Everything You Need To Know About Weaning Your Baby
Have you reached the weaning stage with your baby yet? It’s such a big milestone as this is when your baby gets to experience new flavours and textures.
Before your baby graduates onto solids, there are few important things you should factor in first.
The World Health Organisation recommends that parents introduce solids to baby’s diet when baby is six months old. Prior to this, all their nutritional requirements will be met by either breast milk or formula as their digestive system is not mature enough to deal with solid food. Even at this point, milk is still vitally important in your baby’s diet and should continue to be until the age of one.
READ MORE: What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
Starting solids later than 26 weeks can lead to fussy eating and possible food intolerances. It can also increase the risk of iron deficiency.
There are two options for weaning your baby – the classic puréeing route and baby-led weaning, which is becoming increasingly popular.
Signs Baby Is Ready For Solid Food
There are a few things to look out for – if your baby was previously sleeping through the night but is now waking earlier and earlier for their morning feed, then perhaps it’s time to introduce more sustenance. Similarly, babies often display physical signs that they are hungry. If your baby chews on her fingers or puts her fist in her mouth, she may be feeling hungry. A good way to tell if your child is ready for solid food is to place a small amount of baby rice or ‘starter food’ on their tongue.
After one or two tries, if they can swallow it with ease, you can begin with small amounts of food.
READ MORE: 9 Ingenious Life Hacks For Weaning On The Go
What You Need To Get Started
Most of the equipment you need you will already have, but you will need to purchase some baby spoons to protect little gums (especially when she starts biting down with every spoonful!). There is no requirement to buy baby bowls and the like unless you particularly want to – your own bowls, ramekin dishes or even a teacup is fine as you will only be feeding small amounts at the beginning.
If you are puréeing, a hand blender will allow you to easily purée at mealtimes with minimal clean up, and will be a lifesaver if you plan on making food in batches.
How And When Do I Start?
Pick a time of day when both you and baby are calm and relaxed. Late morning or lunchtime is a good choice as she should be ready for a feed, but not starving. Give her a normal milk feed and then offer a little food. Make up a small amount – two to three teaspoons once a day is plenty to start with, progressing once your baby is happily accepting the introduction of meals and looking for more. Ensure that the food is cool enough and then offer it on a plastic spoon. The first spoon or two may end up on her face, down her front or even in her hand – prepare yourself, this is merely a taste of the mess to come.
READ MORE: Solid Advice: How To Start Your Baby's Weaning Adventure
Which Foods Should I Offer First?
Many mums start with baby rice cereals. They have a mild, fruity taste that babies enjoy. After that, you could introduce puréed fruit and vegetables, such as banana, carrot or squash.
If you’re trying baby led feeding, here are some snack ideas from dietitian Aileen Cox Blundell of babyledfeeding.com
- Greek yoghurt and berries
This snack can be served as is for babies who can use spoons or on pre-loaded spoons for babies who can’t manage spoons yet. Greek yoghurt contains all kinds of good nutrients. And, berries are wonderful super foods that will help protect your baby’s immune system.
There are numerous variations of easy pancakes out there.Plus, pancakes are small enough for your baby to hold and eat themselves.
- Banana spears
This snack is super quick and easy to serve your baby. Just take a ripe banana and cut them into banana spears. Banana spears are easy for little hands to manage and are perfect for baby led weaning. Bananas are full of potassium and iron too, which are essential for babies.
- Toast soldiers
This snack is another super quick snack for your baby that takes seconds to make. Take a piece of healthy brown bread and toast it. Cut it into the shape of a soldier.It’s a fun and healthy snack your baby will love.
- Hard boiled egg
Hard-boiled eggs are a terrific snack choice for your baby. The eggs take just a few minutes to make and are easy to incorporate into a baby led weaning regime. After peeling, hard-boiled eggs are soft and easy to manage for little hands. They’re packed with protein and vitamins.
- Organic unsalted mini rice cakes and goat cheese
This snack consists of super nutritious organic unsalted mini rice cakes, which contain necessary vitamins for a growing baby. The goat cheese is a perfect spread to serve your baby on their rice cakes due to its low salt content.
Foods To Avoid
- Unpasteurised or mould ripened cheese: Although these can be eaten if well cooked, cheeses should be pasteurised.
- Salt: Do not add salt to any foods. Choose low-salt versions of stock cubes, soups and sauces.
- Added sugar: Avoid adding sugar and using foods or drinks with added sugar.
- Honey: Avoid honey until your baby is one year old.
- Whole nuts: Do not give whole nuts to your baby until they are at least five years old due to the risk of choking. Smooth nut spreads are safe.
- Uncooked or lightly cooked eggs: Make sure that eggs are cooked through until both the white and the yolk are solid.
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'Our journey through weaning was a bit of a mixed approach. A month or two before we were due to start weaning, I had bought a baby-led weaning book to learn more about it. Reading it, I really liked the explanation that she provided about how starting proper foods or finger foods earlier at around six months can actually be beneficial. She explained that at that age, baby still has a strong gag reflex that helps teach him to control how much food is safe to put in his mouth while protecting him from choking.
At the time though, while I believed what I read in the book about the benefits of baby-led weaning, I had a bigger issue – my little man was waking up to three or four times at night, and people kept telling me that I needed to get solid food into him to help him sleep. One of the things that was clear about baby-led weaning was that it wouldn’t be a quick approach. It would take time to build up to baby feeding himself a decent meal, but I didn’t have that patience. I was so worn out from lack of sleep that I needed the hope that spoon feeding him would help fill him up. I’m sorry to report that it didn’t work! It took another two months before he finally started to sleep for longer and longer stretches.
READ MORE: 10 Great Food Ideas For When You Start To Wean
In the end I took a half-and-half approach to baby-lead weaning. Besides my primary need for sleep, the second reason I went with some spoon feeds was because I knew that eventually Little Man would be starting in a crèche, where he would be spoon fed. I didn’t want him to run into problems then if he wasn’t used to taking food from a spoon.
So I did some baby-led weaning at breakfast (in the form of toast fingers and fruit pieces), together with spoon fed yogurt or puréed fruit, or cereal. Then his main meal was a spoon fed meal at lunchtime. Usually at this time, I gave him mashed or puréed potato, vegetables, and after a while chicken, meat or fish.
Then for his tea, I went with a baby-led weaning approach. When we were getting started with this meal, I put a selection of fruits and vegetables, all steamed and cut into long sticks, in front of him. Later I added well-cooked meat or fish to this selection. For the first couple of weeks, we didn’t get very far! He mainly just played with the pieces of food. But after a while, more and more pieces started to make their way into his mouth. Without a doubt, this was our favourite meal of the day. It was stress-free for me, and it was great fun for my little man."
- Mary Moloney, mother of three
Are you currently weaning your baby? Tell us about it in the comments below.