Weaning should be an enjoyable experience, however many parents tell us that they often feel confused and don’t know where to start! This is why we’ve teamed up with Nichola Ludlam-Raine (@mummynutrition) to get your questions answered!
WHAT IS WEANING & WHEN SHOULD YOU START?
WHAT IS WEANING?
Weaning is the gradual introduction of food to a breast milk or infant formula fed baby. The aim is to expose them to a variety of different tastes and textures.
WHEN SHOULD WE START WEANING?
In the U.K, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for their baby’s first six months of life, this is because breast milk can help to protect babies from infections and diseases and it’s also beneficial for the mother too! If mothers cannot breastfeed, then other alternatives can be explored, for example using formula milk.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BABY IS READY?
Weaning should start when your baby is around six months old, providing they can hold themselves steady in a high-chair (or for a few seconds when sat on the floor), are able to bring objects to their mouth, and have lost their tongue-thrust reflex i.e. they swallow food rather than spitting it straight back out.
𝙏𝙤𝙥 𝙩𝙞𝙥 👉🏼 check your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex; place a clean finger or spoon onto your baby’s lower lip; if they reactively stick their tongue out, then they may not yet ready to be weaned.
HOW DO YOU START WEANING?
WHICH FOODS SHOULD I OFFER MY BABY?
At around 6 months of age, your baby can be given foods such as fruit and vegetables, with most parents offering them as a pureed or mashed consistency. At around 7 months, most babies progress to foods with some lumps, and are having soft finger foods too. Cooked pieces of broccoli, parsnips, peppers and avocado, as well as banana, kiwi and pineapple are great options for your baby’s first food!
Offering green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach are useful to encourage your baby’s bitter and sour taste buds to develop. At this point, your baby’s sweet taste buds are already mature, meaning they will naturally accept fruit more readily.
From 6 months, once babies have been exposed to a range of fruits and vegetables, other foods can be given such as porridge, mashed potato and crustless toast sticks. Offering soft pieces of slow cooked beef, dark chicken, turkey, fish (with no bones), eggs and lentils is essential too, as they’re rich in protein and iron! It’s important to offer new foods in small amounts and one at a time initially in order to spot if your baby is allergic.
Full fat, unsweetened and pasteurised yoghurts can also be offered. Full fat and pasteurised cow’s milk can be used in cooking, on cereal or to mash up food but it shouldn’t be offered as a drink until your baby is 12 months old (continue with breast or formula milk for that). Baby rice can also be useful to thicken purees if they come out too runny.
It’s good practice to offer a small amount of water with a meal from a free-flowing cup to teach your baby how to sip (fill it to around 50ml so the cup isn’t too heavy!). If your baby is under 6 months old the water should be cool-boiled.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I OFFER FOOD?
Once a day is sufficient during the initial stages of weaning. However, it’s beneficial to build up to three times a day to mimic your own meal pattern at around 7 months.
By the time babies are around 12 months old, they should be eating at least 3 small portions of healthy family meals plus 2 small snacks such as fruit in between.
If foods are rejected, and the bitter vegetables may be rejected (at least initially!), keep offering the food as it may take several attempts for your baby to eat and enjoy it!
DO BABIES NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
If your baby is breastfed, you’ll need to give a daily supplement of vitamin drops containing 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D.
From the age of six months, they should be given daily vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D.
FORMULAR FED BABIES?
Formula fed babies only require a supplement if they’re having less than 500ml of formula a day, as it’s already fortified with the nutrients your baby needs. Once your baby starts to have less than 500ml of daily formula, you should then start to introduce daily vitamin drops as mentioned above.
These vitamins should be given until children are five years old.
FOODS TO AVOID WHEN WEANING?
WHICH FOODS MAY BE A CHOKING HAZARD?
To reduce the risk of choking, do not offer babies whole grapes, hard and small pieces of fruit or vegetables such as raw apple and carrot (these should be grated, initially), round chocolate, whole nuts or popcorn.
❌ Babies should not be given honey before the age of 12 months. Although very unlikely, it should be avoided to eliminate the risk of consuming the food poisoning bacteria 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘶𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘮, which can make your baby extremely ill.
🚫It’s also advisable to not add any sugar or salt to any of your baby’s foods. If you wish to add them to your own portion (if you’re eating the same meal), always remove their portion of food from the pan first!
👉🏼 Sugary foods such as biscuits and cakes do not offer your baby any beneficial nutrients, and salty foods such as bacon, ham, bread and cheese should also be limited.
NIC'S TOP 10 TIPS
Click here to see video.
1. Don’t rush to start - The advice for most babies is to wait until they are around 6 months old when they can sit up and support themselves with steady head control, co-ordinate bringing food to their mouth and then swallow it rather than immediately spitting it back out.
2. Allow your baby to become familiar with the highchair before they start weaning by popping them in it with some toys or baby spoons and bowls just to play with. We did this with my baby when he was around 5 months old and it meant that when we did start weaning he wasn’t distracted by his environment and could focus on the food! Check out the Beaba Up & Down Highchair
3. Start by introducing vegetables first (either as a purée mixed with your baby’s normal milk and then alone, or as finger foods or both), before moving onto other foods such as fruits, porridge, yoghurt, potatoes as well as meat, eggs, lentils and fish.
4. When you introduce potential allergenic foods such as cow’s milk, egg, soya, wheat nut butters e.g. peanut, almond, tahini or fish, do so one food at a time and in a really small amount to begin with. The Start 4 Life website has some fantastic information on this!
5. Aim for your baby to be eating 3 meals a day by the time they are around 7 months old (including a source of dairy or alternative at breakfast and then a protein and iron source such as meat, lentils, fish or beans at lunch and evening meal).
6. Don’t give your baby whole grapes or nuts, popcorn or small pieces of hard, uncooked fruit and veg such as carrots and apples – as these are a choking risk. Babies under the age of 12 months also shouldn’t be given honey or anything with added sugar or salt.
7. Offer a small amount of tap water (cool-boiled if under 6 months) served in a cup suitable for a baby with every meal to teach your baby how to drink.
8. Batch cook - my motto is cook once, eat twice so making sure to cook more than you need and pop it in the fridge or freezer for later. Just make sure that it is thoroughly reheated and then allowed to cool before you serve it. (I use my Babycook from Beaba to steam, blend and defrost my baby’s meals and pop what I’ve made into these glass jars for the fridge and freezer) Check out Beaba’s Babycook & Storage Jars: https://www.jojomamanbebe.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=beaba+
9. Don’t forget your baby’s daily supplements - all breastfed babies and those who have less than 500ml of formula per day need a liquid supplement containing vitamins A, C and D daily, or just Vitamin D if they're under 6 months of age p.s. breastfeeding mums, don’t forget you need a daily Vitamin D supplement (10ug/day) too!
10. Try to relax and enjoy it - the weaning period really does go so fast and if you create a calm environment then your baby will be much more likely to give the foods that you’re offering a go!