6. Moving forwards with more weaning foods

Cartoon of dad and baby eating together

Find out about moving fowards with healthy foods, allergies, family mealtimes and your baby's growth.

What sort of foods should my baby be having?

As your baby begins to increase the amount of solid food they eat, it is important to give them a wide variety of nutritious food.

This is because, after a few months, they will begin to reduce the amount of milk they drink.

Click on the links below for some useful meal ideas and recipes for your baby:

*Although this refers to 7-9 months, your baby could try these foods earlier if weaning started around 6 months corrected age.

Gradually, your baby will move towards having three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Up to around twelve months corrected age, babies don’t need snacks between meals. If you think your baby is hungry in between meals, offer extra milk feeds instead.

Here are some things you can include at main meals so your baby has a variety of food types:

  • A protein food, such as meat or fish or lentils/beans or egg - these foods also contain iron, which is very important to avoid iron deficiency and anaemia.
  • A starchy vegetable, such as potato, yam, or rice.
  • A vegetable, such as carrot or broccoli.
Fruit comp bigger

When your baby is eating three meals per day you can then offer two courses, for example, a savoury meal before a pudding like fruit or yogurt.

There is no set time when this will happen: follow your baby’s cues, which will show you when they are ready to increase the number of meals and courses.

Good to know

You can buy plastic bowls with a suction base. These are less likely to end up on the floor and also give your baby a good surface to move food around and explore it.


Preterm babies are no more likely to develop food allergies than full-term babies. The best advice on how to avoid allergies is the same as for full-term babies and can be found on the Start for life website - Safe Weaning | Food Allergies | Start for Life.

However, if you are concerned that your baby may have a food allergy, ask your GP for a referral to an allergy specialist and a dietitian.

It is best not to remove foods from your baby’s diet without guidance because your baby may miss out on important nutrients.

Avoid low-fat options

Low-fat options of foods, such as low-fat yogurt, are not recommended for babies and small children.

This is because they provide less energy, which is needed for growth. They can also contain more sugar.

Other foods to avoid

NHS Start for Life have a useful list of foods you should not give your baby for weaning on their website - Safe Weaning | Foods To Avoid | Start for Life

What about vegetarian or vegan diets?

If you choose to give your baby a vegetarian diet please speak to your Health Visitor, as they may need additional supplements.

It is not recommended that young babies are given a vegan diet, but if you have questions about this talk to your Health Visitor.

First Steps Nutrition have some useful information about early nutrition and links to other sources on their website - Eating well early years — First Steps Nutrition Trust.

Family mealtimes

It’s okay if your baby does things at their own pace, they’ve overcome a lot and they will get there in time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy the new experience together.

Katie, mum to Danny, born at 24 weeks

Family mealtimes are a really good opportunity for your baby to learn about food and eating. At first they may just watch the family eat, but gradually you can start to offer them small tastes and finger foods to try.

Sometimes, babies are more willing to try new foods from someone else’s plate and family mealtimes can be the perfect time for this to happen.

As your baby tries new things you will discover what their favourite foods are, and they will enjoy learning to feed themselves - and maybe feeding you too!

Dad and baby image

How babies learn about food

Babies learn by copying their parents and others around them. There are lots of things about meals and food that your baby can learn by eating with you:

  • Your baby will watch you while you eat, and this is a good chance to show them how much you are enjoying your food.
  • Your baby will learn about chewing skills by watching others eat, so make sure they can see you and others during a meal.
  • Try describing the texture, colour, and smell of the foods you’re eating.
  • They will also learn by watching you use cutlery to cut up food, move it around your plate and take it to your mouth to eat.

Be positive about foods, even if you do not like them yourself. This will help your baby to try more foods and increase their acceptance of many different foods.

Vitamins and iron

It is recommended that all children, from birth to four years old, are given a supplement of vitamins A, C and D. These are available from pharmacies and via the Healthy Start scheme. You may be entitled to free Healthy Start vitamins.

Visit the NHS Healthy Start website to find out - Get help to buy food and milk - Healthy Start.

You can also visit the First Steps Nutrition Trust's website for more information about good nutrition - Eating well early years — First Steps Nutrition Trust.

It is important that you carry on with the full course of any iron or vitamin supplements which your baby has been prescribed, either by the neonatal team or your GP. This will help replenish and maintain your baby’s’ stores.

By the time your baby is around one year corrected age, their diet should give them all the iron that they need. But some babies need supplements for longer: if you are advised to, carry on giving an iron supplement.

If you are not sure about vitamins and iron for your baby, ask your Health Visitor or GP.

Remember: Check the ‘use by’ dates on any bottles of iron and vitamins. Some iron supplements have a short shelf life once opened.

Vitamin D

All vitamins are important, and most can be provided once your baby is eating a varied diet that includes a range of different foods.

However, it is not possible to get enough Vitamin D from food because it is not present in large enough amounts.

Vitamin D can be made in our bodies by the action of sunlight on our skin. In the UK, this works from around April to end of September, but it is not a reliable way to get enough all year round.

This means your baby will need a supplement of vitamin D (not any of the other vitamins) once they have finished the vitamin course recommended by your neonatal unit.

Ideally, everyone in the family will take vitamin D, especially during the winter. This applies especially to new mothers, to help them recover their own vitamin stores and prepare for any future pregnancies.

This is because newborn babies depend on their mother's vitamin D stores for the first few months.

Look for a supplement which gives 400units (10ug) per day, this dose is suitable for adults, children and babies.


Observe, don't obsess. It's useful to keep an eye on growth but I should have observed what was in front of me, which was a happy and healthy baby.

Dally, mum to Jaivin, born at 35 weeks

You will probably have discussed your baby’s growth with your neonatal team during your baby’s stay in the unit. Their progress should be plotted in their hand-held health record (red book); if this hasn’t happened, ask your Health Visitor or GP to do it.

If you don’t have a copy of your baby’s growth chart and you think it would be useful, ask your Health Visitor for one.

Babies born preterm are often born small and may not put on a lot of weight while in the neonatal unit. However, they will gradually catch up in their own time or continue to put on weight along their own growth curve. Either of these growth patterns is OK.

Trying to persuade or force your baby to eat or drink more than they want to at mealtimes, or by giving extra bottles as ‘dream feeds’, does not help them learn to eat and will not make them grow faster. If they have a lot of milk from a dream feed, they will just take less milk and/or solid food the next day.

If you have concerns about your baby’s growth, discuss them with your Health Visitor or GP.