Starting your baby’s weaning journey is an exciting time. I felt a sense of bittersweetness - as it signified my baby getting that little bit more independent. After six months of lovely snuggly feeds and countless ‘milk drunk’ faces, weaning was a new kettle of fish entirely. I found myself questioning every little thing… For starters, will they even like food? How much milk will my little one need alongside their solids? And most importantly of all - how on earth do you scrub dried baby porridge off your kitchen walls? If you’re gearing up to start weaning soon - here are some tips and advice to help you get through it and enjoy this exciting new milestone as much as you can.
You should begin your weaning journey when your baby is around 6 months old. Baby should be introduced to a varied diet, alongside their usual breast milk or first infant formula.
At the very start of your weaning journey, you really only need to give your little one solid foods once a day. Choose a time that suits you both - breakfast, lunch or dinner - whenever your baby is at their happiest and go from there.
It’s important that baby is sitting up - a high chair is the safest place for them to be. Remember babies should never be left alone while they're eating.
Expect and embrace the mess! It can take some getting used to at first, but baby needs to learn and explore the textures of foods and they tend to do this by playing with their food. Make sure you have plenty of bibs. It may also be wise to invest in a sheet to go under your little ones highchair which will make cleaning up after them so much easier.
Watch and wait for cues from your little one as you go. Once they’ve had enough, baby will let you know by turning their head away from you or by closing their mouth firmly.
There are three signs of readiness to look out for which show that your baby is ready to start their weaning journey and they can try their first solid foods, alongside breast milk or first infant formula.
These signs usually appear around the time your baby is six months old.
The three signs of readiness for weaning are:
1. Little one can sit up and hold their head steady
2. They can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouths all by themselves
3. Baby is able to swallow food so more of it goes in their mouth than around their face.
The simplest foods to let your baby try at first are vegetables and fruits. Some popular foods to sample are mashed, blended or soft cooked sticks of carrot, parsnip, broccoli, squash, potato, sweet potato, apple or pear.
Soft fruits such as bananas and avocados are perfect first tastes too - they are easy to mash up with a fork or chop them into finger sized pieces for baby to hold and try for themselves.
Don’t overwhelm your little one with too many textures and flavours at once - take it slowly.
You don’t actually need to buy expensive baby rice or porridge - you can give baby weetabix and porridge (smooth) oats mixed with your baby's usual milk.
If you’re trying warmed foods always ensure you check the temperature and that cooked food has cooled down fully before offering it to your little one.
It's crucial to introduce foods that can trigger allergic reactions one at a time, in tiny amounts, so that you’re able to notice any allergic reaction straight away.
Some of the most common foods to cause a reaction are:
1. Cows’ milk
3. Foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
4. Nuts and peanuts
Here's a list of foods to avoid during weaning and the reasons why:
Should not be fed to babies until they are 12 months as it contains bacteria that can lead to infant botulism, a serious illness that can make your baby very poorly.
2. Whole nuts and peanuts
Pose a serious choking hazard and should not be given to children under 5 years old.
Has sharp edges/kernel flakes, can easily get caught in throat.
4. Sugary snacks
Causes tooth decay. Don’t add sugar to your baby's food either.
5. Salty foods
Can be bad for baby’s kidneys - Don’t add it to food. Avoid bacon, sausages, chips with extra salt, crackers, crisps, ready meals, takeaways, gravy and meals made with stock cubes.
6. Raw jelly cubes
These can get stuck in the throat.
7. Soft cheeses
These can contain a bacteria called listeria, these include: mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie or camembert ripened goats' milk cheese, such as chévre soft blue-veined cheese, such as roquefort.
8. Unpasteurised cheeses
Due to the risk of listeria. Check the labels to make sure you're buying cheese made from pasteurised milk.
9. Raw shellfish
Can increase the risk of food poisoning. Children should only eat thoroughly cooked shellfish.
10. Shark, swordfish or marlin
High levels of mercury in these fish can affect your baby's growing nervous system.
It may be a good idea to learn basic first aid for your baby as choking can potentially be a risk when weaning. It may help to put your mind at rest if you know how to care for your little one if they did start to choke.
Be aware of potential choking hazards from certain foods.
You should always:
1. Cut small round foods, like grapes and cherry tomatoes, into small pieces.
2. Peel the skin off fruit, vegetables and sausages (though remember that sausages can be high in salt).
3. Remove hard pips or stones from fruit.
4. Remove bones from meat or fish.
5. Soften hard fruit and vegetables (such as carrot and apple) when first given to your baby from around 6 months.
The clue is in the name for this one - let baby lead the way! Offer your little one finger foods and let them feed themselves rather than spoon feeding them puréed or mashed foods. You can offer a range of small, finger-sized pieces of food.
Baby-led weaning is fantastic for developing your little one’s hand-eye co-ordination skills. Your little one is sure to love getting a taste of independence too!
Some mums and dads prefer baby-led weaning to spoon feeding, while others like to mix up a little bit of both. Remember - there's no right or wrong way to wean and the most important thing about weaning is that your little one gets the nutrients they need by eating a varied diet.
Definitely - as you start your journey baby will be sampling tiny tastes of solids and they will continue to get the majority of their energy and nutrients from breast milk or first infant formula.
Breast milk or first infant formula should be your baby’s main drink during their first year. You can continue breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby decide.
Bear in mind your baby’s tummy is still tiny and so it fills up quite quickly – make sure to offer milk feeds after solids.
As your baby develops and begins to gradually increase their food intake they should start to decrease their milk intake.
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