Stage 3 (around 9-12 months)
By this stage, babies should be having three meals a day, in addition to healthy snacks. Foods should be chopped, mashed or minced and include:
- Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, pasta or potatoes – around 2-3 servings per day.
- Fruit and vegetables – these can now be given raw or cooked and served with meals or given as finger foods.
- Milk (specifically whole milk) and dairy products (full fat) e.g. cheeses such as mild cheddar, yogurt, fromage frais
- One or two servings per day of soft cooked meat, fish, eggs (well cooked) or pulses such as beans or lentils
Foods should ideally be chopped or minced at this stage. It is important that babies are given lumpier foods at this stage to encourage them to learn to chew. Even if babies don’t yet have any teeth, they can still bite and chew and are able to process foods using the tongue, saliva and gums. Finger foods are great at this stage for helping babies learn to chew and feed themselves.
It is important that babies are offered a wide range of foods to make sure they obtain all the vitamins and minerals they need. Encouraging babies to try a wide range of foods at this stage will also make them less likely to become fussy eaters later on. Babies can be given two courses at this stage e.g. a savoury course of meat, fish or pulses and vegetables followed by fruit or yogurt/fromage frais.
Red meat, such as pork, beef or lamb, is an excellent source of iron. Pulses, such as beans and lentils, also provide iron but this is less well absorbed. However, vitamin C from fruit and vegetables can help enhance iron absorption so it is a good idea for fruit and vegetables to be given at mealtimes. Full fat dairy foods should be given as these are a richer source of vitamin A.
What to avoid when weaning
The following should be avoided when weaning:
- Salt – babies under one year should have less than 1g of salt per day as their kidneys cannot cope with very much salt. Foods prepared at home should have no salt added. While most baby foods do not contain added salt, other processed foods do, so it is important to check the label and avoid foods particularly high in salt.
- Sugar – frequently consuming sugar-containing foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay and may encourage a sweet tooth. Therefore avoid adding sugar to foods, or giving too many sweet foods such as biscuits and sweet desserts during weaning.
- Honey – honey should not be given to babies under one year because there is a risk it can contain bacteria that can cause a serious illness called infant botulism.
- Shark, marlin and swordfish – these types of fish should not be given to babies because the levels of mercury they sometimes contain can affect the developing nervous system.
- Raw eggs – eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are solid. Avoid any foods containing raw or partially cooked eggs.
- Whole nuts - should not be given to children under age 5 because of the risk of choking.
Weaning onto a vegetarian diet
With appropriate care, a varied vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients a baby needs for growth and development. The principles of weaning are the same for vegetarians as non-vegetarians. However, the energy and iron content of a vegetarian diet may be low and the fibre content high, compared to a non-vegetarian weaning diet.
It is important that the nutrients that would be provided by meat or fish are provided by other sources. Pulses (e.g. beans, lentils, chick peas) or other meat alternatives such as eggs or tofu, should be provided twice per day. Fruit and vegetables should be provided alongside meat alternatives as the vitamin C will help enhance iron absorption.
Vegan diets, which provide no foods of animal origin, are not recommended for young babies as it is difficult for them to obtain all the energy and nutrients they need. If a vegan diet is followed, then extra care must be taken in planning and extra dietary supplements may be needed. It is particularly important to ensure that babies weaned onto a vegan diet obtain enough iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D through dietary sources (including fortified foods) or a supplement.