What equipment do I need for weaning?

Baby in highchair

When it comes to weaning your baby you're going to need to invest in a few essentials to make the ride smoother (and less messy). From blenders to bibs, here's our guide to what you definitely need, what might be helpful and what you can probably do without.

Gearing up for weaning is a bit like gearing up for having a baby (all over again). You can rush out and buy loads of spanking new (and inevitably complicated-to-assemble) equipment, or you can borrow/beg/steal a few essentials from friends and see how you get on.

The weaning equipment market is vast and competitive, so it's important to know what you definitely need but you also don't want to shell out for something that gets used once and never again.

You'll find that what works for one baby – whether that's a type of spoon, bib, bowl, or something else – won't work for another, so there's plenty of room to experiment.

Essential baby weaning equipment

Highchairs

One thing you will need to make sure you have is something for your baby to sit on – as in a highchair or a booster seat that clips onto an ordinary chair to lift your baby up within reach of the table. Sitting unaided is one of the signs of being ready to wean, so make sure you're not starting too early.

Don't underestimate the value of a highchair that's easy to wipe clean. Highchairs get gunked. Food gets ground in them several times a day every day – that's a lot of scrubbing out nooks and crannies.

If your baby has special needs, you should discuss sitting up and weaning with your health visitor or doctor. They might recommend that you use a car seat or bouncy chair to help her sit up until she can do it on her own.

Highchairs come in all shapes and sizes, but far more important than whether or not it complements your kitchen decor is whether it can fold away (if you need it to), comes with a tray (if you want it to) and is easy to clean.

Bibs

Buy several, preferably with long sleeves for maximum splat deflection. They come in many shapes and styles, so see if you can catch some crumbs of wisdom from other parents before you buy.

A plastic bowl/plate

It must be hurl-on-the-floor-proof, as you never know how your baby’s going to react if she takes exception to the way you’ve mushed her parsnip. You can get bowls with suction pads that stay in place on the highchair tray, although some Mumsnetters aren’t convinced they work and feel the sucker simply provides more force with which to hurl the food over her shoulder when she finally manages to work it loose.

Small, soft spoons

You'll need at least two spoons: one to feed with and one for your baby to grab and wave about. There are plenty on the market so find one that suits your child.

First cup

At around six months, your baby will start to slowly move from bottles over to her first cup. The market is full of trainer cups and beakers, and they vary in price, but you should find a decent one for less than a fiver.

A big piece of oilcloth will be fine as a splash mat. I don't remember liquids running off particularly, and it's very easily cleaned.

Something to protect the floor

As in a 'mess mat', an old sheet or shower curtain or some sheets of newspaper – the options are many but just make sure it catches everything.

Baby weaning eating food with spoon

Useful options

Portable highchair

These are great if you’re out and about a lot with your baby. You can set it up anywhere and it makes dining away from home far more straightforward.

Booster seat

If your baby has grown out of her highchair then it might be time for a boost. Some Mumsnetters praise booster seats for their portability, and they’re often convenient to clean with easy-wipe surfaces. Some other parents argue that you might as well just put a cushion on a dining chair.

A blender

This will help to make your baby’s food a digestible shape and size. This really speeds things up but do remember that the zap-everything-into-a-purée stage is pretty short, so you don’t want to spend too much money. A hand-held blender for making soup does the job just as well and you’ll get plenty of use out of it afterwards too.

Potato ricer

This can be used to finely mash vegetables – potatoes, squash, parsnip. It helps you introduce your baby to different textures of food.

Plastic ice-cube trays

These are a real favourite among Mumsnetters and are especially useful if you want to get a load of purées ready in reserve. Batch cook them then shove them in the freezer in trays and, when the day comes that you really can’t face another session with the blender, you’ll have these ready.

Stock up on lots of small tupperware containers so you can cook in bulk and freeze. Also get a cool bag so you can feed your baby while you're out and about.

Freezer bags

Once you’ve frozen your purées in ice-cube trays you can pop them out and into freezer bags which are more convenient to take with you if travelling.

Storage pots

Again, these are great for freezing baby-sized meals, if you prefer this to the ice-cube tray method. Or you can simply use them to pop a couple of frozen ice-cube meals into when you go out. Make sure the lids are tight so you don’t get a handbag-ful of parsnip mush, though.

Disposable bibs

You might not fancy carrying around a dirty bib, so disposable ones are useful when you’re going out.

How do I keep weaning equipment clean?

As long as you follow the official advice and don't wean until six months, you don’t need to sterilise your weaning equipment. By then your baby’s immune system has developed so much that she’s unlikely to pick up an infection. That said, you still need to be hygienic, so make sure you:

Ikea does a waterproof bib with elasticated sleeves that washes perfectly, dries quickly, and protects from most of the food.
  • Wash your hands before preparing all your baby’s food.
  • Wash plates, bowls, spoons, forks after every meal in hot soapy water. If using a dishwasher you’ll probably need to wash them again in the sink to be doubly sure everything is clean.
  • Wash your baby’s bibs on a hot wash – they get disgusting pretty quickly and she’s likely to chew them.
  • Keep sterilising your baby’s bottles until she’s 12 months old – old milk can cause nasty tummy bugs and it’s hard to get into all the crevices of a bottle just by washing it. Always wash bottles with soap and hot water before sterilising.