Let’s review some of the weaning equipment that’s useful in helping to take the stress out of weaning and get you started.
Babies can be introduced to solid foods when they are developmentally ready, around 6 months. You’ll need a few key pieces of equipment to prepare meals and a few basic items to support your little one on their weaning journey.
A high chair
As soon as babies can sit easily without support, a highchair with a broad, stable base should be used.
- It’s important that babies sit safely and they’re strapped in. The NHS recommend that you use a 5-point harness to secure your baby into a highchair. If the harness cannot be tightened enough, it will not support your child’s position, especially when they’re younger. If the highchair does not have a groin strap/ 5 point harness or a pommel, babies may slide down, and therefore not be supported to sit upright
- High chairs with footrests will support your baby to develop a good sitting posture as their feet can sit flat on the footrest. Having their feet on a footrest when sitting, increases stability and encourages your child to sit upright without slouching
- Sitting in an upright position helps your baby to swallow comfortably and spit food out if they need to
- There may be times when you don’t have a highchair, for example, when you’re out of the house. During this time, sit your baby on your lap, in an upright position, and ensure you can see their face.
Remember, it’s always important to stay with your baby while they are eating and drinking. This supports your baby to eat the food safely and you can offer lots of encouragement and praise, as well as role modelling.
- Choose a plastic bowls and plates that are durable and easy to clean – you can choose plastic (sturdy) or silicone (soft/flexible)
- Suction bowls are great for helping to reduce the likelihood of it ending up on the floor! A suction bowl can be useful for when your baby is feeding themselves, it allows your little one to push their fingers or a weaning spoon against the sides of the bowl without it being pushed off of their tray
- Plates with sections can be useful to divide up different types of finger food, helping baby to identify each food
- Check your baby plates and bowls can safely go in the dishwasher by checking the manufacturer’s washing instructions (e.g if choosing a bamboo plate/bowl it will need to be hand washed).
Soft weaning spoons
- Choose soft baby spoons that are made of rubber or plastic, as they’re easier on babies gums
- Metal spoons should be avoided as they conduct heat and can become hot. They are also a little hard on your baby’s gums.
Top Tip: If you’re using a spoon, wait for your baby to open their mouth before you offer the food. Do not force your baby to eat. Wait until the next time if they’re not interested. If you’re using a spoon, your baby may like to hold it or another spoon to try feeding themselves. Try lots of role modelling too, so that your baby sees you using the spoon as this will help them to learn from you.
What about mess?
We know that weaning can be a a messy time and you’ll probably be left wondering how your baby has managed to cover so many surfaces with food! But it’s all part of the fun and an essential part of your baby’s learning and development, so let them explore and get messy.
Of course you can also take precautions against the mess, so having easy- to- clean bids and perhaps even a messy mat, can be helpful. However, just make sure that you wait until the end of the meal to wipe your baby’s hands and face. It’s important for them to learn about food by touching and smelling it. They will also start to develop their hand, eye and mouth coordination, and so with practice they will get better at picking up the food and putting it to their mouth.
- Bibs are a ‘must’ at mealtimes as they can help to protect against some of the mess. Pelican bibs can be particularly useful as they’ll catch some of the dropped food!
A wipeable mat
- A wipeable mat placed under the high chair can help to make the clean-up easier after meals, as a lot of the food is likely to end up on the floor!
It’s recommended that from around 6 months you include a small cup of water alongside your baby’s meals.
- This will help them to develop their hand-eye coordination and most importantly, practice their sipping skills. This is important because it helps your little one to develop the muscles in their face which are helpful for biting and chewing.
- We also know that by 12 months, your baby should be drinking all of their drinks from a cup, so introducing it around 6 months will give them lots of practice and make the transition easier
- It can be messy to begin with, but keep trying as they need lots of practice!
- From 6 months, you can offer freshly drawn tap water (bottled water isn’t recommended).
There are lots of different infant and toddler cups available and it can be confusing knowing which are suitable. When choosing a cup, it’s helpful to think about how they will:
- control the cup
- control how much they swallow
- learn to master the sipping action.
Open cups help babies to learn how to sip and control how much they drink e.g. Babycup, Doidy Cup.
Top Tips for Using Open Cups:
- Offer small amounts of water initially and gradually increase the amount that’s offered
- Use cups that are easy for your baby to grip e.g. smaller cups or cups with handles. You may need to support your baby to hold the cup initially
- Role model yourself HOW to use the cup
- Keep trying at each mealtime and offer lots of encouragement and praise
- Don’t worry if it’s a little messy – it’s only water!
Other Suitable Cups:
If using a cup/beaker with a lid, it’s good to ensure that it:
- Is free-flowing: this means the water or milk will pour or trickle out if the cup/beaker is turned upside down. This requires your baby to sip rather than suck
- Does not have a valve: some beakers have a valve in the lid which makes them ‘non- spill’ and requires your baby to suck the liquid out. If you have a beaker with a valve, make sure you remove it before giving it to your baby to make it free-flowing.
A blender or sieve
- A blender and/or a sieve can be useful in the initial stages if pureeing your baby’s food to achieve a smooth texture
- Simply cook the food and push it through a sieve or blend it with a little of your baby’s usual milk (breast or formula) or water
- Full-fat cow’s milk can be used in your baby’s food once they are over 6 months of age.
A fork or potato masher
- A fork or potato masher is useful when progressing to more lumpy foods, as they’ll help to create small soft lumps in the food.
Ice cube trays and small freezer pots
- Ice cube trays or small freezer pots can be useful to store food when doing any batch cooking as they can easily be stored in small portions.
You can find lots of useful information on storing and reheating food on the Best Start in Life website, here.
Hygiene at Home
As babies immune systems are not fully mature, they are more prone to becoming ill if exposed to harmful bacteria. To reduce exposure to harmful bacteria, it’s important to take extra care with hygiene and preparing food safely.
- Thoroughly washing your hands before preparing food, and ensuring your baby’s hands are clean before they eat, especially if feeding themselves
- Cleaning all surfaces before preparing or eating food, especially chopping boards, with hot soapy water
- Washing equipment, such as bowls, spoons and cups in hot soapy water and rinsing well
- Cleaning and disinfecting your baby’s highchair and bib after each meal
- Washing and regularly changing tea towels, kitchen cloths and sponges, as they can harbour lots of germs
- Sterilising bottles and bottle attachments for as long as your baby uses them, whether they’re being used for expressed breast milk or first infant formula milk (see the ‘Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding’ section for more information)
- Keeping pets away from food and food preparation surfaces.
Food Standards Agency kitchen hygiene advice
If you need more information on introducing solid foods, we have lots of free resources available that will help you with meal planning.
- Parent Course: Feeding your Baby in the First Year is perfect for families about to begin their baby’s exciting food journey!
- Parent Webinar: You can also find out more about weaning textures by joining one of our free Weaning Your Baby webinars
- Tips, Recipe and Blogs: You can also explore our top tips, recipes and blog section for information on nutrition for your little one, along with fun recipes that children will love!
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you have any questions about feeding your baby and we’ll get back to you.
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