pureeing. Introduce more finger foods such as fruit, cooked vegetables and bread sticks.

From 9 to 12 months

Encourage self-feeding - with fingers and a spoon. Start chopping food rather than mashing at around 10 months. You may be giving about 3-4 breast/bottle feeds per day.

From 12 to 15 months

Your baby should be eating the same food as the rest of the family - chopped into small pieces to make it easier to manage. Your baby may also need 2-3 small snacks each day, for example fruit, toast, yoghurt, breadsticks or plain biscuits.

You can now start to give about 500mls (1 pint) of full cream cow's milk at this age - or you can continue breastfeeding. Try to give all drinks from a cup rather than a bottle. You can give up to 3-4 small cups of water per day - any more may put your baby off their food.

How to clean your baby's teeth

Avoid battles at tooth-brushing time by starting a routine as soon as your baby's first tooth appears (usually at around six months). Use a toothbrush designed for babies and a low-fluoride children's toothpaste.

At this age the easiest way to brush is with your baby sitting on your lap, with their head cradled in the crook of your arm. Twice a day gently ease the toothbrush into their mouth and give their teeth a quick once-over. Let your baby chew the brush and investigate if they want to, but then gently take it back and brush some more. Gently brush in circular movements around each tooth, with the bristles aimed where the tooth and gum meet. Work right around the mouth so you don't miss any.

Turning the whole experience into a game like 'here comes the aero plane' may help, but you want them to like the idea of brushing so don't force them to open up. As your child gets older, sit them on your knee. Use only a smear of children's toothpaste on the brush, as too much toothpaste can lead to fluorosis (white patches or mottling on the teeth).

As they grow, let them have a go at doing their own teeth, and you do yours at the same time. Make it a positive, fun routine. When you've both finished brushing, make a game of checking each other's teeth - this will give you the opportunity to brush their teeth yourself. Remember that young children love to copy.

Don't give up it will be worth it! Weeks of 'having a go' morning and night will eventually develop into a healthy daily routine.