A Solid Start: The 3 Stages Of Weaning
Did you know that exposing your baby to a wide range of foods and flavours at an early stage will lead to healthier eating habits later in life? Read our essential guide to the foods you can introduce your baby to at each different stage of weaning, and find out why nutrition is so vital for your little one’s growth and development in the first year.
Weaning is a big landmark for you and your baby. It’s a milestone that should be cherished, but like so many things in life, it is about the journey as much as the destination!
But by going at the right pace, you can ensure that your little one has time to discover the wonder that food offers, with all its textures, tastes, and flavours. And with the help of Milupa's range of products which are tailored for every stage of the weaning journey right up to one year, you can have extra confidence that Milupa cereals can help meet your baby’s unique nutritional needs, every messy step of the way!
Stage 1: Beginning your Weaning Journey
Solids should be introduced around six months and not before 17 weeks. To ease your little one in, the first stage is all about introducing your little one to spoon feeding, and should begin with a smooth runny texture, gradually moving on to slightly thicker purees with no lumps.
Food can be blended with baby’s milk (or cooled boiled water) in order to reach the right consistency. Mixing food with their milk can help to give a more recognisable taste in the early stages. When first introducing your baby to solids, mid-morning to lunchtime is often a good time to start. Ideally, you should give your baby their usual milk feed first, so they are not too hungry.
At the beginning, babies only take very small amounts, gradually moving to two to three meals, of about five to ten teaspoons per meal.
As you both get into the swing of things, the foods offered can become increasingly varied, introducing your little one to different tastes and textures. Make sure you only introduce one new food at a time (ideally early in the day), and wait for a day or two before introducing the next new item.
Including a variety of different foods helps to ensure that your little one is getting all the nutrients they need, such as Iron for normal brain development, and Calcium to support normal bone development.
First Foods: Baby Rice; Pureed Fruits like banana, stewed apple, peaches, apricots, and melon; Pureed Vegetables like carrot, parsnip, broccoli, butternut squash, and cauliflower; and pureed chicken, fish or red meat (make sure that they are blended to the correct consistency, and that any bones have been removed.)
Remember: Don’t add salt or sugar to your baby’s food, and avoid giving your baby gravies, stock cubes, and packet/jar sauces, which can have a lot of hidden salt.
Don’t Panic: As you introduce solid foods, your baby’s stools may change in colour and odour, which is perfectly normal!
Stage 2: Exploring Texture
After the first one to two weeks of weaning, when your little one is ready, you can begin to increase the amount of solid food, introducing slightly lumpier consistencies. As you establish this stage, you can build a routine of three meals per day, offering roughly two to four tablespoons per meal. This can be gradually built up over the next few weeks.
Now is a great time to introduce a beaker. You might want to start with one that has handles, to make it easier for your little one to lift themselves. Start by encouraging your baby to drink their daytime milk from a beaker and any night-time feeds from a bottle, and gradually move any night-time feeds to a beaker. If you are breastfeeding, you can begin to offer other drinks such as cooled boiled water from a beaker.
At this stage of weaning, it is important to begin introducing slightly lumpier consistencies in your baby’s food, moving from smooth purees to include minced/mashed textures, and soft finger foods like chopped banana, soft toast soldiers, and cooked fingers of carrot and pasta. Encourage your child to feed themselves where possible, to promote hand-eye coordination, and encourage self feeding: Just make sure you have a cloth handy!
It’s also time to broaden the variety of foods you offer, by combining foods together. You can build tasty new flavour combinations, by pairing different foods such as minced beef and carrot, oat and apple cereal, yoghurt and soft fruits, and even adding small amounts of herbs or mild spices such as cinnamon. Try to offer foods from all four groups - Fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals, dairy products, and meats or meat alternatives (beans and lentils).
Remember: Your baby might not take to certain foods first time, but there’s no need to write them off forever. Simply revisit them at a later stage. It can take up to 10 tries for a baby to accept a new food. Keeping a ‘likes chart' is a great way to keep track of what you have/have not introduced, to keep track of how their tastes develop and to encourage as broad a taste as possible.
Stage two foods: Baby cereals such as Multigrain Rusks and Oat & Apple, (well-cooked) eggs, soft bread and pasta, pasteurised yoghurt and cheeses, simple beef stew, chicken and sweetcorn, sliced banana, pasta and tomato sauce.
Stage 3: Hands on
By stage three, which usually takes places from nine to twelve months, your baby should be well established on solids, and will be trying to get more involved with mealtimes. You should encourage your little one to feed herself, enjoying a wider variety of textures and finger foods. Where possible, base your baby’s meals and snacks around normal family mealtimes and foods. You may consider using a stage 3 baby cereal, which will be tailored to have an appropriate texture for your baby at this stage, as well as being nutritionally tailored to help support your baby's growth and development.
At this stage, you should aim to include two or three nutritious snacks in your baby’s diet, as well as their three main meals. Each meal should be four to six tablespoons worth, depending on your baby’s appetite. It’s important to keep increasing the variety of foods on offer, not forgetting ones that may have been rejected earlier, to allow your baby to discover the full variety of tastes and flavours available.
By now, foods can be lumpier in texture, and you can offer chopped foods in bite-sized pieces for baby to pick up and eat themselves, as well as self-feeding spoon-foods.
Great foods to include at this stage alongside what has already been introduced: Toddler cereals, small bread sticks with houmous, unsalted crackers, sliced fruits (with the seeds removed) such as mango, satsuma, and apricots; slices of cheese, strips of cooked meat, cooked sweet potato and broccoli, smaller portions of (salt and sugar free) family meals such as lasagna, soups, and stews.
Remember: Honey, salt, and processed sugar should be avoided before 12 months. Make sure that finger foods are sliced. Avoid nuts and seeds until 5-years-old.
BUT: Enjoy introducing your little one to a whole world of new and fun flavours. A varied diet, alongside foods specifically created for their stage from the Milupa range, which is tailored for little tummies; helps to ensure that your child starts a healthy and exciting relationship with food. And with Milupa cereals, you can help them get the nutrition they need every step of the way.
Milupa is Ireland’s number 1 baby cereal brand. It provides nutritionally tailored baby cereals for every stage of the weaning journey – all the way up to one year.
Developed by a passionate team of experts, and with over 40 years’ experience, their range of products are designed specially for the three stages of weaning; with iron, calcium, and Vitamin D to support normal brain and bone development Plus, there is no added salt, artificial flavours or preservatives in their products.
This article is kindly sponsored by Milupa. Find out more about their full range at milupa.ie.