Stage 2 of weaning starts at around 7 months, after your baby has tasted their first foods and gotten used to the idea of eating. It usually lasts till around 9 months or so, and its focus is the introduction of a wide variety of flavours and lots of different textures. If your baby isn’t already eating three ‘meals’ a day, now is the time to establish that routine.
The second stage is also considered to be a ‘window of opportunity’, one that can mean that babies are much more receptive to learning to eat different types of food and textures. It’s therefore important, because if they miss this chance it can be difficult for them to learn these skills and preferences later on.
Nutrition is more important now than ever before, because your baby’s requirements are increasing. Planning their meals can help you to match their needs in the right way, so here is a simple guide to preparing meals effectively (see further below for specific examples for each step).
1. Start with an iron-rich protein food like meat, beans, lentils, eggs or tofu. Your baby’s requirement for iron is very high now, as the store they were born with has run out.
2. Add a vegetable and a fruit in, as these provide vitamin C and help your baby absorb the iron.
3. Add in an energy-boosting food too, as fuel for growth. Examples of these are avocado, nut butters, yoghurt, buttered toast, potato, pasta, sweet potato or grains.
In a word, ‘no’. During the early days of stage 2 it's all about learning and babies learn through play. Encourage your baby to explore, give them a spoon and place the food on the table or high chair tray in front of them, then sit back.
If you don’t already, sit and eat with your baby. They learn a lot from watching you, because babies learn by copying. It’s absolutely fine to spoon-feed your baby too, but pay attention to their cues so you know when they’ve had enough. Clamping their mouth shut or turning away are two tell-tale signs that mean ‘I’m done’!
Sometimes babies can pull a face that strongly suggests disgust. They may spit out, throw or refuse the food. Just follow their lead and don’t force the issue. But don’t be put off forever either – try that food again on a different day. We know that babies have immature bitter taste buds, so they have to learn to like certain foods. In fact, it can take 10 attempts or more for little ones to learn to accept a new food!
Milk (either breast or formula) and water are the only two drinks that babies need. Avoid baby juices, squashes, herbal teas and drinks for older children and adults, including tea, coffee, juices and fizzy drinks.
As food intake goes up, milk intake should gradually decrease. Some babies drop entire feeds by themselves, but others don't because they get a lot of comfort from feeding and tend to keep up the frequency but drink smaller amounts.
Between 7 and 9 months most breastfed babies feed around 4 times per day in between meals, while formula-fed babies need around 500-600ml (20oz) per day. Drinking more milk than this may slow their progress through weaning and limit the nutrients they need to get from food.
Between 7 and 9 months of age your baby is entering a window of opportunity in which they can learn to eat more complex textures, therefore it’s important to stop pureeing foods and start mashing them instead. This creates lumps in your baby’s meals and its the lumps that help your baby learn to chew.
Lumpy food can sometimes result in gagging. But don’t be alarmed, your baby’s mouth is very sensitive and a gag means that they have noticed a change and are dealing with it. Gagging is actually a reflex that prevents choking. If you have been taking a baby-led weaning approach, your little one may already be familiar with different textures.
If you haven’t ever given purees, now is the time to do it, as purees are a texture that all babies need to master. You could give them yoghurt and a spoon and let them self-feed – or it’s perfectly fine for them to use their hands!
Hard foods, or harder finger foods, such as long, firm sticks of raw carrot or celery and slices of apple, are often greeted with fear and seen as a choking risk. But they’re actually very useful for helping babies learn how to move food around their mouths and desensitise their gag reflex. So the purpose isn’t for them to eat these foods and, in fact, if your baby does start to get bits off, you should take these foods away and introduce them again later once they’ve fully developed their teeth and their chewing skills.
Softer finger foods are an essential part of every meal in stage 2. Examples include toast soldiers, sticks of cheese, batons of steamed carrot or broccoli florets. If you are looking for iron-rich soft finger foods you could offer your little one a boiled egg quartered lengthways, omelette strips, pieces of chicken leg meat or a homemade beef burger. If you’re following the baby-led weaning route your baby will likely have had these from the beginning, but if you’re doing traditional weaning make sure that around half of each meal is made up of finger foods.
1. Iron-rich protein foods:
● Soft finger-sized strips of roast chicken (the dark chicken meat is more nutritious)
● Fish such salmon or tuna chunks in spring water, cut into chunks of around 1” square or smaller
● Homemade meatballs, mini sausages or mini burgers made with minced meat like lamb, beef, pork or turkey
● Steak cuts like sirloin can be sliced into finger pieces, but ensure they’re well-cooked and not too rare (if the steak is pink in the middle, choose pieces closer to the outside that are well done)
● Slow-cooked or casseroled finger-sized pieces of meat such as beef or lamb (slow cooking makes the meat easier to eat as it falls apart easily in the mouth)
● Boiled egg (cut in quarters)
● Strips of omelette
● Eggy bread (finger-sized pieces of bread, covered in beaten egg then cooked)
● Scrambled egg with milk (or cream) and unsalted butter
● Frittata wedges
● Egg muffins
● Cubes of cheese
2. Vitamin C-rich foods:
● Peaches and nectarines cut into strips
● Very ripe pears cut into strips lengthways
● Melon wedges
● Avocados cut into strips lengthways
● Mango fingers
● Kiwi (remove the inner core)
● Strawberries and raspberries (halved)
● Broccoli and cauliflower florets (with the stem to hold onto)
● Carrot batons (steamed)
● Thick pieces of roasted butternut squash, sweet potato and parsnips
● Green beans
3. Energy-boosting foods:
● Toast or bread fingers with a thin spread of hummus or smooth nut butter (wholemeal bread is an easier texture to manage than white bread)
● Homemade potato wedges
● Crumpets cut into fingers with a little unsalted butter
● Larger pieces of pasta (penne or similar)
● Homemade savoury pancakes
● Sweet potato baked and cut into wedges
● Unsweetened breakfast cereal
● Risotto balls (arancini)
● Rice cakes