Despite the mess and, well the rest of the mess weaning can actually be a really fun time. You and your little one get to explore new textures and flavours and combinations together. Going from only milk (breast or bottle) to solid food is, however, something that needs to be taken slowly and gradually.
There are a great number of fancy gadgets and “must have tools” on the market to help you master weaning. What you actually need are soft spoons (you probably have a collection of these already as they are a popular freebie for pregnant mums or new parents), bibs and some sort of blender (a cheap and cheerful handheld is fine as long as it does the job).
When to Start
The NHS suggests that weaning should take place from around six months onwards as a baby’s stomach/digestive system should be adequately developed by this point. Other signs that a baby might be ready could be baby wanting extra milk feeds, chewing their hands/fist and a change in sleep pattern, for example waking up hungry in the night rather than sleeping longer as before. Some babies might not be interested until seven months, they’re all different. If you aren’t sure about whether It is the right time to introduce food speak to your health visitor.
The first days and weeks of the weaning process are more about your little one learning about food, opening their mouth to take the spoon (which of course feels very different to a bottle teat or a nipple) and experiencing tasting and swallowing food. It isn’t about jumping onto full meals, just getting used to the idea. Stick to trying out foods at the same time of day to start to build a routine.
As time moves on you can offer larger portions and more frequently until your little one is eating regular meals.
Top Tip: Your little one might not be ready to spoon feed themselves however they might want to hold a spoon too in order to get used to it.
After those first tastes and tests (usually something fairly bland such as baby porridge) enjoy introducing soft fruits and vegetables such as pureed carrot and sweet, sweet potato, apple and pear and more.
Once you’ve started to gain momentum and your little one is enjoying a variety of spoon-fed foods move onto finger foods such as banana and similar. From there soft meats, potato, basically whatever you and the family are having that is soft, bone free and nutritious. Do remember to be careful not to add any salt and mindful of stocks and gravy as these tend to contain a higher amount of salt which should be avoided.
Are Bought Baby Foods Bad?
Not at all. While it is easier and cheaper to give your baby and toddler the same foods as you eat (mashing, slicing appropriately for finger foods etc) there are times when a jar, a pouch or a pot with pre-made tasty and nutritious food being available is a lifesaver. When travelling, when out and about, when in a rush; whatever your reason for using pre-made baby foods is don’t think these are a “cop-out” as they are there for a reason; to make life easier and to ensure that your baby has a range of suitable foods available. Indeed many new parents use pre-made baby foods when just getting started purely for the reassurance that the consistency Is “right” and the food is lump free.
One of the biggest fears of most parents when it comes to weaning is “what do I do if they choke?”. This is an excellent question and may be answered here. It might be worthwhile looking at finding a local first aid for babies and children course nearby if available as these skills will be useful far beyond the weaning stage.
Keep a Record
It could be useful to keep a note of what foods you’ve tried, when and how well they went down. Not only will this help you identify likes and dislikes (what a baby might dislike now they could well like in a few months time) it could also be useful if you are monitoring for allergies.
Allergies and Intolerances
If you are aware of allergies in your family you will probably already be proceeding with caution, perhaps leaving certain foods until your child is a little older. Many parents choose not to let their little one have nuts/peanuts and other likely allergy-related foods until much older. That said a child might be allergic or intolerant (these are different) to anything and so it is wise to introduce milks, eggs, shellfish, wheat, seeds and more slowly, gradually and one at a time. If you have reason to suspect your child might have trouble with certain foods, either through instances throughout your family history or because they have asthma or eczema etc discuss this with your health visitor before you get started.
Be aware that allergies and intolerances are very different. An intolerance may make someone poorly, giving them a bad stomach or perhaps causing a rash. While unpleasant intolerances aren’t necessarily dangerous. Allergies are different altogether as these may cause a range of complications, many of them very serious.
It is suggested that your little one only drink infant formula or breast milk until they are six months at least. This is based on advice from the NHS who believe that this should offer babies adequate nutrition. There is no need to immediately ditch the milk your child is drinking once you start weaning, indeed it is sensible to continue with formula / breast milk for their first year (after which cow’s milk may be introduced as a drink if wished). From six months cow’s milk may still be used in foods for example being mixed with porridge and similar.
Once you’ve started weaning an open cup or cup which offers a free-flow drinking experience may be introduced for water at meal times.
Don’t worry if your little one doesn’t take to trying foods straight away. If there’s one thing that us parents all know it is that babies and young tots like to march to their own rhythm and on their own schedule!
This is a basic guide to getting started on your weaning journey. Do discuss weaning with your health visitor if you have any questions, worries or concerns. Those of you who have weaned older children already, how did you find it? Do you have any top tips?