In this article, we’re going to delve into the world of weaning, what it is and when it should start. We will also be looking into what to feed your baby as they start to develop.
What is weaning and when should you start
Weaning is when you start to introduce your baby to solid foods. Of course, every baby is different, but weaning should usually be started when your baby is around 6 months old.
There are two types of weaning, spoon weaning, and baby-led weaning. Spoon weaning is when you decide to spoon-feed your baby, which can be easier as you control the portions that are going into their mouth. Ensuring that they are eating a sufficient amount.
Baby-led weaning is when you offer your baby small portions of finger food and allow them to control when and how they eat the foods. This way at first can seem a lot slower as they first have to get used to feeding themselves. It isn’t obvious to a baby that food actually needs to go into their mouth, so there can be a lot of playing when they first start. Eating the same food alongside your baby can help teach them what they are supposed to be doing with the food.
Signs your baby is ready for solid foods
There are three things to look out for which will tell you that you are able to start weaning.
They should be able to stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady, coordinate their hands, eyes, and mouth so they can pick up the food and put it in their mouths. Finally, they need to be able to chew and swallow their food, without spitting it back up.
When starting, it is not important how much your baby actually eats. It’s more getting them used to the idea of eating solid food. They should still be getting most of their nutrients from breast milk or baby formula.
You should start with very small amounts of food. Ensure to give them a variety of fruit and vegetables, this will help set your baby up for a lifetime of healthy eating. You will eventually be able to start increasing the number of foods your baby eats until they can eat the same meals as the rest of the family, in smaller portions.
When and what to feed your baby
Around six months
At around six months, they will most probably be ready to make a start on solid foods. As this will be their first time to start with solids, you only need to feed them very small amounts, once per day. It’s best to start with simple fruit and veg as these are unlikely to cause any allergic reactions. A good starting point can be mashed or pureed vegetables that have been allowed to cool until slightly warm.
After around a week, you can start to introduce foods that are common with allergies, doing so in very tiny amounts so you can spot any reactions. Once introduced, add them into their normal diet which will minimize the risk of allergies. If you notice any reaction to certain foods, stop feeding them immediately and contact a health professional.
Seven to nine months
By now, your baby will have a good idea of how to eat solid foods alongside their milk. Eating together can help as they will learn from watching you.
They are going to be moving towards eating three meals a day. Offering a wide variety of food at this time is important to ensure they will get sufficient nutrients.
Your baby should hopefully be confident in trying new flavors and textures, but if they reject a new food the first time, don’t give up. It can take up to ten tries for them to willingly eat new food. It’s not that they don’t like the food, they just need to get used to a new flavor and texture. Try mixing up the food to give it a different texture. If they prefer foods that are smoother in texture, use this to your advantage when introducing new foods. They are more likely to eat something with a familiar texture.
Giving them small finger foods can help develop their hand-eye coordination alongside teaching them to bite and chew.
When cooking a meal the baby will eat, don’t add sugar or salt to their food or in the cooking water. Excess salt isn’t good for their kidneys and too much sugar can cause tooth decay. During these months, they shouldn’t snack between meals. If they seem hungry, offer them extra milk instead.
Ten to twelve months
Hopefully, by now, they are happily eating three meals per day at the same time as everyone else plus their milk feeds. If they seem to be wanting more to eat, introduce a small dessert after lunch and dinner. This could be a small fruit or unsweetened yogurt.
Alongside their meals you should introduce them to open cups, using plastic can stop any accidents if they drop them on you. Avoid giving them fizzy drinks as they contain too much sugar. You can either give them water or other low sugar drinks.
Twelve months +
Now they have reached the one year mark, they should be having three good meals per day, plus dessert if you decide to introduce these. Hopefully drinking confidently from an open cup. You can also now introduce whole cow’s milk and full-fat dairy products to their diet. Using full-fat products gives them the extra energy they need.
At this time, they are going to be growing, introduce two healthy snacks in between meals if they seem to be getting hungry.
Every baby is different and weaning may start later than six months, but this isn’t anything to worry about. Just ensure that they are getting sufficient nutrients and energy.
There are lots of easy recipes and meal ideas out there on the internet. if you have come across anything that your baby loves, feel free to share it in the comments.