Six Ways To Make Weaning Easier
Weaning is messy, but so much fun! Make baby’s transition to solid food easy and enjoyable for everyone, by moving at the right pace. And by including baby cereals that are tailored to each stage, you can help to meet your little one's unique nutritional needs, every step of the way.
Find out how to know when baby is ready for solids, and why it’s important to include a range of different textures and tastes at each stage of weaning, with our six top tips for a smooth weaning journey.
1. Know the signs
So how do you know when your baby is ready to start trying solid foods? Once they are around 6 months, they may start to show some of the following signs:
- Putting fingers or objects in their mouth, or sucking fists.
- Still hungry and restless after a milk feed.
- Increasing interest in solid foods. For example, they might open their mouths and ‘chew’ when watching other people eating.
- Able to sit up and hold their head steady.
It’s incredible to think how your baby is learning how to eat for the first time. As well as getting used to accepting food from a spoon, they are also developing their oral muscles, which will be used later for different textures of food, and for speaking!
The first foods should be a smooth, puree consistency as babies learn to move food to the back of their mouth and swallow. Once your baby is comfortable with smooth purees, you can start introducing slightly lumpier consistencies. The consistency of food should be minced or mashed textures and soft finger foods. At around 9 months, foods should be a more lumpy consistency, and you can also offer chopped foods in bite-sized pieces and harder pieces of finger food that your baby can pick up and feed himself.
As you progress through the stages of weaning, from the very runny single-food purees of stage one to the varied multi-ingredient meals of stage three, you'll see your baby learn the necessary skills for feeding themselves, which will continue to develop. This includes holding the spoon, being able to grip finger foods; discovering tastes; and learning when they are hungry and full.
2. Be prepared
You’ll probably have much of what you need at home, but there are a few extra things that will be handy as you begin the weaning your baby:
- Colourful plastic bowl (preferably with a sucker or grip on the bottom)
- Colourful baby spoons, small enough for a little mouth
- Bibs: As well as fabric bibs, you might like a wipe-clean version with a crumb-catcher
- Cleaning cloths: For wiping baby’s mouth, and for surfaces
- Ice cube trays: For freezing individual portions of food
- A hand-blender or food processor
- Saucepans or a steamer for cooking
- A high chair
Remember that as well as discovering solid food, your baby is also being introduced to meal-times, and eating at the table. After all, watching other people eat meals, is a great way for babies to learn what to do, as they love to watch and copy.
3. Slow and steady
Though weaning often starts around 6 months (and not before 17 weeks), each baby reaches milestones at slightly different points. By around 12 months your little one will get the majority of their nutrition from solid foods, the transition takes place over a few stages, and initially milk feeds are still an important part of their diet.
To start, choose a time when your baby is relaxed and alert. Mid-morning is often a good time, as you’ve both had time to ease into the day. Make sure you won’t be rushed. After all, taking food from a spoon is a whole new experience for your little one, so they may take time to accept it: Let them lead the pace, however slow this may be for now!
Make sure you wait two to three days before introducing a new food, and don’t be put off if they don’t accept it the first time. It can take a number of goes before your baby accepts a new food, but don’t worry. While it’s great to offer praise, and gentle encouragement; if your little one is not convinced, just leave it for a while, and try again some other time.
For breakfast you can give your baby a tasty start with Milupa’s range of Baby Cereals, which can help meet your baby’s nutritional needs at each step of the journey.
4. Embrace the mess
With the introduction of each new texture, and the important process of learning to feed themselves, you can expect mess! But even when a lot ends up on their face, clothes, the floor, and you; by including baby cereals tailored to each stage, you can help your baby get all the nutrition they need.
Don’t worry if there doesn’t seem to be much eating at the start. Your baby is discovering new tastes and textures all the time, so just take it slowly, and don’t give up! The more simple vegetable flavours they taste now, the more they’ll love them later.
5. Easy does it
Though meal times may take a little longer, weaning doesn’t have to be overly stressful or time-consuming. Here are a few tips for making weaning a stress-free adventure:
- Keep things simple by starting with single savoury purees, graduating to two and three ingredient meals.
- To save time, and avoid waste, freeze portions in ice cube trays, so you don’t have to cook each meal from scratch.
- Include baby cereals in baby’s diet: They’re ready in no time, and can help your little one to meet their nutritional needs at each stage of the weaning journey.
- Trust your baby to know when they’re full – they may lose interest, start to spit food out (or store it in their mouth like a hamster!) and wriggle. The important thing is to allow them to choose when they’re full, and not force your baby to eat more than they want to. Don’t worry if your baby sometimes eats less than usual. It’s normal for appetite will vary from day to day.
- Keep a steady pace, encouraging your little one to try new things, but not rushing to finish the weaning process, or cutting out milk feeds until your baby is ready. This will help to keep that little tummy happy, while building the basis for an amazing relationship with food.
6. Enjoy the choice
It’s important to excite your baby’s curious taste buds at this stage, and help them learn to love a whole range of different textures.
Why not use weaning as an excuse for the whole family to try new things? Recent research has shown that giving your baby more savoury foods rather than sweet ones can help to shape their preferences for life. So though babies naturally love sweet flavours, learning to appreciate savoury tastes can help train their taste buds to enjoy these foods. Why not buy vegetables for the whole family that you might not usually buy, and experience them for the first time together?
We eat with all our senses, not just taste, so try to include a range of different colours, shapes, and textures. Your baby will love brightly coloured fruit and veg, creamy cereals, squidgy pasta, and crispy rice cakes.
Seeing others enjoying food can help your baby learn to love meal times. It’s also a great way for them learn how to use cutlery. Sharing finger foods can be a fun way to try new things, as they see someone else enjoying it. It also teaches baby about sharing, and taking turns.
Your baby’s nutritional needs are slightly different to older children, and adults. So while it can be lovely for your little one to share family meals like simple casserole or pasta dishes (make sure they haven’t been made with stocks or sauces containing salt and sugar), your baby also has their own nutritional needs.
So while introducing a whole new range of flavours, Milupa cereals are a yummy option to include. Their cereals are nutritionally tailored for little tummies through every stage of the weaning journey.
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 cognitive development, and normal growth and development of bone. 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.