Weaning Your Baby
1st Stage weaning (6 months)
In recent years the advice on when is thought to be the right time to wean a baby has changed from 4 months to 6 months. The Department of Health believe that babies cannot digest food properly until they reach 6 months. It is also thought to increase the risk of babies developing allergies or kidney problems. But please don’t read this and panic that you weaned at 4 months, I did with my eldest two as this was the recommendation when they were babies. If you have queries about the weaning age then speak to your health visitor.
Signs your baby may be ready for solids
- She can sit up and support her own head
- She seems unsatisfied after a feed
- She is demanding more frequent feeds
- She stops sleeping through the night (if she ever started that is)
- Everything goes in her mouth
- She seems interested by you eating
Help - what do babies eat??????
The best “starter food” is baby rice; this is a powder that you mix with your baby’s usual milk (no it’s nothing like basmati). For the first few attempts it needs to be of very runny consistency. Your baby may refuse point blank to even consider tasting this concoction (if you’d tried it you’d understand). If this happens then just leave it for a few days and try again. The main thing is not to get stressed, if you’re relaxed it will rub off on your baby.
Learning is half the fun, so don’t panic if a ready meal in the microwave is your usual style. Finding foods that your baby loves and watching her enjoy them is a wonderful experience. But some of the ready made baby food available now are really good (especially the frozen ones). I would say go for organic.
I found as a very nervous first time mum, jars were invaluable, I knew that my baby was getting the right nutrients in a safe form. Even now with number three, when she reached the 7 month stage, I bought some 7 month food to refresh my memory about how lumpy it should be.
Making weaning easier
When weaning my children the first meal I introduced was lunch. Breakfast times were too hectic and rushed and by teatime they were tired, so lunch it was.
Don’t try and give her the first meal when she is starving, she will just become upset and frustrated.
Give your baby a plastic spoon to hold herself. Talk to your baby as you feed her, giving her lots of encouragement and smiles.
Place you baby’s high chair on a plastic sheet, so that you are not worried about the state of the floor. Weaning is messy!
Once your baby is used to baby rice; try her with thin purees of carrot or sweet potato or butternut squash mixed with a little milk. It is thought by some to be better to introduce veg before fruit, to discourage a sweet tooth. I don’t know how true that is, but I suppose we do like familiar tastes and it can take a while to get used to different textures and flavours
When making your own food you can freeze batches in ice cube trays (place the trays inside a freezer bag), or in special baby food trays with lids. You can then take out what you need, when you need it. Freeze individual foods when your baby’s eating bigger portions so that you can mix and match.
Good first foods:
- Baby rice
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potato
They all need to pureed so that they are extremely smooth with no lumps.
What will I need to wean my baby?
- Food grinder, this is my essential, you know the big lumps can’t get through it so you can make baby safe food
- And/or a hand blender or food processor
- Ice cube trays or baby food trays with lids
- First rule of weaning; you can never have enough bibs. Alternatively buy all baby clothes in carrot orange as this is a bugger to get out of fabrics
- Baby food recipe book. I loved the Annabel Karmel New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner >>, it became my bible!
- Plastic spoons, bowls and none slip mats
- Storage pots, ramekins and bowls with lids (always check if microwave, sterilizer and freezer safe – maybe dishwasher as well!)
- Training cup to give boiled water or diluted juice
Foods suitable for 4 – 6 months
I know I said that 6 months is the recommended weaning age now, but a lot of people still wean at 4 months, so this way it’s easier to make clear which foods are only to be given after the 6 month mark. Confused? Me too. But remember to discuss weaning before 6 months with your health visitor.
Good food choices from 4 months
Fruit and vegetable purees. You can use different combinations to see what your baby likes. You can use the foods from the first food column and also foods with stronger tastes such as:
- Pepper (I use red or yellow)
- Raisins or sultans
- Dried apricots
You can make these purees thinner by adding either the cooking water or your baby’s usual milk.
Some of Livvy’s favourite combinations:
- Red or yellow peppers with basil
- Courgette and leeks
- Prune and dried apricot puree (good for the constipated baby)
- Carrot and swede with fresh basil
- Avocado and banana
- Avocado and pear
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- She also loved baby rice mixed with any combination of home juiced carrot, apple, pear and banana
The next weaning step
Once your baby is used to the fruit and veg purees you can think about adding additional foods. From around 6 – 7 months you can start to introduce the following:
- Dairy products such as full fat milk (in cooking only not as a drink), yogurts and cheese sauces
- Meat and poultry purees
- Lentil purees
- Hard boiled eggs mashed
- Cereals such as Ready Brek and Weetabix
- Citrus Fruits
When your baby reaches 7 months you can start to make her food a bit lumpier, this should be a gradual process. At this stage she should be eating 3 meals a day. She also needs 18 floz/500ml of her usual milk. From 8 – 9 months she can progress to finger foods. Good examples of finger foods are:
- Toast and bread
- Apple (peeled)
- Carrot sticks (cooked)
- Baby rice cakes
- Baby pasta shapes
Food can be mashed or chopped rather than pureed when your baby gets to this age.
Vegetarian and vegan babies
Babies can be raised healthily on a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet. Speak to your health visitor for advice, to make sure your baby is getting all the essential nutrients she requires. Another excellent source of information are the Vegetarian Society >> and the Vegan Society >>
Good alternatives to meat are foods such as tofu, beans and lentils, alongside a varied diet.
Foods to avoid when weaning
- Honey (under 12 months)
- Nuts (under 5 years)
- Soft eggs (under 12 months)
- Raw eggs
- Soft and blue cheeses
If a member of your family has a food allergy, then speak to your GP or health visitor before weaning.
For weaning products and recipe books:
Finally - just in case I did not mention this – always speak to your health visitor regarding weaning and the foods that you give your child.