1. About our weaning guide

Cartoon of baby in high chair with spoon in the air

This page talks about what our weaning information covers and things to be aware of if your baby was born premature or sick.

What does our weaning guide cover?

1. About our weaning guide

  • How can weaning be different with a premature baby?
  • The development of eating and drinking

2. Getting started with weaning

  • How do I know if my baby is ready to start weaning?
  • How do we start weaning?
  • How should my baby be sitting for weaning?

3. What foods can my baby have while weaning?

  • What sort of foods should I start feeding my baby?
  • Useful tips for introducing food
  • What if my baby refuses food while weaning?

4. Introducing textured foods

  • How should I introduce textured foods?
  • Finger foods
  • Gagging and choking

5. What drinks can my baby have while weaning?

  • Milk feeds
  • Using a cup

6. Moving forwards with more weaning foods

  • What sort of foods should my baby be having?
  • Allergies
  • Vegetarian and vegan diets
  • Family mealtimes
  • Vitamins and iron
  • Growth

7. Things to remember when weaning your baby

After a very early arrival at 26+3 weeks, and 11 weeks in the unit, we found weaning to be a positive experience. Every meal time feels like a further nutrition boost for our superhero!

Rachel, mum to Charlie

This information is about introducing your premature baby to solid foods. This is known as ‘weaning’. You may also hear people call it ‘introducing complementary foods’ or ‘complementary feeding’. These mean the same thing.

The word ‘weaning’ can sometimes also be used to describe stopping breastfeeding or bottle feeding – that is not how we are using the word here. Here it means starting to eat solid foods alongside breast or bottle feeding.

This information has been written by a group of parents and specialist healthcare professionals who work on neonatal units and in the community. They are: dietitians, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

Before you read on...

The information in this booklet differs in some ways from our previous advice. We are now advising that you respond to your baby’s cues that they are ready to begin weaning, rather than just considering their age. Also, we are using "corrected age" rather than "uncorrected" age to advise the earliest and latest ages to consider weaning. There is evidence that this approach will ensure your baby is developmentally ready to start, which will make the process easier.

If your baby was very ill while in the neonatal unit, or has additional long term medical or developmental needs, you may need more specific support with weaning than is available in this guide. If you don’t already have follow-up with your local neonatal team, ask your community healthcare team about referral for more individual advice.

'Corrected age' and 'uncorrected age'

Your baby's uncorrected age is the number of weeks or months since their birth. Your baby's corrected age is the number of weeks or months since their original due date. So, they can only have a corrected age once they have passed their due date!

E.g. For a baby born at 30 weeks gestation age (10 weeks early), who is now 12 weeks old:

Uncorrected age is 12 weeks

Corrected age is 2 weeks

How can weaning be different with a premature baby?

This guide is specific to weaning babies who were born premature because:

  • Parents with a baby born early can find it difficult to know when they should start weaning their baby. This information will help you to decide when is a good time to start.
  • Babies who were born preterm may develop more slowly than babies who were born at full-term. They will usually sit at a later age, so this guide suggests when your baby might be ready to start weaning, taking this into consideration.
  • Parents may feel unsure about how their baby will manage weaning after such an unplanned or unexpected start to life. This guide aims to walk you through the process and make it as enjoyable as possible.

Many of the recommendations about weaning babies born preterm are the same as for babies born at term. There are national recommendations which are available at https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/weaning/.

There are also some good meal ideas and information available from an independent website: Eating well: the first year.

Throughout this section we will signpost you to links in both websites where this is helpful. 

My baby was born at term but sick – can this information help me?

We talk about weaning premature babies in this information. If your baby was born at term but sick, you might also have questions and worries about weaning your baby.

It is important that you always speak with your health professional for advice. Your baby’s care will be very specific to their condition, how well they are currently, and many other factors which must be taken into account.

However, a lot of the information here – in particular the signs your baby is ready to start weaning and how you can approach starting to wean – will also be relevant for babies born at term.

If you have any questions about weaning before you start, and would like specific advice tailored for you and your baby, do talk to your GP, dietitian, health visitor or consultant. This may be most relevant for babies born very prematurely.

The development of eating and drinking

All babies reach a stage when they are ready to try solid food alongside their milk. Your baby will gradually develop skills in holding and exploring the food they are offered. This includes touching, tasting and smelling it.

Over time, you will notice your baby gradually needing less support to sit and they will bring food and other objects to their mouth by themselves. Your baby will push food out less with their tongue and learn to bite and chew. Given the opportunity they will also learn to drink from a cup, beaker and straw.

Your baby will also learn to eat by watching you eat. Mealtimes are an excellent time for this as they are sociable and enjoyable. Eating together as a family helps you and your baby learn together about weaning.


All babies develop and progress with weaning at their own pace. There can be big differences between preterm and term babies, and also between different preterm babies, even if they are born at the same gestational age. So, try not to compare your baby with any others.

If you have twins, triplets or more it is natural to compare their progress, however each baby will develop their feeding skills at their own individual pace.