Baby Roo is 6 months and it seemed appropriate to start his weaning journey on national weaning week! Roo is definitely ready for solids and showing all the right develop signs so we cracked on and he's loving it so far! I thought I'd share some helpful tips and information ready for your own baby's weaning journey.
It is recommended weaning (also known as complementary feeding) starts around 6 months, this is to give baby's digestive system a chance to fully develop. Whilst a specific age is recommended it's important to remember that all babies develop at different rates and therefore it's best to look for developmental milestones alongside the age recommendation and make an informed decision that suits your individual baby.
How will I know when my baby is ready to start weaning?
When making the decision to commence weaning we are looking for 3 main developmental signs
Your baby can sit in an upright position without slumping and hold their head steady
Your baby can see something, co-ordinate their hand to reach out and grab it then bring it to their mouth with little difficulty
If you try to feed your baby a small amount of puree they swallow it rather than push it out their tongue.
It is rare that all 3 of these developmental milestones are reached before 6 months. It is a common misconception that babies who intently watch people eat, suddenly wanting more milk feeds, particularly if they start waking in the night for a feed having previously slept through or are always putting things in their mouths are ready to wean, these are just normal stages of development.
My baby is ready to wean, so what now?
It's best to pick a time when your baby is awake and alert and not too hungry. You could try offering solids shortly after or midway through a milk feed. Introducing solids should be a fun and exciting time for you and your baby so try to relax and let them just explore.
We all know babies are impatient so make sure you've got everything ready before getting them into an appropriate chair, where they are upright and supported to minimise the chances of choking. We love the IKEA antilop as there are no crevices to trap food in, it's a bargain and the whole thing breaks down and goes in the dishwasher #weaningismessy
You can start with small portions roughly the size of your baby's palm of pureed food. It's best to start with healthy green veg or root vegetables to build a life long healthy approach to food. Simply boil or steam up some yummy goodness and mash or blend down to puree using the water it was cooked in, freshly boiled water, or your baby's usual milk to reach a smooth consistency. You can use whole cows milk/milk alternative in their food, but babies need their main milk drink to be breast or formula until they're one. During meal times you can provide a free flow baby cup with cooled boiled water to accompany their meal.
Roo has a cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) so we have just started a cows milk free diet. I've opted to use boiled water and oat milk in his Weetabix and he seems to approve!
If you have any known allergies within the family it is best to avoid those foods initially and seek further advice from your GP on how to introduce them safely.
What is baby led weaning?
Over time the way we have introduce solids to our babies has evolved. Ancient Hebrews waited until a child had all their teeth around 3 years old before introducing solids but a 1953 weaning schedule advises cereals to be fed twice a day at 2-3 days of age!
By 6 months, and having reached the developmental milestones showing they are ready to wean, a baby is able to feed themselves finger foods. The practice of baby led weaning is simply the skipping out of purees, and moving straight to allowing your baby whole foods to explore.
Broccoli is my personal favourite first food, way over cooked and a piece with a a nice stalk to hold. Your baby only needs small portions so just one or two things to look at and try is ample at first. Most of the food will end up on the floor but try not to react or worry and just let your little one enjoy. Never put food pieces into your baby's mouth. Larger finger shaped pieces are easier for them to hold and manoeuvre initially, we love to suck and smoosh toast!
By 6 months your baby can eat most foods whilst being well supervised. Once you've introduced the basic vegetables and fruits and your baby is getting the gist of things you can introduce soft cooked chicken and pasta.
What should I watch out for?
On rare occasion honey contains bacteria that may make your baby unwell so its best avoided until your baby is at least 1.
In general sugary foods should be avoided as much as possible, be particularly cautious of the sugar content in fromage frais and the balance of healthy veg to sweet fruit ratio often found in premade baby foods.
Don't add salt when cooking. If you're eating the same meals remove baby's portion first and add salt to the rest if desired. Stock cubes and gravy are often high in salt so watch out for those.
Cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, gluten, nuts, peanuts, peanut products, seeds, fish, and shellfish are all allergens and should be introduced one at a time and with plenty of time for a reaction to show. Roo's milk allergy symptoms peak around 48 hours after consumption. Allergic reactions can vary in severity and some will require a call to 999, look out for the symptoms:
• breathing difficulties
• runny nose
• stomach upset
• skin reaction: blotchy, raised red rashes, itchy patches and swelling around the mouth or sore, red and itchy eyes.
In the case of even a mild reaction avoid the suspected food and seek further advice from your GP.
When do I give more?
Babies are pretty good at indicating they are full so be cautious to follow their cues, little and often works best. Starting off with just a few mouthfuls once a day and gradually increasing by 9 months its likely your baby will happily eat 3 small meals a day along side their breast/formula milk intake, though this may have reduced a little. By 12 months they will probably want heathy sacks like veggies sticks in-between meals too!
There is plenty more help and useful information here- Weaning | Start4Life (www.nhs.uk)
Try not to focus on daily food intake but more overall weekly intake and contact your HV or GP if you have any concerns about your babies growth or general wellbeing!