Learning to eat

Once you’ve started to notice the signs that your baby is ready you can begin to teach them how to eat.

When babies first start weaning they don't know how to eat. All they've discovered so far is how to suck from a breast or a bottle so eating is a skill they'll need to learn. Part of this is getting the hang of how to move their mouth and accept food from a spoon, but learning to eat also builds up your baby's oral muscles and they'll need these for managing bigger pieces of food later on and for speaking, too.

baby in high chair with plate of food

Introduce textures gradually - from smooth...

Learning how to eat might seem like a mammoth task but a large part of it is about introducing different textures gradually. At first, babies need to get used to the sensation of solid food in their mouth, learning how to move food from the front to the back and then swallowing. That's why smooth textures are best when your baby begins weaning, because they're easy to cope with and digest.

...to a little more texture...

Once your baby can manage smooth purées, the next step is to start to learn how to chew and, for this stage, they'll need foods with a little more texture. To get the food ready for swallowing they'll need to move their jaws up and down a bit.

...to chunks and lumps...

When your baby is happy with a little more texture, it's time to move on to the third weaning step, and this is about learning to deal with small chunks and lumps.

...to toddler shapes and textures

Toddlers need fun and variety to keep them interested in their food and they're now ready to chew on more grown-up shapes and textures. Fun shapes will help keep them entertained as they become more independent and learn to feed themselves.

Slowly introduce new tastes

Learning to eat is also about introducing tastes gradually, and at the start of weaning babies need to get used to tastes other than milk. Babies are born with a liking for sweeter foods so naturally sweet flavours are easier for them to cope with at first. Vegetables like carrot, swede, potato, parsnip, pumpkin, butternut squash, peas and sweet potato, as well as fruit such as pear, apple, apricot, banana and mango are all good options when you start weaning your baby and until they are ready to try more adventurous flavours.

All taste preferences, have to be learnt so introducing your baby to a wide variety of sweet and savoury foods early on is important.

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